Spiritual Depravity in a Secular US – On Newtown’s Tragedy

I sit in front of my fireplace. Scene’s from today’s domestic tragedy flash across the television. My roommate and I, join millions of other American’s glued to the breaking news from Newtown, CT. “Adam Lanza kills 27, including 20 children.” His victims between the ages of 5 and 10 years old were at school. He killed his mother, a teacher, before he went to the elementary school. It is abhorrent; a violent god.

The news continues to stream Obama’s national address. One phrase he said rings in my mind: “a theater of war.” It is a drama. We are its muse; its tears. The theater is seated in our Nation. Columbine; A shopping mall in Oregon; A movie theater in Aurora; A Sikh temple in Wisconsin. So many others. Pain has never been a private experience only. Today the pain flows as a public relationship. The irruption of Newtown’s violence is another local expression of our collective spiritual depravity.

Today’s killing at Sandy Hook School shooting is the second deadliest in U.S. history. Is it a wonder that the school’s name is “Sandy”? It seems the wave of world anger does not discriminate between human and city. It does not matter the means, gun or storm, it speaks. The news consistently asks “why?” Lacking convincing answers the commentary turns to gun reform immediately. It’s at this point that I digress from contemporary explanation. Everything is slated, reasoned, explained in terms bound to secular redemptive politics. In a secularized Christian context, “reasons” for violence are distanced and disassociated through abnormal psychology. I heard a commentator point to “three” reasons someone would commit such a crime: 1) mental illness. 2) psycho pathology. and 3) severe depression. It is right to point of matters of internal distress, disturbed mania. The point is not to stop so short and obtuse. Bound in contextual frameworks the struggle is as much outside the individual as it is inside  – the words of Carl Jung ring with insight. We are bound to each other, bound to a contextual matrix rich with biopsychosocial networks. I believe the world of the Spirit demands a hearing; surely this pain sounds that call.

“Instead, we begin to think of pain as asking for acknowledgement and recognition; denial of the other’s pain is not about the failings of the intellect but the failings of the spirit.” (Talal Asad. Formations of the Secular. 82)

What we have in this event is the principle of discontinuity. A rupture of the spirit; an imbalance where madness hails the call to be heard, spoken, redeemed. The power of violence is the enigma – that it brings the intensity of reflection and change. The living spirit is in change, a bending toward the light and a first encounter. Our nation, indeed, our planet, can no longer afford our wondering through experiences without Spiritual humility. The powers greater than us speak loudly, broadly. God itself speaks.

I have been teaching in elementary schools for the last few months as a substitute teacher. These children call me by name. They carry a spark I need; a gift of youth; an antidote to age and death, even pain. I’m sure Adam’s mother knew something of this. The lives of the days lost children are a voice of responsibility. The responsibility is owed to matters of spirit, adorned, honored, praised, elevated. It is this Earth that sounds our call. Earthly children have spoken.

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