As a priest, I have to face hundreds of people in church over the holiday weekends and find something to say about this awful thing that has happened to us. Newtown Connecticut is downtown Chicago and mid-town Manhattan. Newton is Westmont, Illinois where I live. The people who attend my church are like people who attend churches in Newtown. I sorely need to find a fragment of hope to lift them up. Last weekend it wasn’t easy.
I talked about original sin, actual sin and evil in our world. As Karl Menninger said in his book “Whatever happened to sin?,” the denial of sin in the world is a dangerous.
We are hearing that the Sandy Hook killer was sick, mentally ill, tortured in his isolated world. His frustration mounted and finally exploded in the moment he destroyed his mother and Newtown’s little children.
This killer was certainly derranged, psychotic. But his mental illness is not the whole story. He could not have had a chemical imbalance in his brain that caused him to destroy children, innocent children, children who had no power to fight back. People who are mentally ill are not typically and more
sinister than anyone else, though they may mess-up their lives.
Although I have some medical background, I’ve never really understood the scientific justification for blaming chermical imbalances for aberrant behavior. Sure, if your glucose is dangerously low, you need glucose to keep you from agitation and violence. If you have too much TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone) you might be nervous and anxious until medical intervention makes things right again.
Sin, on the other hand, is as real as the hot touch on the side of your thigh as a pickpocket leans in on you in a crowded bus and removes your wallet in an instant violation of your person. It’s the chuckle of the kid who kicks a stray dog and makes it howl in pain. Sin is the thrill of domination that a young woman feels when she dumps a guy that she’s strung along. Sin is acting to end your life and taking random individuals with you.
Nothing can bring the Newtown, Sandy Hook children back, but we have to do something. I am preaching that we have to counter with kindness. I am signing up for acts of random kindness. Also, put me down for groups that encourage banning easy access to assault weapons and other military armaments. Where do I sign to limit young people (and adults) access to violent video games, games which appeal to the dark side, the destructive side of life.
Put me on the side of grace because it’s the only thing that can
drive out evil.