Summary: A message in response to the schoolhouse shootings in the Amish community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what kind of news do you anticipate when you turn on your TV set? Good news or bad news? Probably bad news. The media people have learned that the human psyche is attracted to bad news. The more tragic the news, the more attention we pay to it.
We have been bombarded by reports of human tragedies in Iraq – kidnappings, beheadings of hostages, roadside explosions, suicide bombers. I am sure there is some good news to report from that part of the world, but it fades in comparison. Senseless tragedies are happening on daily basis. We live in the age of terror.
It is hard to comprehend how a person can strap explosives around his waist, walk into a crowded place and set it off, blowing himself up and innocent people around him. We shake our head and say, “What a bunch of fanatics!” We are glad we don’t live in a place like that.
Well, the recent tragic news has not come from violence-torn places like Afghanistan or Iraq, but from Canada, Colorado, Wisconsin, and most recently from Amish community in Pennsylvania. Senseless murders committed not by blood-thirsty terrorist but by people we would never suspect of being capable of such horrendous crimes.
In Bailey, Colorado a man with no ties to the community whatsoever walked into the high school, held six girls hostage, sexually assaulted them, the shot one 16-year old in the head before killing himself.
In Wisconsin, a 15 year old student angry about being reprimanded shot and killed the principal.
Monday, a 32-year old truck driver, after finishing his milk route and dropping off his kids at a bus stop, went into a one-room school house and started shooting little girls before taking his own life. Now six of the girls are dead, four still in the hospital. This wasn’t some Muslim extremist filled with hateful propaganda. A truck driver, married, the father of three children. Supposedly he did it over something that happened twenty years ago, when he was only 12.
That Amish community and the entire country gasped in horror. How could something like that happen? Those poor little girls. One after another being shot while the others had to watch. According to the deputy coroner’s report, one 7-year old girl had twenty gun shot wounds in her little body. She could not share her comment without breaking down. Even the children who survived will have to live with that horrible experience. What has happened to our society?
Yes, we have seen school violence before, student shooting other students or a teacher - in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Moses Lake, Washington; the Columbine tragedy in Littleton, Colorado is still fresh in our minds. But an adult systematically taking the lives of innocent little children? I stand in shock at this unspeakable horror, same as you. The whole country stands in shock. May we never become desensitized to such horrible tragedies.
We stand in shock and ask, what has become to the basic sense of decency? What has happened to the value of human life? And we ask, if something like that happened in a quiet Amish community, can anyone feel safe anymore? Could something like that happen here? Did you know that on the opening day of the school year, nine fights broke out – on one campus alone? Could it turn into something worse?
We are living in the age of terror. We are fighting terrorists half way around the world, and we are faced with senseless acts of terror right here at home. There seems to be a common thread between a suicide bomber in Baghdad and the schoolhouse murderer in Pennsylvania. Both displayed a gross disregard for the value of human life, including their own, and the sick desire to instill fear in people’s hearts. That is the tactic of terrorism.
What can we do about it? Of course we want to intercept such people before they commit these evil acts. Of course we would like to protect our children by installing metal detectors at the entrance, keeping the school door locked, and placing armed guards in the hallway. But I think the problem is deeper than that and there is no easy fix.
I look back on the last 3 or 4 decades. I dare to conclude that as a society, we have been systematically desensitized to violence, to lack of decency, to the devaluation of human life. I have seen the abuse of our freedom. You know how much I appreciate freedom. I grew up in a country that lacked freedom so I would be the last person to speak against freedom. You we cannot separate freedom from responsibility. Freedom without responsibility is anarchy. And I am afraid what we have witnessed in recent days is the fruit of anarchy.