As have many of you, I watched with great interest as the tragic and sordid details of the saga of the Tucson shooting unfolded. Last night my wife and I watched the memorial service for the six victims killed by Jared Loughner, held in the basketball stadium at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
But the question that comes to my mind when I hear of some dastardly deed like this, is, “Why is it we’re always surprised when these horrific acts of violence occur?” Are we shocked? Yes. But should we be surprised? No.
A little more than a year ago, an Army major, an avowed Muslim cavorting with those who want our nation destroyed, pulled a pistol and shot numerous people at Fort Hood, a number of which died. Shocking, but not surprising. At Virginia Tech, a student killed any number of his fellow students. Same with Columbine High School. Shocking! Not surprising.
“Okay, Pastor Roots,” you ask, “where are you going with this?” Glad you asked!
We can sit and wring our hands in despair, asking the questions that plague all of us at such times, “Why did this happen? Who could do such a thing?” The answer is quite simple, actually. Any person who is not in a right relationship with God is capable of doing the worst acts imaginable. Follow me here. God made us to live in fellowship with him. Unfortunately, man’s history is a roller coaster ride of highs and lows in his relationship to God.
As a Christian, I see this story of man being in and out of fellowship with God repeated throughout the Old and New Testaments. The reason there’s no end to the Bible, for instance, is that we are still living it – and the pattern of man’s on-again, off-again relationship with God hasn’t changed.
When the American colonies rebelled and won their independence from Britain, men stepped forward to lead this fledgling nation. These were godly men, for the most part. A few weeks ago I wrote an article for this column about the religion and morality of the Founding Fathers. Early in the article I stated, “In the infancy of this ‘Grand Experiment,’ known as the United States, it was well understood that we would succeed only if we remained committed to our religious and moral principles, and the precepts contained in the Bible.” You see, there was a healthy fear of God in our American ancestors. They had a very high regard for God and his truth. The more removed from this part of our history we have become, the more we fall into the pit of despair. We feel abandoned by God. And because of our sin, God is under no obligation to come to our rescue until we repent. This is the root cause of our societal troubles.
In today’s society, we are doing all we can to remove anything and everything having to do with God from business, politics, the entertainment industry, even our military, with disturbing attempts to restrict what you and I can practice regarding our faith in our churches and even our homes. We have been slowly, yet increasingly losing our fear of God. When the natural disasters occur, such as Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Indonesia, the earthquakes of Haiti and Chile, or the man-made terrors of Tucson, and the rest already cited, we are sure quick to call on God. But even when we do, it is often with an accusatory tone that blames the Lord, “God, you let this happen! You could have prevented it!”
Did you happen to notice that during the memorial service for the Tucson victims last evening, Director of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, read from the Old Testament; followed by the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, reading from the New Testament? Even the president read from the Bible during his speech. In a crisis everyone wants to get close to God. That’s fine. But I see no fear of God, particularly from our leaders. No shame for our willful, selfish behavior. No attempt to even excuse our over-indulgent attitudes and appetites. “Sin? What sin?” we ask. Yet we are a nation that has legalized abortion. To date, we are guilty of some fifty million deaths of unborn babies. This alone tells me we have lost the fear of God.
In Genesis, Abraham is traveling through an area between today’s Egypt and Israel. The people he encounters greatly concern him. Abraham said to himself, “There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me . . .” And I fear that we are walking around in America today, saying, “Surely there is no fear of God in this place. I might be killed.”
Immediately after delivering the Ten Commandments, Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
My prayer is that the United States of America will be tested by God so that the fear of God will be with us to keep us from sinning. I am convinced that this is the only answer for our grossly decaying, increasingly godless society.