The tears flowed immediately. “They were babies, just babies,” I sobbed, as I heard the news about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last Friday. I thought of the 6 and 7 year-olds in my life and I was consumed with the horror of this tragedy which crossed a new line—killing children so young and so innocent. With tears still streaming, I and those with me, naturally just stopped and prayed.
We prayed for those whose lives would be forever changed by this event—for those families who had lost a young child; for those husbands and children and other family members who had lost a wife, a mother, a daughter. Prayer was the only thing we could do that made any sense.
Several days later, there is still little sense to be made of this massacre. However, a couple of things are beginning to come clear and they don’t provide me much comfort. When the president made his initial remarks about the Sandy Hook situation, he immediately insinuated that somehow more laws—more safety laws, more gun laws, more parental laws—could have changed what happened.
We need to understand an important truth: Laws don’t change hearts. Laws, quite honestly, are meaningless to people who are bent on evil. People who are determined to kill don’t care what the laws are regarding guns or killing or breaking and entering. Their hearts are possessed; their consciences may be, in the words of Romans, seared. No gun control law will stop them. They will find a way to get the guns they want. And they will find a way to bypass security measures that have been carefully and prudently put in place. It is the nature of evil and of evil, unregenerate hearts. Laws can punish and deter, but they do not change hearts.
More gun laws, more security laws, more laws regarding parental responsibility are not the answer to preventing more tragedies such as this most recent one.
Our founders would understand this. They recognized that our society and our form of government require self-governing. Self-governing typically comes from religious teachings, in particular from Scripture, from God’s Word. His Word instructs us on how to treat people and gives us clear teaching on the value of human life—and certainly on forgiveness and salvation.
There was a time when the majority of people in America self-governed according to these general Biblical principles. The Bible and prayer were welcome and even expected in our public schools, helping our young people to learn to self-govern.
As God, religion and its related morality and ethics have been marginalized and sometimes even banned in this country, our ability to self-govern has also diminished; and the result is not pretty.
James Adams once wrote that “our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Adams knew that our limited government presupposes a people who could and would self-govern and that self-governing happens only when morality and religion are strong, are dominant in a country.
Nature abhors a vacuum. When self-government is absent, something will always rush in to fill the void. In America, it will be government rushing in. And government’s answer will always be more laws. More laws to govern people who refuse to or are unable to self-govern. Adding laws is the natural man’s natural response to tragedy. It’s something man can do.
Ironically, it is manmade laws that have actually banned what we need most to address these senseless and tragic situations. Laws that forbid prayer and Bible reading, the display of the Ten Commandments and the teaching of creation in our public schools have, in some way, contributed to this problem.
I am not saying that if God and Christian teachings had been prominent in our schools and in the public arena this tragedy would have been avoided. But I am confident that more self-governing is a major part of the answer in preventing future tragedies. The only way to properly self-govern is to know and live by the rules and principles established by the One Who created us.
In reflection, my tears last Friday and over the intervening days weren’t and aren’t just for those directly affected by this tragedy. My tears and my grieving are for this nation and for its people that refuse to acknowledge and govern themselves according to the laws given by the God Who rules the nations.