This is a very different article than I had planned to post. As I write this, it is the day after a very unsane (as opposed to insane) young man named Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and started shooting people. By the time he was done, eight adults and twenty children were dead, including himself. I have not been as horrified by one man’s actions since the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. My stomach still churns in nausea. What Lanza did was just evil. No other word applies.
Yeah, I know, that’s kind of a heavy thought with which to begin a Christmas blog.
Christmas is associated with Jesus Christ. The very name is a reference to him. And regardless of your beliefs or feelings about the person of Jesus Christ, you have to admit that he was (and still is) one of the less than a handful of people who truly affected the lives of people and tribes and nations all over the world for well-nigh 2000 years.
And regardless of your beliefs or feelings about Jesus, you have to admit that his teachings on ethics are very powerful.
Jesus is credited with speaking what’s usually referred to as The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s actually a paraphrase quote from Matthew 7:12. A modern translation puts it this way: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.”
There is no question that both history and modern society would be very different if everyone lived by that principle; if we—each one of us—treated everyone we met: rich or poor, literate or inarticulate, genius or mentally challenged, healthy or ill, complete or handicapped, regardless of race, creed, denomination, nationality, or political beliefs, with the same courtesy, care, and consideration we would like to receive; if their needs were of higher priority to us than our own.
We live in an imperfect world, comprised of imperfect societies and filled with imperfect people. And to be honest, I see no hope of attaining perfection on this earth. When I read the Bible carefully, I see people just like the people I work with and for; just like the people I live among; and, unfortunately, some people not much different from Adam Lanza. Homo sapiens hasn’t appreciably improved in the last 2000 years, from my point of view. Oh, we have more knowledge; we have more extravagant philosophies; and we certainly have a lot more toys with which to get into trouble. But inside, at the core of us, we haven’t improved. And that means that things like this tragedy will continue to occur.
Does that mean we give up? Does that mean that we just let the evil that exists in the world today take control? Does that mean that we allow acts such as Adam Lanza’s to occur in our world and in our lives without response?
I submit to you that the answer is a loud and resounding “No!”
Here’s another quote:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
No one really knows who first stated that in just those words. It’s been attributed to Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mills, and Charles F. Aked. But really, knowing the authorship doesn’t affect the truth of that sentence. It is, by every standard I can apply, a true statement. And from it we can draw a corollary that if good people want to resist the triumph of evil, they—we—must do something.
I submit to you that this is not a question of programs, or societies, or governments. I submit to you that the only solution that will work is The Golden Rule. Resistance to evil must begin with each one of us and how we relate to each other, whether it’s a co-worker, a neighbor, the barrista at the local Starbucks, the check-out clerk at Wal-Mart . . . you get the drift.
John Wesley, Christian evangelist and the founder of the Methodist denomination, I think expressed what our reaction should be as well as anyone. He put it like this: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
So in the true spirit of the Christmas season, and in the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut, here’s our challenge:
Do good to everyone you meet. Be kind to everyone you meet. Not just at Christmas season, but every day of every week of every year. To do less is to give in.