Two days after Chase Kowalski perished during the massacre at Sandy Hook, he appeared to his mother, Becky, in a vision. He delivered a message that the world would change for the better because people would be touched by the incident. She called the day of her son’s death, the worst day ever, and the day of the vision, only two days later, the best day of her life.
It’s been a month. Have we changed? Has the world changed?
At first, we needed to mourn and pray for the victims, but now, we owe it to Chase Kowalski and his classmates to use this event to improve our society. Many national conversations have been initiated, ranging between guns, school security, mental health care, violent video games, and beyond, but have we missed one?
Dan Malloy, the governor of Connecticut, delivered the most memorable quote in the aftermath of the tragedy: “Evil visited this community today.” Is it time for a national conversation on evil?
Our society has become so dismissive of morality that many have forgotten evil exists. We have neglected moral codes and blurred distinctions between right and wrong. It is only in the face of a horrible display of evil, like Sandy Hook, that we collectively realize its presence.
Many modern philosophers argue that our notions of good and evil are socially constructed. For instance, you believe murder is evil because society repeatedly tells you it is evil. Subsequently, morality is relative to the society, making intrinsic evil non-existent.
This relativistic philosophy has been accepted by most Americans. It’s become commonplace to tell people not to impose their views of morality on others. Where are the relativists now? Why have they not come to the defense of Adam Lanza? Why is it okay to label this act as evil?
People want to improve our country, but we cannot begin to do this until we acknowledge there is good and evil, moving to eliminate what is evil and to promote what is good.
One of the outcomes of this awful event should be that people are more aware of evil. We need to see the evil present in injustices directed against the poor, persecuted, and weak, and work to challenge it. We should also examine spiritual evils in our own life, such as pride, vanity, or jealousy, which offends God, and seek to remove it.
Other questions are also raised by the presence of evil. Most commonly, how does evil exist in a world created by God, since He is good and created everything? In this case, where was God during the massacre? Why did He not stop the shooting? In short, God created humans with free will. He wanted us to love Him based on freedom rather than being forced to love Him. With this freedom, however, there is the option to reject God, and thus, to commit great sins, such as murder. Accordingly, the fault lies not with the Creator, but with the individual who used his free will.
Another familiar question is why do evil things happen to good people? How could such innocent children be killed? God does not promise justice or wellbeing in this world. If you are a good person, you will not be necessarily guaranteed wealth or good health. We should pray and strive to create a better society, but nothing can assure that good people will not be killed, be poor, or get sick. That is not God’s promise.
Our consolation is that justice will be delivered in the next life. In worldly terms, the victims at Sandy Hook faced the same fate as the perpetrator. People might think it is unfair that no punishment was dispensed to the individual behind the crime, and that the innocent people who died will not receive restitution.
Justice will be served. The children and the self-sacrificing staff will be completely compensated by God for their suffering, far greater than we can imagine. On the other hand, Adam Lanza will be judged and punished for his crime. Suicidal mass-killings will never be eliminated, but they will be reduced if people believed death was not the end, but the beginning of another existence based on prior actions.
Returning to the vision of Chase, he informed his mother that one of the outcomes will be the return of God in American society. While one’s initial reaction might be to question God, a thorough examination of the reaction to the tragedy only reinforces belief in God.
The killing of children was universally described as evil. Everyone was disturbed by the killings and deemed it a great tragedy. The event was not atoms interacting with other atoms. It was not a lion attacking a herd of antelope. It was recognized by all that human actions have a moral dimension and this particular action was evil.
For an intrinsic evil to exist, it presupposes moral laws. How did these laws arise? If created by society, one faces the awkward position that mass killings might not be a true evil. Some societies could create a moral system where killing children is viewed as a morally good action.
The Christian position maintains that a moral code exists because God created it. The moral law is not only revealed, but it is also written on our hearts. The identification of what happened at Sandy Hook as evil by everyone points to a natural and universal law of good and evil.
People asked: where was God? That was the right question, but it was asked in the wrong context. We should not wonder why God was not present during the tragedy. He was there. He created the moral code, He was more deeply offended than us, He dealt a swift justice to the perpetrator, and He welcomed the victims with their due reward.
We should ask where was God in the life of Adam Lanza? Barring metal illness, why did he not have a better sense of good and evil and fear of eternal judgment?
As we learn and grow from what happened a month ago, we should not rush into action. Rather, let us think about the root of the tragedy and consider that evil played a role. The post-Sandy Hook national conversation should, therefore, include a discussion about our blindness to evil and our attachment to moral relativism.
Family of 7-year-old killed in Newtown makes a statement on her life
January 16, 2013 01:30
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi
By now, most people have seen the heartbreaking video of Karen Klein, a bus monitor, being endlessly tormented by a group of middle school students, who mocked, poked, and threatened her. Klein does her best to ignore the taunts, but at one point, she breaks down into tears. It’s upsetting to watch, but also perplexing. What’s wrong with these students? Don’t they have any compassion for a 68-year-old grandmother?
As a teacher, I have seen firsthand the growing audacity of the youth. I had a healthy fear of my parents, teachers and elders instilled in me from a young age, but today, things are different. Most of my students are not malicious, and I never had to dismiss a student from class, a benefit of teaching at the college level. Yet, a growing number have no respect or deference for individuals in authority, and I am troubled by their casualness when they text message during lectures, come into class 10 minutes late, or chat with the person next to them. It’s not a big deal for them to blatantly break the small rules, and they are surprised, even shocked, if asked to stop.
Few people are more qualified to discuss this topic than Father Val J. Peter, former director of Boys Town, an organization that helps youths with emotional and physical problems, and author of more than 20 books on childcare and spiritually. Initially, he offers an historical reason for the collapse of authority. Over the last century, many influential individuals have abused their power, causing people to fear all forms of authority. It’s not hard to imagine why powerful people were questioned after Hitler and Stalin, and why we celebrate people who stand up and protest abuses of authority.
Father Peter contends this historical context led to a revolution in child rearing. After World War II, experts advocated adjusting the traditional model for raising children, and Father Peter labels Dr. Benjamin Spock as the leader of this movement. His Baby and Child Care (1945) was the most sold book in the United States over the next five decades after the Bible, influencing a generation of mothers. According to Father Peter, the traditional style of parenting was interpreted by Spock as “authoritarian, unfair, and unproductive. Punishment, said Spock, is not healthy for child and mother. Punitive disciplinary practices need to be abandoned.”
Traditionally, parents were tasked with instructing their children that lying, stealing and bullying were wrong, and they punished their children when they did these actions. The new approach suggests counseling or negotiating with children when they misbehave, or better yet, not to punish misbehavior, only reward good behavior. A flood of new works in the 1960s and 70s upheld this new philosophy, and Father Peter offers a succulent summary of their approach: “Parents should be therapists, not moralists.”
I am not advocating a return to corporal punishment or dismissing the value of some of the new methods, but pointing out that modern parenting can result in children who do not know right from wrong, do not expect consequences when they do something wrong, and think they are above any system of rules. In short, it produces middle school children who torment an elderly lady on the bus, without one bystander sticking up for her.
To add to this discouraging story, the boys behind bullying have received countless death threats, and now they live in fear. We should be upset, but bullying the bullies is also wrong, needlessly perpetuating the problem.
Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. A fundraising site has been collecting funds for Klein, and contributions are over a half million dollars. Klein plans to help her family with the money as well as donate some of it to charity. Some of the boys also offered heartfelt apologizes.
More importantly, the benefit of the video was that it shocked the nation into realizing our collective failure of parenting. If you think there is only one Klein in America, you are living under a rock. Every bus, classroom, and playground has children being mean and hurtful. We need to realize that our top priority is not to raise children who are good as sports or top in the class or have self-confidence, a critical intellect, or strong personalities. First and foremost, parents need to instill morality into their children, and only then will they be respectful.
June 28, 2012 03:47
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi