I was invited to a “tweet up” the other night… I know, I had never heard about one of those either. I don’t know if there is an official definition but from my experience a “tweet up” is where a few smart people and me get together (at this tweet up there was a clinical psychologist, theologian, philosopher, author, and a few other’s whose backgrounds were unknown to me) on Twitter and use a specific hash tag (#soulchat in this case) and discus a topic back and forth for some predetermined time frame. This topic was about grief and the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy.
The topic came about because of a sense of communal and individual grief occurring throughout our nation. This tragedy has sparked a lot of emotion in many and this tweet up was about the dynamics of grief surrounding this event.
Several helpful observations came out of this conversation but I want to talk about one in particular. It was noted that there seems to be a reluctance to call evil evil. Our culture seems to seek out explanations of abnormality such as mental illness to explain such violent actions as seen in Connecticut while discounting or outright denying the presence of evil. I suggest that this approach is detrimental to a society. If a society denies evil and instead will explain away evil actions as an abnormality, then it seems likely that such a society would also throw off the very cultural restraints which hold evil at bay. In other words, if one says there is no evil then steps to prevent evil will not take place. Even worse, a society may take action toward objects instead of dealing with individual responsibility. Perhaps a better approach is to acknowledge the presence of evil and to further admit that it is present in all of us. And that all of us, without personal and societal moral restraint, are capable and have the potential of committing similar acts of evil. With such a view, society would ask better questions when seeking the answer to “why?” How did personal morality breakdown? How did societal restraint fail? Do individual and corporate worldviews or belief systems matter? These and similar questions should lead to better policies.
Bringing these thoughts back to the topic of grief, it seems that the failure to recognize evil as evil would also negatively impact the grief process. How or why a loss occurs seems to play a significant part in the grief journey. A sudden death such as in an automobile crash is different from a death at the end of a long battle with a disease. Even the cause of a sudden loss, e.g., a drunk driver versus an icy road condition, may alter the course. It seems right that typically attributing a loss to the real cause would help set the most helpful course of grief. Denying the presence of evil in the world and in the heart of mankind would be one such inaccurate attribution.
This tragedy in the midst of the holiday season has pierced the heart of a nation and beyond. Many hearts are heavy with thoughts of the victims’ family and friends. Many parents ask “what if” as do many teachers. While speaking with a teacher of third graders a couple of evenings ago I realized how vulnerable she felt to the possibility of a similar event in her school. Perhaps vulnerability is part of our collective grief as is wrestling with the “what if”. It is my prayer that we will find strength to face our grief, our sorrow and our vulnerability with wisdom that comes from a relationship with God through Christ. To the best of my knowledge and experience He is still the only enduring Hope in this life as well as in the life hereafter.