The recent shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, has touched a nerve in the American psyche. Because this mass shooting of students involved 20 innocent 6-8 years old, it has acted as a wake up call for Americans to reexamine our priorities.
The slaughter of the Holy Innocents by the mentally deranged Herod has become real in our Christmas celebrations.
The Gospel of John begins with language describing Jesus as the Word, who was with God in the beginning of Creation and became flesh to live among us. The author goes on to describe Jesus as the light that overcomes darkness.
Those who believe in Jesus walk in the light and their lives have meaning and direction. Those who do not believe stumble in the darkness of confusion and sin.
John is clear that Jesus is the divine Son of God and that to belong to God, we have to follow Jesus, the Light that overcomes the darkness in our hearts. The Divine Light will show us a way out. That’s the Good News!
Three issues seem to have emerged from our national response to the shootings: a need to reexamine our approach to the mentally ill; an honest discussion on the need for citizens to have semiautomatic weapons; and the culture of violence that seems to flourish in our society.
1 - People with mental health problems cannot often get the immediate help they need. The clinics and hospitals are often overcrowded and the mental health professionals are all booked up for weeks. Persons with mental problems have to be put on a waiting list before they can get help. By the time they can be evaluated, they might “act out” and cause some type of harm.
In the old days, they sent people who could not function in society to mental hospitals to live their lives there for their own safety and the good of others. Today, we cannot hold a person against their will if they wish to determinate their treatment. We need to find ways to deal with those who are seriously sick so they won’t hurt others.
Some suggestions: Improving the availability of mental health professionals, and reducing cost and other barriers to mental health treatment. Removing the stigma from mental health therapies. Provide better mental health insurance coverages that are equivalent to physical health.
2 - The United States is now the most violent country in the industrialized world when it comes to school and mass shootings. A 2011 study in the Journal of Trauma compared the United States with similar nations and found that U.S. homicide rates were “6.9 times higher than rates in the other high-income countries, driven by firearm homicide rates that were 19.5 times higher. For 15-24-year-olds, firearm homicide rates in the United States were 42.7 times higher than in the other countries.”
Why do people need to purchase semiautomatic weapons? It is not for hunting; it is not for self defense. A new CNN poll released after the Newtown shootings found 52 percent of Americans favor major restrictions on gun ownership. The poll found that 62 percent of Americans favor a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. A person can still use a knife to kill others but it will not be so easy.
3 - We seem to love violence in movies, televison and video games. We love to see things “blown up.” Is it so surprising that violence for fun begets the real thing?
How can we change the values of our culture so that we look upon violence as the evil that it is?
We need to do a lot of talking in the next few months so that our children will feel safe when they attend school.
Posted on Fri, December 28, 2012
by Rev. Wilmer L. Todd