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How can we prevent another Newtown?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Family members of victims grieve near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire on school children and staff in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14 (Credit: Catholic News Service / Adrees Latif )

NOTE: in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings, many are asking how God could allow such a tragedy.  In response, over the weekend I wrote an essay titled “God on Trial in Newtown.”

Our nation is united in grief this morning.  When 20 first-graders are killed at their elementary school, something in us rages at such senseless violence.  Each child who died left a parent who treasured them above everything else in this world.  Each child who survived will be scarred forever by the terror of the morning.  Each adult who died protecting a child is a true hero.

The Newtown massacre ripped away the veneer of a joyful holiday season, exposing the ugly cruelty that lies at the heart of our fallen world.  As we grieve for the families who lost someone they love, we are also gripped by the fear that nothing will change.  A similar tragedy could occur today where you live.  A week from now, will anything be different because of Newtown?

Lawmakers are already asking that question.  Two senators told Fox News Sunday that a national commission should be created to examine gun laws, the mental health system, and the impact that violent video games might have on gun violence.  Others are calling for tighter gun control laws.  As authorities respond to this tragedy, it’s worth asking: What role can Christians play in preventing another Newtown?

I’m focusing this morning on the shooter.  We still do not know what motivated Adam Lanza to kill his mother and then murder so many children and teachers at his former elementary school.  He has been described as “smart but painfully awkward” and “brilliant but remote.”  According to reports, he suffered from a personality disorder and lived with his mother.

The Rev. Peter Cameron of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown said he is still struggling to understand how Lanza could have been so lost without anyone knowing or helping.  “All of us have to be deeply united and pay attention to those who are hurting,” he added.

Do you or your children know someone at school or work who’s alone and lonely this Christmas season?  Someone who doesn’t fit in, who seems disconnected from their community?  Jesus took the initiative in reaching out to just these kinds of hurting people.  He touched lepers (Matthew 8:3), cleansed demoniacs (Mark 5:1-20), befriended hated tax-collectors (Matthew 9:9-12; Luke 19:1-10) and welcomed people rejected by their culture (Luke 7:36-50).  Now he wants us to be his hands and feet, proving his love in ours.

I do not mean to suggest that the people of Newtown are somehow responsible for this tragedy.  Nor do I want to minimize the professional help often needed for people with mental disorders such as Adam Lanza may have suffered.  But I agree with Rev. Cameron: hurting people need friends, people who will care for them when no one else does.  As you pray for those who are grieving in Newtown today, would you ask the Lord to use you to prevent a similar tragedy in your community?