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The Spiritual Challenge Of Newtown

In the sacred season, spiritual leaders from Connecticut take on the challenge of Newtown.

An image of 6-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Benjamin Andrew Wheeler is displayed at the entrance to Trinity Episcopal Church as mourners file in for his wake, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. (AP)

An image of 6-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Benjamin Andrew Wheeler is displayed at the entrance to Trinity Episcopal Church as mourners file in for his wake, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. (AP)

Bells ringing today in Newtown, Connecticut.  Not Christmas bells, for the season, but bells of mourning for beloved dead children, beloved dead teachers.

The mass shooting in Newtown came as millions of families across the country were lighting menorahs, lighting Advent candles, gathering for Christmas.  It brought the opposite of hope and joy.  It brought sorrow.  Despair.  In a sacred season.

This hour, On Point:  a conversation on the challenge to our spirits of this sorrow in our midst.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Miroslav Volf, professor at the Yale Divinity School and founding director, Yale Center for Faith & Culture.

Rev. Josh Pawelek, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society: East, in Manchester, Conn.

From Tom’s Reading List

Huffington Post “Looking at a tragedy like this from an Orthodox perspective we only have one answer, this was evil, there is no other way to describe it. The world is trying real hard to remove God, and when God is removed the evil one takes His place. When the good is removed that space gets filled with the opposite of good, and that is evil. In a place where innocence should be present, on Friday, we saw the face of evil. We will never know the reasons why this happened and anything at this point is just speculation.”

University of Chicago Divinity School “Four daily newspapers greet the Martys at breakfast. The morning after the school killings at Newtown, Connecticut, twenty-four pages of these informed us, while zillions of twitters and tweets and television and radio programs also addressed the tragedy. Readers don’t need Sightings to spot traces of religion-in-public life this time, since coverage of it comes in blinding flashes when certain issues come up. So, just three reflections:”

Dallas Morning News “Here we are, only days past Hanukkah, a week until Christmas, and the spot on the yearly religious calendar when many of us proclaim peace on earth and good will to man. Yet here we are watching from afar as 20 young students and six adults from their Connecticut school.”

Video

Check out this video from The Voice, in tribute to the victims of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • JGC

    I would like to see them take on the challenge of the NRA, not just the challenge of Newtown.  We need all hands on deck here. The Brady Campaign is working hard but is totally out-monied and outmanoeuvered  by the NRA.  The NRA has given it’s approval of my congressman from PA-8, Mike Fitzpatrick (Is your Congressman NRA approved? And what do they expect of him?);  the NRA has at least two different charity designations to let it sail past Charity Navigator as a well-run organization, and with a rating better than Brady.  There do not seem to be many well organized factions to be on the side of more restrictive gun laws.

  • Ed75

    It’s interesting that the culture attacks and denigrates religion in general and Catholicism in particular, but when a disaster occurs – the Church is there, and other religions, to bury the dead, console the grieving. And with good logic we forget the attacks and flock to the Church. The two priests at St. Rose of Lima are exhausted (pray for them) and Cardinal Dolan was there to say one funeral Mass.

    But even in this dark disaster one sees the mercy of God: the children died instantly and weren’t injured to suffer and die later.

    • gemli

      Religion is tied in to the rituals of birth, death, marriage, and many other cultural milestones, so we’re obliged to endure its presence.  The false consolation it offers is a small benefit compared to the cost to humanity of the supertitious ignorance it causes us to labor under.  It prompts us to say almost unbearably cruel and midguided things, like the quick death of children being a sign of god’s mercy. Your idea of suffering is very narrow.  The parents and grandparents of these children will suffer every day for the rest of their lives.
       
      Those children are dead because we have listened to bible-thumping gun fanatics.  Our lawmakers have been cowed by gun lobbys who think the occasional mass murder is an acceptable tradeoff for the freedom to buy assault weapons.  Curtailing the availability of such weapons will do more to alleviate suffering than all the mumbling and magical incantations over the dead.

      • Ed75

        I guess you don’t believe in God, then.

        • gemli

          I don’t believe in a lot of things.  The Christian god is one, but I also don’t believe in unicorns, faeries, and lots of other mythical beings and gods, like Thor, Odin, Baal…the list goes on and on.  People have devoutly believed in all of these gods for centuries, and lived and died for their beliefs.  It all seems pretty silly now.  People prayed to god for centuries to spare a sick child, or to relieve suffering.  But only when penicillin was added to prayer did things improve.  Prayers were useless then, and they’re useless now.  Without protecting ourselves from madmen with guns, no magical incantation will mitigate the consequences one iota.

          • geraldfnord

            http://thepaincomics.com/weekly041229.htm

            Note that Daniel Dennett and others have reasoned that since religions aren’t true, but living them uses energy that usually is in short supply, they must be good for _something_ or at least have been so. Faith-healing seems to help conditions in which attitude and attention matter, and group cohesion seems to be enhanced by shared religious rites; people also seem to generally need the feeling that they are part of a larger story, and so untrue-but-compelling such might be more {group survival}-positive than none.

            People in our nightmare past mostly put more stock in ‘Works for me,’ than in intellectual rigour; I see no bright prospect for quitting the opiate as a race so long as most of us are in pain, leading me to something like Straussianism but I hope more honest.

          • Pointpanic

            what? You don’t believe in Baal? You damn infidel! ; )
             

          • Ed75

            It could be that you mean ‘I don’t believe in any spiritual beings’, you are a materialist. Of course I don’t believe in the entities you mention.

            But God is a spiritual being, and the angels are spiritual beings. Earlier pre-Christian societies, when they sensed the actions of the angels or of God, would develop mythologies and creatures like faires, elves, etc. to explain them, and different mythologies about gods.

            But these were a preparation for the self-revelation of God in the Jewish and Christian faith. These are not imagined by man, but revealed to man by God.

            (As a side note, it has been documented that sick patients who have people praying for them, even if they don’t know it and don’t know them, do better than other patients. Prayer isn ‘t magical incantation, it was done in some pre-Christian societies, prayer is conversation with God, which includes requests for help.)

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZI2FUMBFL5GGCNTM6GDQIHCW6U Keith

        A selective, dim view of religion indeed. One I believe and know to be an ill-informed, charicature of history and theology. It gave rise to the Enlightenment, end of slavery, suffrage, public education, hospitals…. What did Christianity specifically bring to the Roman Empire? Care. 

        • geraldfnord

          Religion certainly has been the vehicle via which the urge to do these good things has been expressed, but there is no reason to believe that this were the only such possible (there are many usefully productive and creative atheists and agnostics) and though we should not throw out the goods that in former times were rooted in faiths, there comes a time for a powerful species to put away childish things for safety’s sake, if not for dignity’s.

      • OnpointListener

        Agreed!

      • Ed75

        I know a lot of religious people who are for gun control, but let’s put that aside.

        The view that religion is tied to the rituals of birth, death, etc. is Marx’s view of religion, apparently subscribed to by many on this list. It’s takes the sociological aspect of religion, and limits religion to this aspect. It is reductionist.

        (Even in sociological terms, Bill Donohue, a sociologist, tells us, religion is the element that defines the culture of a society.)

        But in it’s full sense, Marx notwithstanding, religion is man’s organized, communal reaction to God’s self-revelation to man.

        PS To spell it out, children dying a quick death is not merciful. What is merciful is that if they were going to be shot, it was merciful that they didn’t suffer. The people who died on 9/11 also didn’t suffer injuries -the hospitals were open and prepared, and no one came. And you’re right, the grieving for these children extends around the country to relatives and others.

    • jefe68

      Were was God’s mercy on that Friday in Newtown?

      • Pointpanic

        Jefe, good question. I’m willing to take responsibility for myself but when innocent kids or others are violently murdered senselessly ,I can no longer believe in an all Loving GOd on the personal level at least.  Otherwise,He/SHe would have some serious explaining to do.

    • JGC

      Your justification for the killing of the children is totally nutty.  Chock full o’ nuts nutty.

      • Ed75

        I think this is a misunderstanding, there’s no justification for the killing of children. But, as St. Augustine writes, ‘God allows evil, but makes it so that it is not the worst’. In this case, God did not interfere with the shooter’s free will, which he respects, but given that they were going to be killed, as in the victims on 9/11, God showed his mercy by not allowing the children to suffer, but to die immediately.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      “And with good logic we forget the attacks and flock to the Church”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Loring-Palmer/100000673381066 Loring Palmer

    In your discussion on the spiritual challenge of Newtown and our psychological and social narrative, please consider the following:
    1) The lust to kill:  What message are people in our warrior culture getting when “thou shalt not kill” means it’s ok to kill if they’re not of our culture (think of our wars) or on the president’s hit list. And that it’s way cool to own a gun, and that this fascination is fanned by war films, video games, and the IRA. Are we “natural born killers?”2) Nature or nurture:  do some individuals arrive with karmic baggage and are predisposed to act out? Or is it the parents or societies fault for producing a kid that goes bad? Check out the film, “Let’s talk About Kevin,” movie online, that goes into this. Great film and relevant topic. 3) The Postmodern Predicament:  what are the implications of living in a narcissistic, everyone-for-themselves society where the narrative is ‘produce, consume, die’; a soulless, deadening culture with no spiritual imperatives. Consider:  what does it mean to be a well adjusted Nazi?4) Education:  Can we do better than running our schools like prisons? Are we educating our young people to think and act creatively or force feeding them to take tests and be good consumers? Why are blacks and Latinos being shamed into dropping out before graduation? On the bright side, Mindfulness is being successfully introduced into elementary and secondary schools in California.5) Let’s promote reality in our schools and our culture. We’re not separate individuals. Rather we’re all interconnected and part of the evolutionary process that’s going somewhere, from simplicity to higher complexity. We, and everything else, is an ever changing process. Without knowing who we are, where we are, or why we’re here, we won’t be able to move forward out of our present dilemma. Let’s raise our consciousness to a world-centric view.My 2 cents worth. Thank you.

    • geraldfnord

      I agree with you in many particulars here, and probably elsewhere, but please be apprised that some notional, fundamental, connectedness between us all and an intent to evolution are particular religious views, not well-established facts, and so not part of consensus ‘reality’ or suitable to be taught as such in the public schools.

    • DrewInGeorgia

       Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gordon.swan3 Gordon Swan

    Rise up oh people!
    Let not the NRA be any longer
    Our dictator!

  • http://www.facebook.com/gordon.swan3 Gordon Swan

    Rise up oh people!
    Let not the NRA be any longer
    Our Dictator!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    A gutwrenching tragedy yes.  But America is born of such and carried on throughout its history on Native Americans, Africans, Hiroshima, Vietnam and many other peoples. 

    Its interesting to note, despite the powerful US media spin and manipulation,  that gun loving americans, most with stars and stripes waving outside their homes, basically have a deep innate distrust of their own US government. 

    Many indeed, for their love of guns and warfare, will voluntarily go to fight baseless corporate and religious wars in the middle east. But at heart they know that a group of wealthy foreign bankers run the Federal Reserve and almost completely control their political system and media.   This the paradox of the patriotic americans,  who will never give up their guns… and they’re goal is not about preserving hunting rights.

    The media avoids discussing the REAL reason that Good Ol Americans wont ever give up their guns.

    • Pamela Leman

      having read all your comments, i just want to say, in the words of another generation, “right on!”

  • keo

    Tom while I am reassured to listen to your show and the callers who are outraged by Newtown, I’m more concerned about the listeners of Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et al, to get a better picture of where exactly we stand.  The level of fear, paranoia, warped priorities, and a failure to understand the issue of mitigating the future damage done by a gun culture runs deep. 

    Sadly, in the end, I expect nothing to be done.  Not even on the easiest facets of this issue that need to be addressed, such as communication of legal mental health commitments to sellers and the unregulated sale of firearms by private sellers to whomever they wish. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    No one ever mentions that a large portion of the people who died in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were children. A horror we were able to shrug off and ignore almost effortlessly.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

      Evidently, only those with white picket fences and gated communities matters.  The US media doesnt seem to mourn for children with mud, bamboo, straw, or concrete block fences….many killed by US foreign policy.

    • Jasoturner

      An astute and, as far as I know, relatively accurate statement.  This issue has troubled me for years.  It does not diminish the awfulness of what happened in Connecticut, of course.

    • AaronNM

      While I agree with your lament and wish there were a more universal empathy among human beings, I don’t think our national reaction is all that different from the rest of humanity when it comes to regional tragedies. There might be a brief pause elsewhere, as there occasionally is here, but life goes on. Human beings tend to focus on what’s right in front of them.

      • DrewInGeorgia

        “Human beings tend to focus on what’s right in front of them.”

        Unless it is easier to ignore it, then we quickly become far-sighted.

  • Wahoo_wa

    I find it odd and strangely vindictive that the bells rang 26 times and did not ring for the shooter’s mother.

    • Acnestes

      Not so strange, and not really vindictive.  I think it’s more like she’s unlamented, being the source of both the shooter and the weapons.

      • Wahoo_wa

        I strongly disagree.  She is just as much a victim as any of the others.

        • Acnestes

          I don’t disagree that she is, but not a wholly innocent one the sense that those 26 were.  I can understand why she would not be memorialized, “in the same breath”, as those who died in the school.

          • Wahoo_wa

            I’m not convinced really.  The idea of a family member…one’s own child…murdering a mother is horrific no?  Even if one does believe that she carries some blame (which I clearly do not think she does) doesn’t spirituality and belief lead one to forgiveness and not vindictiveness   I find the snub cold hearted and inhumane.

          • Acnestes

            Why not 28 bells then?

          • Wahoo_wa

            I think that’s a very good idea personally.

          • Acnestes

            The fact is though, that this, like all such rituals are for the consolation of the living, and most particularly with the parents of the slain children.  They have enough on their plates just at the moment, and I think it would be needlessly cruel to them to symbollicly equate the unfortunate Lanzas with their children.  I think that’s what guided those who decided on 26 bells.

          • Wahoo_wa

            The Lanzas have family and friends too I’m sure.

          • Acnestes

            Personally, I’m ambivalent on it, 26, 27 or 28.  I ‘m really responding to the fact that you found the 26 bells odd.  I don’t and I think I understand the reasoning, right or wrong, of those who decided on 26.  Happily, it was not my call to make.

          • Pamela Leman

            how do you get to judge whether she or anyone else is “wholly innocent”? 

          • Acnestes

            What I said was that the children were wholly innocent.

  • OnpointListener

    People believe in a so called “merciful” God only because people NEED something to believe in.  People create God and not the other way around.

  • dhe1963

    As someone who did raise a child in Newtown and still attends worship there and has been at some of the wakes and funerals this week, who has lost a child from my church, whose coworkers lost relatives, I can say that one very general way that people perceive the challenge is to ask How can God allow such things?  Or as Tom said it, this is a situation of darkness on top of darkness.  But being on the ground here let me say that there is light or hope or god, whatever you want to call it, everywhere in Newtown.  And the people of Newtown are very grateful to everyone around the world who has offered both practical and moral support.  God, or the sacred, doesn’t “allow” suffering, but rather suffers with us and keeps us company amidst suffering.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    One thing that isn’t getting reported widely enough is a flurry of random of acts of kindness in response to the tragedy in Newtown.

    Introspection is a good thing – but the way to battle outward attacks of evil is with outward attacks of goodness.

  • Drew Carlin

    I have heard a lot a sentiments about evil coming to take the place in our society where God has been removed. This talk seems to me as unconstructive as can be. Mike Huckabee recently stated that we don’t need more laws, only God’s law, starting with “thou shalt not kill.” So give us the solution! Is this a matter of too few nativity scenes on public property? Saying “happy holidays” and inviting coworkers to “holiday parties”? Are we being punished for showing too much charity to our neighbors with non-traditional lifestyles? Do mass killers not go to church enough? I am a churchgoer, but I think this mentality is incredibly offensive to those of other faiths, or those who choose to live a secular lifestyle in harmony with their fellow citizens.  

  • dhe1963

     Many prayers have been said for both the shooter and his mom.  But you are right– they are remembered last at the moment.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    Obviously God doesn’t control the world.  To claim that God “intended” for these children to be murdered, or that it is because we don’t “let God into” our schools is abhorrent to me.

    What would Jesus do and say about any person getting murdered?  Would a person’s personal beliefs matter?

    As Mr. Rogers said – we need to look for the helpers and then we will see the good people.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

      The corollary to that is if we become the helpers we become the good people others can look to.

    • Pointpanic

      It’s repulsive to me too, Neil. Having been a fundamentalist -evangelical christian for most of my life, I’ve now been an agnostic for 10 years . Senseless events like this give me no reason to believe in a God who takes us seriously as individuals.Or ever claimed to. or maybe, nobody’s ‘out there”
                I realize some people need faith to sustain them and I respect that. But what if I allowed that to happen when I could have prevented it? How would that reflect on me?

  • pmassari

    I’m writing from Harvard Divinity School. Toni Morrison visited
    only one week before the tragic shootings at Newtown to deliver our
    Ingersoll Lecture on Immortality.  The title of her talk was “Goodness:
    Altruism and the Literary Imagination,” but she opened, paradoxically, with the
    story of an incident she described as a “mindless horror”: the 2006 shooting of
    five Amish girls in a one-room Pennsylvania schoolhouse.  She did so
    because she found the community’s response to the tragedy even more shocking
    than the violence that inspired it.

     

    “The Amish community forgave the killer,” she said.  “Refused
    to seek justice, demand vengeance, or even to judge him.  They
    visited and comforted the killer’s widow, the killer’s children – who were not
    Amish – just as they embraced the relatives of the slain… Their silence
    following that slaughter – along with their very deep and sincere concern for
    the killer’s family – seemed to me at the time characteristic of genuine
    goodness.” 

    Your listeners can find Morrison’s lecture in its entirety at:

    http://www.hds.harvard.edu/multimedia/video/goodness-altruism-and-the-literary-imagination

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Loring-Palmer/100000673381066 Loring Palmer

      Wow—these Amish people demonstrated what it means to be a true Christian. Thank you for sharing this. I’m happy to know that a just, wise and compassionate community exists in America.

  • kewnuf

    I would guess that many, many of your listeners are members of the choir – they do not need to be preached at, reminded that 20 children died last week tragically, or told about their feelings of despair.  To begin recovering, you should be providing a different focus, rather than the constant reminders to all of us.  There needs to be a balance, but you provide none by dwelling on all of the pain and sadness.  You are feeding the despair, the anguish and reminding us in such a heavy-handed way that we are made to feel as if there is no hope.  Why can’t you do something that uplifts the soul and the heart – not reinforce our feelings of helplessness and anguish.

     

  • Mike_Cr

    Tom, is the reverend Pollack familliar with the mass shooting at the Unitarian church in Knoxville a few years ago? 

  • TomRocks

    Tom I realize that the majority of religious Americans come from the Christian tradition. I have experienced that when horrific deaths like this occur, or one has serious illness it shakes ones relationship with God. Many have to reject their former image of God to grow into something larger. I would be interested to hear from a Buddhist voice on this issue, since for Buddhists there is no God image to speak of.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    You must be the change you want to see in the world.

    Mahatma Gandhi

  • Ellen Dibble

    Maybe we imagine a better goodness, and in every birth, we bet on that goodness.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
    Edmund Burk

     

  • jsilverhand

    Tom, I love your sensitivity to this horror, but I dispute your characterization of “dark on dark”. There was light in the midst that shone when those adults sacrificed their lives trying to protect their charges. What ever their beliefs were, they lived and died exhibiting the “imago Dei” – image of God. As do those extending care and compassion to the survivors and the families of the lost. 

    Jay

    • BenGjones

      I don’t think that’s light, because those adults had families and loved ones who won’t be able to enjoy their company any more, no matter how noble their sacrifice. The point is they never should have had to die in the first place.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    To the guests: Is there something different in the aftermath of this tragic, violent event versus after Hurricane Sandy?

    I live in the immediate media market for each. At some point I was feeling like, no matter how widespread the destruction of that storm, the presence of concrete work to do, things to repair, food, water, supplies to people who were trying to physically put their lives back together (and the Red Cross donations), made things make more “sense” to me.

    After this school shooting, there were vigils, bouquets, teddy bears, and services, and all had meaningful parts in addressing the emotions of people close by at that time.

    But (as a person who does his share of volunteer pitching-in), I just got less of a “I can help accomplish something for people right now” feeling, starting a couple days ago, after the shock wore off. Am I alone in this?

    • Ellen Dibble

      There is a huge discouragement for me in looking at Washington freezing into gridlock, the president’s initiatives getting the cold shoulder.  It seems that grassroots initiatives or initiatives from the top are both thwarted.  Is the world at large setting any better example?  Not that I see, but maybe I’m not focusing right.  I suppose people’s families can resuscitate some of the courage, but not all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    Newtown can best be described as the Shock And Awe Blowback of a violent culture and militarized society.

    Americans no longer need to speak arabic to translate the screams and cries of those black veiled women with their hands in the air, palms upwards over the lifeless bodies of their loved ones.

  • waitstaff

    As I have struggled after this massacre of the innocents, I thought of an image that, humble as it is, is helpful to me: the moment after the Grinch has ripped away the symbols of cheer in Whoville, when the Whos come together under the twisted, empty wires that still hang over their village square. And they join hands and sing, despite this inexplicable attack by an unknown enemy. The families in Newtown cannot do this yet, but those of us less crippled by grief can do this for them now. Standing up in hope and faith is the good work we can do on their behalf, and one day they may be able to do this for us, when we also are laid low. Hold hands and sing in the face of darkness and wait for the light to return, as so many before us have done.

  • d clark

    How sad these two spiritual frauds groping in the face of evil. Even Jesus said at one time “this is the hour of darkness”. We just have to know this is the case but “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never mastered it. Without the realization of personal evil and the reality of free will, none of this can ever make sense. We must simply suffer with them and the suffering will be redemptive. Redeemed by the real Jesus, the creator.

    Then anger is appropriate against the venal vermin of the NRA.

  • Jeremy McMullen

    The whole birth of Christ is just one in a long line of stories describing the changing solstice. A natural process of new light and new year for the growing season. I think people need to stop relying on these out dated images of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and focus on what is real. The natural world and humanity needs to be the focus of change. We need to move that misguided faith into a faith in humanity and the natural world.

    • Ellen Dibble

      I studied comparative religion several years in college, and I have no difficulty translating one to another, but how often does one have a multi-religion group interacting?  So.  But the death of Jesus, to me, could be like the atrocity in Newtown, and Jesus had his group, and we say that God brought him back to life, but I like to remember that it was people who simply would not have it.  They did not blame the government that killed him; they saw the event as not an eclipse of light, but the beginning of a light that they had enabled, a light that could not be killed or extinguished.  And that light stands, in the face of centuries of discouragement.  It has to be told in ways that bring people together, not apart, as far as I’m concerned.  But I’m not a scholar, so I leave it to others.  Most of our religious inspirational figures belong to one faith or the other, but they can be listened to, and “translated.”

    • brettearle

      Misguided faith, in what sense?

      Is there any less atrocity, statistically, in the world now, in comparison to back then?

      What do you mean by faith in humanity and the natural world?

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Is the NRA going to pay for all the police officers in every school in the country?

    • Pamela Leman

      hahaha. good one!

  • http://www.facebook.com/amelia.rappaport Amelia Rappaport

    Not to make everyone feel worse, but I think it’s important to remember that children around the world are victimized, daily, by war, starvation, disease and other forms of injustice.  We are fortunate that a hideous event, such as the Newtown shooting, is a relatively rare occurrance in our country, and not a daily reality.  I just hope that we can hold on to the outrage we feel about this event and put it to work helping children, and their parents, who are suffering around the world.

    • brettearle

      It is an unfortunate, but a good point, that you make.

      Was the Newtown massacre worse than the Fukushima [sp?] tsunami and earthquake?

      We need to put things in perspective, as we try to prevent further tragedies in our own country.

    • Pamela Leman

      it is a lot more common here than in other developed countries, such as those in western europe. i agree we have to remember all victims, but there is naturally a special outrage reserved for tragedies caused by human violence, i think. 

  • Jonathan Betts

    Armed police in every school? Are they all going to be armed with assault rifles to take on every psycho? Are we going to have police with assault rifles welcoming our children to school?

    • brettearle

      I don’t like the idea–at least, theoretically.

      But if there is increased security, at schools, I doubt, seriously, that Federal, State, or City regulations are going to create the VISUAL impression of a police state, around Public Schools.

      • Jonathan Betts

         No, but you are going to have guards with handguns protecting against theoretical psycho’s with Automatic Assault Rifles and high capacity clips. Until you get rid of those things adding a guy with a pea shooter is underwhelming.

        • brettearle

          Amazing, isn’t it?

          Unless I missed it, the jerk from the NRA gets up there and doesn’t even hint at reducing high magazine capacity–amid all his Bluster & his Suggestions.

  • waitstaff

    As I have struggled after this massacre of the innocents, I thought of
    an image that, humble as it is, is helpful to me: the moment after the
    Grinch has ripped away the symbols of cheer in Whoville, when the Whos
    come together under the twisted, empty wires that still hang over their
    village square. And they join hands and sing, despite this inexplicable
    attack by an unknown enemy. The families in Newtown cannot do this yet,
    but those of us less crippled by grief can do this for them now.
    Standing up in hope and faith is the good work we can do on their
    behalf, and one day they may be able to do this for us, when we also are
    laid low. Hold hands and sing in the face of darkness and wait for the
    light to return, as so many before us have done.

    • brettearle

       Many Haitians did this, after the devastating earthquake.

  • loweller

    I may be a lapsed Christian, but I certainly don’t feel an urge toward turning the other cheek or contemplation right now. I feel a call to action due to the clear and present danger to my children posed by the NRA and their ilk. We need action on a number of fronts, but gun control must be a top priority. I’ve had enough of other people’s individual “freedom” to amass personal arsenals that can be used against my family. Time for some communal responsibility for a change. Time for the adults among us to stand up and take charge.

    • brettearle

       What are you planning to do personally?

      Or are you talking about basic support, privately, by you, for public action?

      • loweller

         I’m talking about working through the political process to influence my political representatives to take action through legislation. We need to support politicians and community leaders who are willing to take a stand on gun control, as well as support for mental health care and hold them to their promises. We also need to work to influence opinion through public forums such as this one, although I suspect posting on NPR is preaching to the choir.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamesgmiller Jim Miller

    Today is the 24th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am 103.  I can tell you that it is like yesterday and the pain and loss never go away.  Not for a single day.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/hilary.grant.509 Hilary Grant

      I was living in London then and had tickets on that flight, but changed to an El Al flight for that night. I had the return to London on El Al so when a spot opened up to NYC I took it. I always remember 103 and my fellow students who perished.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    “Eternal vigilance”

    This, like so many other problems, can’t be “fixed” – this, like so many other things in our life, must be forever managed to cause the least amount of damage.

    Anyone who says we can fix this is lying to you.

  • Pamela Leman

    i agree completely!! and, though i am not a religious person, i have read a lot of the writings of jesus and others and i feel quite confident they would agree. it isn’t our job to judge. thank heavens!!

  • nj_v2

    My “spiritual” inclinations lie somewhere amongst agnosticism, paganism, and Buddhism. I enjoyed and appreciated today’s show.

  • Walt B

    I’d suggest that rather than grounding our hope in the promise of an afterlife or in divine justice, we focus on the here and now. We find our happiness, fulfillment, and consolation in times of crisis in meaningful relationships with the ones we love. As individuals, we should pursue these relationships, and as a society we should increase our commitment to helping those who for whatever reason do not or cannot have these meaningful relationships. Hope is now, not after we die

    • larry brown

      Well said, Walt.  Some of us look for hope and meaning here in the world.  Hope and compassion exist without appeal to a suspect deity who allows mass murder or saves in an afterlife.

  • vtthoughtfulrev

    I want to ask what is hope anyway? And what does it mean that this is a season of hope? Does it mean a season of parties and feeling good, as a tonic against the life of the world? Do we think as a culture that we can only hope when there is no darkness ?Or is hope  something else  deeper? For me  this year, hope is needed more than ever. Hope, that says we can have a different place to stand in the face of evil and the bad news of the world.  I don’t understand faith and God, as way to keep bad things from happening but rather as a way of being, that responds to the world in both good times and bad. For me hope is a way to seek to stand in love geneoristy and abundance, when the world would have us respond from places of fear and scarcity. This is the short version Of what i have been thinking listening and responding to the news in this last week.

  • mikewatertown

    What was the name of the poem read on the program just a few minutes ago by Rev Pawelek. Do you know where I can find the text of it?

  • brettearle

    It seems to me that the cynical guy who called in about how atrocities are the way of the world, has, unfortunately, a reasonable point.

    Doesn’t mean we should not take aggressive action to try to prevent what happened in Newtown or in other places.

    But many of us, here, in the United States are inured to genocide, and mass killings, and much danger, for the average person, in many parts of the world.

    After 9/11, we no longer felt as secure.

    Our country has always taken pride in the idea that we are a safe and secure country–because we are a strong country and are, supposedly, on the RIGHT side of life’s values.

    It is time for us to take a second look, and a third look, and a fourth look.

    How easy is it for Americans to admit that there is something wrong here–WITHOUT finger pointing?

    • Pamela Leman

      it is so true that atrocities will happen, and making our children paranoid about their world with lockdowns and an armed presence in every school will not change that. it is hard for us, as parents, to admit that we cannot protect the ones we love most from everything, but it is true. we have to protect, but also to give them confidence to go into the world and know that there are no guarantees.

      • brettearle

         BUT WE ALSO HAVE TO ASK, WHAT IS WRONG WITH US.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hilary.grant.509 Hilary Grant

    Tom: about 1/2 hour ago the sun came out here in Connecticut. Such a contrast to the weather we had as the bells were tolling at 9:30. The wonderful guests and callers give me hope that change will come. But I’m not waiting. I have written to the White House as have my children. 

  • kokyjo

    Unfortunately, if we identify “meaningful relationships” as those in which we are most happy and comfortable, we miss the opportunity to experience the deepest purpose and meaning.  Love your enemies!  Love those who are different from you.  Listen to Those who have different perspectives than you do.  You don’t have to Agree.   This LISTENING and LOVING is the part Jesus did.  It eventually cost him his life as it will those of us who claim to believe in this power and life. 

    • brettearle

      This teaching can be found in many religions.

      People, from all backgrounds, can be reminded to refer to their own religions or even to refer to different religions, from their own.

      • Pamela Leman

        and it is why the bells should ring 28 times, not 26 or even 27. i am a mom and feel for those who lost children, but i also feel for the young man who chose such a terrible path out of this world. i’m not christian, but i thought that was one of the teachings of christ. still, i hear that the churches only rang their bells 26 times…

        • NatHanMat

          I agree.

    • Walt B

      It sounds like you expect to lose your life because you believe in Jesus. Am I missing something?

      • kokyjo

         I expect to GAIN my Life because I am “reluctantly willing to lose my life” –  the cost of admission, i guess

  • slowhand_6

    I believe that the fingers being pointed at gun violence, video game violence, school shootings, mall shootings, all have one commonality- they are symptoms of a greater illness. There has always been this kind of violence throughout human history, in varying degrees based on the ambitions of its people. What has kept the world from falling apart is the willingness to bare our hearts to one another.

    We cannot blame the angry for their ire. We cannot blame the weak for their submission. When the dust settles on this tragedy, we will only measure the success to overcome this loss by how we helped one another.

    • brettearle

      Higher quality of communication between people, and  more time to talk to one another will help.

      It could help subtly, perhaps, and also noticeably.

      But to do that is a very tall order, right now, in this country.

      • stillin

        Yea I so agree…I feel like this country’s new plan is this, keep everybody so overbusy, overworked and overstressed, that they will die of stress and not use their social security, or retirement money. Let’s keep them so busy, nobody has time for anybody and they’ll all lose their minds…that seems to be the legit plan for the middle class anyway, or what’s left of it.

  • ABRASZEWSKI

    CAN OUR RIVERS OF TEARS WASH AWAY THE PUDDLES OF BLOOD?CAN OUR CRIES OF OUTRAGE DROWN THE MOANS OF THE DYING ? OR THE QUIET SOBS OF THE GRIEVING?WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?HOW DO WE STOP THE VIOLENCE, CONQUER THE EVIL ?DOES HISTORY HAVE NOTHING TO TEACH US ?“HISTORY WILL HAVE TO RECORD THAT THE GREATEST TRAGEDY OF THIS PERIOD…WAS NOT THE STRIDENT CLAMOR OF THE BAD PEOPLE, BUT THE APPALLING SILENCE OF THE GOOD PEOPLE.” – MLK, JR “ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU, BUT WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY.” – JFK“DARKNESS CANNOT DRIVE OUT DARKNESS, ONLY LIGHT CAN DO THAT. HATE CANNOT DRIVE OUT HATE, ONLY LOVE CAN DO THAT” – MLK, JRIF WE ARE NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION, THEN WE ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.WHAT ARE WE DOING TO TEACH THIS TO OUR CHILDREN?DON’T JUST TAKE “A MOMENT OF SILENCE TO PAUSE AND REFLECT ON THE SHOOTINGS…”, LET US TAKE A MOMENT EVERY DAY TO PAUSE AND REFLECT ON WHAT WE CAN DO DRIVE OUT HATE, TO DRIVE OUT DARKNESS. WHEN WE ARE TAKING STEPS TO PROTECT OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN, LET US NOT FORGET TO LOVE, AND TO TEACH OUR CHILDREN TO SPREAD LIGHT.

    I AM FILLED WITH HOPE TO HEAR SO MANY OTHERS WITH SIMILAR REACTIONS. 

    WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE – ONE MOMENT TO THE NEXT. ONE INTERACTION AT A TIME. ONE SMILE AT A TIME. 

    I AM A MEDICAL PROVIDER IN POCATELLO IDAHO.  THE HORROR THE WORLD SOMETIMES OVERWHELMS ME.  I KNOW I CANNOT CHANGE THE WHOLE WORLD AND CONQUER ALL THE EVIL, BUT I KNOW I CAN CHANGE WHAT HAPPENS IMMEDIATELY AROUND ME.  I KNOW I CAN HAVE A POSITIVE EFFECT ON THE PEOPLE WITH WHICH I COME INTO CONTACT.

     I GO TO THE JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER EVERY 2 WEEKS TO SERVE THE MEDICAL NEEDS OF THE INCARCERATED JUVENILES IN THIS AREA.  I TRY TO PLANT THIS SEED OF HOPE IN EVERY ONE OF THEM.  I TRY TO PLANT THIS SEED IN EVERY PATIENT I SEE, EVERY DAY.  I TRY TO PLANT THIS SEED IN EVERY PERSON I COME INTO CONTACT WITH AND HOPE THAT THEY SPREAD SOME GOODNESS TO THE PEOPLE THEY CONTACT.  IF NOT TODAY, THEN TOMORROW.

    WE CONQUER EVIL NOT IN ONE BIG BLAZING VICTORY, BUT IN TINY BITES.
    LEE ABRASZEWSKI

    • brettearle

      Very well stated.

      Please try to publish this, for a broader audience, somewhere.

    • Pointpanic

      Abrszewski, I really admire your penchant for understatement.

  • kokyjo

     HOPE is in trusting that the power which sustains Jesus Christ is also available to us in our darkness.  Hope,therefore, is a CHOICE to believe what cannot be SEEN in the darkness of Newtown, the darkness of Syria, te darkness of “fiscall negotiations, the darkness of rain, sleet and wind in New England today

    • brettearle

      Hope is not simply embraced by faith in Christ.

      Hope is embraced by every human being who can muster it, either within themselves, or with the hope of any number of religions that have stood the test of time.

      • kokyjo

         I agree.  For me Jesus Christ and His choices for HOPE have been inspirational.  Many others have made similar choices.  To the degree these choices have been made, there has been a surrender to death, the ultimate symbol of Hope.  Neither Jesus Christ nor I ever claimed a corner on HOPE.  Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my perspective

        • Walt B

          In what sense is surrender to death the ultimate symbol of hope?

          • kokyjo

             An act of Faith always involves a Surrender, I think.  In embracing LIFE, there seems always to be a corresponding surrender to death.  That was the pattern I observe with The Christ.  Why would I reasonably expect for it to be any different for me?

          • NatHanMat

            Because it does not end there - 
            death is defeated in the Resurrection.

      • larry brown

         or tho.se without religion

  • ABRASZEWSKI

    I understand his point, that @#$%happens and we must move on, not wallowing in the grief, but I feel that the real question is – move on to where?  I think he is missing an opportunity to change his world.  I hope this tradgedy was the “tipping point”; the “wake up call”.  Ghandi changed the world, Marting Luther King,Jr changed the world. I agree with you.  We need to admit there is something wrong here.  Not pointing fingers, but looking at ourselves and our own lives. How can I make this world a better place?

  • ABRASZEWSKI

    CAN OUR RIVERS OF TEARS WASH AWAY THE PUDDLES OF BLOOD?CAN OUR CRIES OF OUTRAGE DROWN THE MOANS OF THE DYING ? OR THE QUIET SOBS OF THE GRIEVING?WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?HOW DO WE STOP THE VIOLENCE, CONQUER THE EVIL ?DOES HISTORY HAVE NOTHING TO TEACH US ?“HISTORY WILL HAVE TO RECORD THAT THE GREATES TRAGEDY OF THIS PERIOD…WAS NOT THE STRIDENT CLAMOR OF THE BAD PEOPLE, BUT THE APPALLING SILENCE OF THE GOOD PEOPLE.” – MLK, JR “ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU, BUT WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY.” – JFK“DARKNESS CANNOT DRIVE OUT DARKNESS, ONLY LIGHT CAN DO THAT. HATE CANNOT DRIVE OUT HATE, ONLY LOVE CAN DO THAT” – MLK, JRIF WE ARE NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION, THEN WE ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.WHAT ARE WE DOING TO TEACH THIS TO OUR CHILDREN?DON’T JUST TAKE “A MOMENT OF SILENCE TO PAUSE AND REFLECT ON THE SHOOTINGS…”, LET US TAKE A MOM! ENT EVERY DAY TO PAUSE AND REFLECT ON WHAT WE CAN DO DRIVE OUT HATE, TO DRIVE OUT DARKNESS. WHEN WE ARE TAKING STEPS TO PROTECT OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN, LET US NOT FORGET TO LOVE, AND TO TEACH OUR CHILDREN TO SPREAD LIGHT.

    I am a medical provider in Idaho.  I try to plant this seed in the people around me every day.  Listening to this radio program and reading all of your comments has made me very hopeful.  Let’s change our world – one interaction at a time.  LEE ABRASZEWSKI

    • kokyjo

       ABRASZEWSKI

      Amen to your hope and prayer.  I join you as we seek a lasting peace.   Nonviolent Communication has been a wonderful resource for me as I try to speak and support  alternatives to the DISCONNECTIONS that violence always brings us.   That violence, now identified with guns, will be overcome with the Light of Life that is within  us who choose it.  As a practitioner of NVC or Nonviolent Communication, I support choice to CONNECT as a greater priority than “being RIGHT”.

  • anamaria23

    I believe in a Divine Presence that moves among us, that weeps with us.  I believe that Presence is an energy field that works through us and  that as humans,  we are called to convert that energy into  Love and put that Love into action. 
     We mourn with the families, offer our comfort and  make a good faith resolve to seek out the real life causes of such unspeakable  heartbreak as at Sandy Hook. That means, to me,  limiting the instruments of death, demanding help for the  troubled among us, diminish the violence that
    has invaded our psyches.   Then, hope that we are making slow progress  toward  our spiritual evolution as a species.

    Those who died at Sandy Hook are in  our hearts and will always be.

      

    • larry brown

       Th key, of course is in “I believe.”  I respect your beliefs.  I felt the show was “thin” by not suggesting ways of dealing with tragedy without an appeal to the Divine.  Thanks for your comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cpandolfo1 Christopher Pandolfo

    Perhaps the NRA can offer the victims of the Newtown massacre
    a twenty one gun salute.

  • NatHanMat

    What a great dialogue this is.  

    I agree with many of the comments that state the answer in affecting the world around us for good is looking into our own hearts and facing the truth which is this — we are sinners in need of saving.  This is not something we can do on our own.  We need the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from sin.  But the Good News is that He also defeated death and through Him we live and will live forever with Him.  BAD THINGS HAPPEN because we live in a fallen world.  There are many other horrific acts being perpetrated against children…(i.e. human trafficking and abortion).  I think the reaction level of devastation and perplexity among other many painful emotions across America is commensurate with the deep level of slumber we are in as Americans to the horrors that are all around us every day.  We are missing the point and have become too comfortable with all our goods and pleasures that we have forgotten altogether that this world is NOT and will never be a utopia.  And again, we are tolerating evil around us and WITHIN ourselves each day.

    It being legal to carve babies out of wombs is also horrific.  There is not enough people being horrified about that – because we don’t “see” it happening, does not make it any less horrific than what happened last Friday to all those people.    

    On a last note, the Church (including me as I am a member of it) is failing our country.  Our culture is too “fat” with the wrong things and we instead need to get “empty” and fill ourselves with the Triune God.     

    I know this sounds foolish to many….but to that person who called in who said he felt empty…you are in a GOOD place, because I pray you will be filled with the Love of God in His Son.  He is waiting for you. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Loring-Palmer/100000673381066 Loring Palmer

      Yes, I agree, we’re living in a moral vacuum. Where’s Jesus when we need him? Or is it up to us to manifest kindness, integrity, and to make the hard moral choices. Let’s create a new paradigm that includes justice, creativity and equality. Narcissism, materialism, and competition are killing us. Would the boy have picked up a gun if he’d been intent on creating a work of art or writing a story or even sharpening his cooking skills? We’ll never know. But we have to get out of the mental box and begin a national conversation regarding what it means to live ‘the good life’ for everyone; and let’s include the animals.

      • paradigm99

        I am with you 100%, Loring. All cultures have been remembered for what they gave the world; sadly, ours may go down in history as one of the most self-destructive. It is up to us to change. No one’s coming down from the sky to tell us what to do. I say, minimize technology. Get children planting vegetables and flowers and watching things grow. The process becomes the reality. Growth is positivity. Soon they will not even want to see video violence. That is my hope, for adults too. Stop wearing cheap clothes from China. Teach yourself to sew. Get back to real life and away from the fantasies of glamor magazines and violent movies. Teach children real life skills, the way the Indians did. They were here thousands of years living happily, with everything they needed coming from the earth. And they had no guns. The white man brought guns and disease. We have to right the very bad karma of forcing the Indians off their lands. And for what? Pollution, an overly complicated way of life, and people living isolated from each other. No wonder we are unhappy, as a people. We must learn to find our happiness with the gifts of Nature, and within ourselves. Time to clear away the muck. Nature is already doing that with all the hurricanes. I believe it is revolting against the disorder we have created and trying desperately to reset global harmony. We have to learn that man is not the ruler of the Earth, but its caretaker. And yes, that includes the animals. There’s another positive thing anyone can do:  hold a fundraiser to save the Tigers. There are only 3000 left on the earth. 3000. That means man has killed 97,000 in the last 100 years. Help them survive. Go to http://www.savetigersnow.org

    • Ed75

      Bravo!

  • NatHanMat

    Sin.

  • Mike_Card

    These guys are totally clueless.

  • FedupwithrightwinBS

    Maybe the ‘message’ of what happened in Newtown is that evil or abhorrent actions can simply be the result of human imperfection.  Man is by far the greatest killer on earth and he will kill for many different reasons; I would posit that the majority of killings in the world occur b/c of ignorance – ignorance about human relationships, ignorance and hatred promulgated by institutions of religion, ignorance about racial superiority, etc.  It is up to the men and women of this world to right the wrongs and to take sole responsibility for making this world a safer and saner place in which to live, especially for the innocent and defenseless children that we continue to populate this world with.  If you are waiting for ‘God’ to lead the way you’ll be waiting in vain, as more and more atrocities occur and more and more innocent people are killed.  People can use religion to assist them in dealing with the cruelty and indifference in the world but to expect religion to give us answers to suffering and explanations for unspeakable acts of brutality and viciousness is a lesson in futility and delusion.  Religion is a man-made institution that is based in superstition, fear and powerlessness.  Read, “The Plague”, by Albert Camus, and you will begin to understand that the longer we put, ‘hope in faith’, the longer it will be until we deal with important and life-enhancing issues with reason, diligence and proven scientific fact.  I do believe in the concept of Faith, but Faith to me is the knowledge that human endeavor will eventually help us find the solutions to life’s seemingly insurmountable problems, and, the less we muddy the waters of progress with some of the more inane, destructive and pernicious elements of religious belief, the sooner we can truly say that we are doing the best we possibly can to give each and every one of us a decent chance to live our lives in a peaceful and life-affirming manner.   

  • anne sweeney

    Tom, I am a woman and have had friends assaulted and raped.  I now have a gun.  I believe as a mother and a gun owner that your shows should devote some commentary and energy to securing local schools with Security.  Being Jewish and visiting Israel, everyone owns a gun, but there is not gun related crime at our schools.  My relatives own assault weapons and to have one is like obtaining a drivers license in the United States.  Let everyone enjoy their freedom, just make it a privilege over a right and let them take the necessary courses in obtaining the license.  Oversight and due diligence are necessary.  Americans can enjoy the security of their guns without all the fuss ? 

    • JGC

      In the U.S., it is so individualistic, so splintered into micro-communities, that all are seen as “the other” and become potential targets for those who shoot first and ask questions later. 

  • sweet_lotus

    Hello Tom Ashbrook! Listening to your show today, I was struck by the hopelessness expressed by your listeners and even, it seemed to me, you yourself. One question that stood out was, “WHY would God do this to the people of Newtown — and to all those who believe in him and to those who believe in his goodness?”

    I believe there are a couple of answers to this question. The first is, it wasn’t God who caused the tragedy in Newtown, but a troubled young man. The second is that faith is meant to stand firm in the face of adversity, not crumble! After all, if those who believe in God doubt him as soon as they are saddened or horrified … well … doesn’t that suggest that their faith is a bit thin? In fact, for all those who have faith, this is THE moment in which to hearts and minds must open towards higher truths, broader horizons.

    There are terrifying events taking place all over the world, all the time but most of us remain cocooned within our own tiny zones of ease and security. Until we’re forced to look up and feel empathy for those who are less fortunate, we usually don’t bother. Complacence can sometimes degrade into callousness and insensitivity. Perhaps events like this are the result of losing focus, like falling asleep at the wheel; forgetting that the task of being conscious, being human and feeling empathy cannot become automated or be taken for granted.

    • NatHanMat

      so well said

    • Pointpanic

      Lotus, God (assuming the existence of one) didn’t cause ,true but if God is all knowing and allpowerful could He / She not have prevented it? Why wasn’t it prevented?

      • sweet_lotus

        Pointpanic, neither I nor anyone else can answer on God’s behalf. If you believe in God, and if you believe in His infallibility, then you have committed yourself to believing there’s a method to the mayhem we see around us.

        I do not have faith, so I can neither ask these questions nor can I expect to find solace in answers that involve a divine agency. What surprises me is to see that those who say they have faith nevertheless seem to lose it exactly when they need it the most.

        • Pointpanic

          Well of coursenot, noone can Lotus. but how would it reflect on me if I failed to prevent senseless violence whenI was able to? This is why I feel, I have no reason to believe in a God who has any itnerest in us an individuals , It’s like waiting for a train where there are no tracks.

          • sweet_lotus

            But the violence we see around us is not really senseless: it is the result of social, historical and economic processes. Everything happens for some kind of reason, even if that reason doesn’t suit our ideas about kindness and honorable behavior. Even impersonal natural events such as tsunamis and volcanic eruptions are not random or irrational, though they may be impossible to predict.

            We rarely question the random nature of good luck — for instance, when someone wins the lottery he/she rarely screams, “Why ME, Lord? WHY?” — yet when it comes to catastrophes and personal disasters, we are convulsed with doubts.

          • Pointpanic

            well okay, in that context ,it’s not “senseless”.my only point was that regardless of what that violence is a result of and I agree with you on the cuases, I just can’t see how a “loving God” could allow it to happen. COuld I be said to be “loving” if I allowed it to happen? Therefore, I can only infer from my own experience that either God does not exist or defies all of our descriptions.
                   Natural disasters?W ell the Earth must do what it has to, I guess.

          • sweet_lotus

            I’ve given your response some thought, Pointpanic. An Internet forum is best for brief pithy comments and I can’t find an easy way of providing that with my limited knowledge and understanding of large themes.

            Nevertheless, since you’ve asked and since I’m the one answering, here’s what I’ll say to your question about lovingness and your doubts about God: mortal beings do not have the perspective of a divine. Therefore, we cannot judge a divine by the same standards that we would judge ourselves. That’s one point.

            Another point is that there are times when even the most loving people (parents for instance) must take steps that others consider to be cruel. Currently I am reading “RU”, a novel by Canadian Vietnamese author Kim Thuy. She talks of parents abandoning their children to refugee boats in the hope of saving them. Some were saved while others were not. Some must surely have cursed their parents and some … well, some may have eventually blessed them for the painful sacrifice they made. Were those parents cruel or kind? I think it’s very hard to say.

            If you truly have faith in a higher power then, it seems to me, you should be able to believe that the pain and suffering we experience is not caused by this higher power, nor will we be saved from experiencing it. Dealing with sorrow lies within our domain of influence. We have free will. So it is within our frail mortal power to prevent some of the sorrows we see and to foresee at least some of the developments that lead to mass suffering. It is also within our power to rise above pain and in rare cases to be, as with some saints and martyrs, transfigured by it.

            So my main point to you is that we can choose to have faith or not. Reality will not be altered much either way! But WE will be changed and augmented (or not) depending on what those choices are.

          • Pointpanic

            Thank you, Lotus you have given me something tothink about. It’s one thing ,to me if a loved one dies as sad as it is. For we all eventually will die. If I take a risk on my surfboard and get hurt (as I have : )) that’s another story. if I make a poor choice for quick gratification, I wouldn’t expect God to get me out of it. I understand all that. I just can’t understand though why a loving God would allow a ppppppsycopath to kill innocent children. It’s just so extreme.I’m not pressuring you for an answer because It would be unfair to do so.There’s so much as a species that we don’t know or understand. But ,to me, this is so beyond the pale. If there really is a “divine purpose” to it, it’s well beyond my comprehension.I would think, a lvoing God would find a better way to make the point.I would also say that God would have infinetly more options than those poor Vietnamese parents. But that’s just me.Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.  

  • pjm19606

    The whole gun issue will continue as long as we misunderstand our very own government structure. My first point is that the 2nd Amendment never has given any citizen the right to own a firearm as an individual….but, only as a militia member. We have no militias in the US and therefore we have no rights to gun ownership as individuals. This was modeled after the Swiss standard where every home has a “government issued rifle”, but the Swiss do actually have a militia. My second point asks why the 2nd Amendment is the only part of the Constitution which apparently needs a defender as in the NRA? Could it be that this Amendment is illegitimate in and of itself? 

  • paradigm99

    I am coping with the Sandy Hook tragedy by calling my best friends. Our conversations have centered around our violent culture, and how, unfortunately, it breeds tragedies like Sandy Hook. In America, young people are immersed in violence, from television & movies to rap music and video games. My friends and I grew up in the 60s, such a different time, of music, hope and optimism. Then President Kennedy was killed, then Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, John Lennon, four students shot dead at Kent State University, 57,000 died in Vietnam. We were traumatized by those events. Now 50 years later, the gun culture in America has only grown stronger. Now 20 beautiful, innocent children have been murdered. Will we stop now? President Obama should hold a meeting with the heads of all major TV networks and movie studios and ask them to stop proliferating media violence. If you plant the seeds of violence in your garden, what will grow there? Anger and hatred. So we must sow seeds of harmony, to change our culture from hatred to kindness, respect and love for one another. Our culture–that is, our surroundings, our art, our way of life and ultimately, the way we think–must change, or the violence will never end.          

  • dandrisc

    I called in yesterday, and made comments about the need to remember the history of utilizing this time of year, the Winter Solstice, as a time for reflection and mourning over all we have lost over the past year.  Office parties and shopping get in the way of this practice of quiet reflection during the dark days.  Newtown tragedy has ironically forced us all into a condition of solace that is more normal than festive partying approaching the Winter Solstice.  

    I mentioned on the program that starting today is the return of the light… symbolizing a renewed hope.  Tom, you said to me that “there must be more to this than just some returning simple sunlight.”  This simple sunlight you mention has been the primary source of energy and all life on this planet for hundreds of millions of years!  The fact that it is now coming back toward earth has metaphorically been one of the greatest sources of renewed hope for all people over eons of time.  

    The sun and its light during the next week is brighter than any time of year.  I believe that this light and the energy from the sun this week has some magic in it, and can help everyone in pain and suffering from Newtown tragedy, personal loss, or global awareness to heal.  However, we must take the time to go to a quiet outdoor spot and sit in this special sun.  Ideally, take in a full sunset with a loved one or your children.  We hold so much faith in Gods we can never see or feel.  Why not have equal faith that the forces in nature and the living system created by some magical force holds just as much power to restore faith and hope in the human spirit.

    I promise anyone that if you sit outdoors and watch the sunsets over this next week, you will feel some level of positive renewal.  If nothing else, you will see mystical, natural light unlike any other time during the year.  The special characteristics in this light is why we all now put up artificial lights.  Remember “contact, contact, contact… without it we are all lost.” Thoureau

  • Potter

    The question: How does hope and joy and seeking the light live side by side with despair (when you feel no hope) and darkness ( ‘darkness on top of darkness” Tom said)?  But there would be no need for hope if there were no despair, and light would be meaningless without the dark. (Mountains would not exist without valleys.)

    Eastern religion, philosophy, is about is finding equanimity  finding our “grounding” as your guest  from the Univeralist Church, Josh Pawalek  says.  He counsels to notice what is happening within yourself. I think this is Eastern influence- Buddhism, specifically. 

    How can anyone expect an answer as to why? The asking implies that there is a rational order, a meaning, one to keep seeking.  Personally I have stopped doing that.

    On the other hand, if you need an answer, M. Volf talks about religious faith- belief ( through Christianity) in Jesus and God. 

    Tom says, ” if this is opening (up), it is a painful opening.”  Do we have to suffer to open up?… but  how else do we ever open up?

    How can you lose faith in goodness and beauty (awesome nature ) when there is so much of it around us? And bless those folks who carry on in that vein, who do not give up hope to do so. And if they need God to do that– so be it.

    Good show…

     

     

  • Human898

    Amazing how much energy and activism is put into aftermaths….meanwhile, it seems as if Matthew chapters 5 & 6 have gone missing in “Christian” culture….

    When we are no longer gathered together to “remember” those lost to the violent “solutions” of some….we may be demonstrating we actually believe in what we claim to…..rather than inventing exuses to ignore or do the opposite of what we claim to believe deluding ourselves that our beliefs and actions are in alignment.  

    The apparent challenge of a society we have built is to be the biggest, meanest Bad “A” on the block or making excuses and trying to justify or defend things like greed, gluttony, wrath and our demonstrations of our narcississtic personality disorders (vanity) , rather than challenging ourselves to employ ethics of reciprocity and the notion that the best way to benefit ourselves as individuals is through acts that benefit humankind, by large or small acts of kindness or mutual respect, simply treating others as we would like to be treated.

    Which requires more courage and strength?   Walking unarmed into the camp of others who may be hostile to us or walking armed into their camp?   Which of the described is likely to promote trust and progress toward further understanding, which is likely to place people on the defensive and promote fear and mistrust?

    What are we teaching?    What are the results?    A society where the “solution” to current “safety” is armed “guards” in every school?    Is that the kind of society we desire?  Is that the kind of society one might consider as the epitome of humanity’s “progression”? Would that be the chosen society of anyone’s spiritual “god’s” desire? Instead of a shepherd watching over their flock with a shepherd’s crook, they’re watching over children with an assault rifle? “Free” society?

    I don’t believe we can totally vanquish horrific acts or our own hypocrisies, but I do believe we can greatly reduce both, if we have the will.   Such repeated visits to the loss, pain and suffering, with the same repeated expressions of sympathy seem to indicate we have neither the will nor the strength to reduce our repeated visits to the same for all the motions we go through and all the verbal claims we make.

    It is not the individuals who have devoted their lives to reducing violence and their own hypocrisies that is of concern and consideration, but the collective will of “the people”.

    Instead of reaching out to others to help them survive in an increasingly crowded world, we appear to have withdrawn into our individual shells, some taking with them a gluttonous supply of rations and comfort before someone else does the same.

    There is the dichotomy of humanity versus competition for survival on a globe of life sustaining natural resources that gets no larger as its population of humans does, all of them competing against one another for the shrinking portion of that globe, even as some work in effort toward social and intellectual progress for humanity, not in a technological way, for better technology, but in ways to be better, more civilized and humane humans.

    Calhoun made some interesting observations of the crowding of rats and their interactions.  Do humans possess a different intellectual capacity than rats or will humans, like rats, find themselves competing to the death for the last remnants of the resources they did not intellectually conserve, just like rats who seem to instinctually and perhaps intellectually sense that their increased numbers mean an increased need for more aggressive behavior to obtain what become the shrinking portions of available sustenance?

    How ironic perhaps that the creatures that promote themselves as the highest form of intelligence on their planet would deplete, destroy and consume themselves out of existence as well as kill one another along the path to that final destiny.  On the other hand, could humanity emerge to truly be the highest form of intelligence on the planet and instead of simply or only finding new and impoved tools for human survival and the reduction of mortality, intellectually adjust to the impacts of their better “tool making” including in this case, their tools of human destruction and killing?

  • DrewInGeorgia

    This comment is for the “Let’s put armed guards in every school!” crowd.

    Security is an illusion. We can’t afford to adequately educate our children, who’s picking up the Security Bill?

    • ExcellentNews

      What a question! You pick up the bill, of course. This will make more billions for a handful of conservative insider billionaires who own the gun factories and security firms. As to education, who cares? Educated kids make for poor soldiers, shift supervisors, or cheap laborers… Viva Bush 2016!!!

  • Michele

    There is a billboard facing I-95S in New Haven CT that reads:
    We Are Newtown
    We choose Love

     If they can do it, well so can the rest of us.  I choose Love.

    • mjb881

      love your comment, PAX

  • mjb881

      In this world we choose, selfish choices leads to evil choices,
    not all at once; but we bring evil into the world.or we choose to
    know we are creatures, not Creator, and let him into our life.
    in all men, each chooses. 

ONPOINT
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Jul 24, 2014
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