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Slouching Toward Depravity

Anyone who has lost a child has a heartfelt understanding of the tremendous grief felt by the parents of those children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Though some may think that time heals all wounds, I know from personal experience that time cannot perform that miracle. Those parents now know that the death of a child robs them of all that they are and all that they might have been.

For the sake of the victims, these murders demand justice. Unfortunately, the Sandy Hook killer took the coward’s way out before justice could be served. Though the killer’s motives are unknown and unjustified, we know that he acted with depraved indifference.

Depravity as a reason for the murders has not been much focused on by the news media in their coverage of Sandy Hook. Rather than talk about the individual responsibility of the killer, the pundits have used all of their bandwidth to focus on their perception of societal ills such as lack of gun control and lack of government funding for the mentally ill. Their simplification of the problem ignores the complexity of the issue and prevents adequate discussion to find a solution.

Many politicians, both liberal and conservative, have fallen into this narrow debate. Judging from their sound bites, it seems that the problem can be solved with either more guns or fewer guns. Many have defined the act as evil but few have focused on why individuals act in a depraved manner.

Also largely absent from the national discussion are any religious leaders of note. Pope Benedict XVI commented that he was “deeply saddened by Friday’s senseless violence” and that we should “dedicate ourselves more fervently to prayer and acts of peace.” Though his platitudes were heartfelt, he would surely agree that the root cause of our societal ills will not be cut out by mere acts of peace.

On the Protestant side, America has had no mainstream Protestant minister to lean upon since the decline of Rev. Billy Graham. The absence of such a person was apparent in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook murders.

Almost one hundred years ago, the poet W.B. Yeats wrote The Second Coming. The poet writes not of Christ’s triumphant return but of evil’s second coming after the decline of Christianity. The oft-quoted lines “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned” poignantly describe the events at Sandy Hook.

When trying to understand the killer’s drift toward depravity, acknowledging the lack of mainstream religious guidance presents a necessary starting point. Our moral center has softened through years of neglect. It is not holding.

In our schools, young people are taught ethics without exposure to any underlying religious moral authority. In our churches, mainstream religious leaders have diluted traditional moral standards for the sake of increased “relevance” to society. In our homes, parents struggle to withstand the glorification of violence and immorality found almost everywhere in our society. Without constant reinforcement of our moral foundation by all parties, a gradual drift toward individual depravity is inevitable.

It has taken generations to create our problems and it will take generations to correct. We need strong leaders, both religious and political, with the wisdom to rebuild a moral center for our society. That should be the discussion taking place now.

Instead, weak-willed pundits and politicians will try to take away our guns or anything else that will grab them a headline, while we watch our children devoured by an increasingly depraved society described by Yeats as that “rough beast that slouches toward Bethlehem to be born.”