Saturday, December 15, 2012

The World Is Very Evil

BestestHusband loves the old version of a hymn, The World is Very Evil. It's quite old in origin, written by Bernard of Morlaix in the 12th century. It's a longish hymn, so I'll just grace you with the first verse:

The world is very evil,
the times are waxing late,
be sober and keep vigil,
the Judge is at the gate.
The Judge who comes in mercy,
the Judge who comes in might,
who comes to end the evil,
who comes to crown the right.

The hymn speaks of the end times, encouraging Christians to keep their eyes on the joys of a future heavenly home.

I think BestestHusband mostly likes the hymn for its dire-sounding title. The beginning of the first verse does sound pretty dark and grim. It seems appropriate this week. Our newspapers here are talking about a local child molester facing over 100 counts of abuse, and our eyes are all still moist from the horrible massacre that happened in Newtown, CT yesterday. When you look at recent events, it does appear that the world is very evil. 

My Facebook and email streams have been flooded with appeals to join in on banning guns. Because banning guns will prevent the mass-murder of innocents that occurred yesterday. But certainly we all know that this is just an attempt to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, to try to salve our fear and helplessness. The child molester didn't need guns to be evil. A few years back, there was a series of machete attacks in Boston. There was plenty of evil and horror to go around without guns. (Didn't hear about those attacks? There are no pro-machete or anti-machete lobbyists that I know of; I suspect that this is a factor in why you didn't hear about these attacks. And I would much rather be killed by bullets  than hacked to death by a machete.)

Evil is everywhere. In various forms. Yesterday, it surfaced in an elementary school in a picturesque New England town. But it can, and will, surface anywhere.

Details about the killer are starting to surface. He is being described as a very troubled young man - possibly with a personality disorder, possibly as autistic. It will likely take a while to figure out the whole story. 

My friend Jenny once gave me a copy of Columbine, by Dave Cullen. It's a recounting of the horrible Columbine High School massacre in 1999. It tells a story different from what we heard on the news immediately after the attack. In reality, the murders had nothing to do with Goths bullied by Jocks, as I had remembered hearing. The two boys had plenty of friends, and there was no rivalry with other cliques. The perpetrators had significant psychiatric issues. One was a full-blown psychopath, the other just a depressed follower. They actually planned on killing most of their schoolmates with bombs that they had intended to level the school. The guns they carried were simply a back-up plan. Thankfully the bombs were duds. The evil they prepared didn't depend on guns.  The evil was beyond our understanding, and beyond our ability to predict and prevent. 

One part of the story really stuck me, talking about the parents of the murderers. It's no doubt that they suffered horribly, both as parents burying their children, and as parents watching other parents bury their children because of the horrors their own offspring had committed. They weren't bad parents. But they did have damaged kids, for reasons they couldn't control. The story that marked itself upon my heart was the story of the role of a pastor. The local Lutheran pastor (yes, this is likely why it caught my eye) was reminded by a parishioner that the murderer's family had once attended the church, and would likely need some support, as their community was raging against them. And so the pastor reached out to them. 

As Christians, we know that the world is very evil. And we know that we are all sinners, and that all sins, great or small, need forgiveness. And while we feel that our transgressions are certainly miniscule in comparison to the horror that was perpetrated yesterday, we all crave grace. We all crave forgiveness. I've read many horrible things said by people about the family of Friday's shooter. And they break my heart. Because certainly the Lanza family is already heartbroken. Both by their own losses, and by the horror of having a loved one be the bringer of such evil. 

The Lutheran connection caught my eye again yesterday, as I learned that one of the victims belonged to a church in our district. We consider those in our church to be part of our extended family. We feel their joys and pains as we do with our own biological family. And our church family has lost children in the past. But we have the comfort of hope, promised by a merciful God, that He will triumph over evil in the end. This early "goodbye" is not an eternal farewell. We believe that the second-grader killed yesterday is now waiting to greet her parents in their heavenly home. And while this can't erase the grief we're all feeling right now, it does provide a healing hope. 


The lyrics of The World Is Very Evil point to this hope:
The Judge who comes in mercy,
the Judge who comes in might,
who comes to end the evil,
who comes to crown the right.

We cannot end the evil, no matter how we try. But God can, and will. And we can set our eyes on that day. Because we know that more evil will befall us in our lives, and more horrors will call out our tears. But we can place our hope in a God who is greater than those horrors, who will wipe away all of our tears. 

Please find a place in your heart to pray for the killer's family. I'm certain they need a big dose of grace right now.

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