Mass Murder in Connecticut
“He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor” (Psalms 10:8).
In December, 2012, twenty-year-old Adam Lanza entered an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, with two assault weapons, killed 20 children and 6 adults, and then, when he heard sirens approaching, took his own life. He left nothing behind to indicate why he did it. The saturation of media immersed us in the tragedy and led to assorted calls for immediate action to prevent future killings. Yet, in reality, such occurrences have been rare and random:
- In 1949, Howard Unruh walked through Camden, New Jersey and gunned down 13 people within 12 minutes.
- In 1966, Charles Whitman began a rampage from the Clock Tower on the University of Texas campus, killing 13 people and wounding another 31. Robert Smith killed five beauty college students in Mesa, Arizona. Richard Speck killed 8 nursing students in Chicago, Illinois
- In 1984, James Oliver Huberty killed 21 people and wounded another 19 in a McDonald’s Restaurant in San Diego, California.
- In 1987, Michael Ryan killed 15 people and wounded another 15 in Hungerford, England.
- In 1989 Marc Lepine killed 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Quebec, Canada.
- In 1999, Mark Barton, a day trader, shot and killed 9 people at two Atlanta day trading firms.
- In 2007, Cho Seung-Hui, shot and killed 32 students and wounded another 30 at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia.
- In July, 2012, James Eagan Holmes dressed in tactical gear and shot up a movie theater in Colorado.
What some researchers call “rampage violence,” plays a prominent role in the national consciousness, often touching off political debates over gun control laws, shifts in the culture, and the role of violent media, particularly video games. The most recent shooting in Connecticut has raised many of these issues again.
Social scientists say research has not yielded an understanding as to the mental state of such murderers. Some believe that precise psychological/criminal profiles which might lead to intervention will ultimately prove elusive. The psychiatric profession has admitted the difficulty or even inability to diagnose potential mass murderers. The connection between violence and severe mental illness is often over-simplified in the news media.
Good and Evil in the World
Right and wrong principles are established by divine law. Today’s world is filled with crime, chaos, and suffering because God’s laws, his standards of right and wrong, are ignored or denied. Man’s conscience alone cannot determine right and wrong unless it is first given this information from an authoritative source like the Bible.
For more than six thousand years, humanity has been exposed to evil, and by experience has been learning the awful results of disobedience. Neither young nor old can escape death. Upheavals of nature, accidents, and men’s own cruelties to one another all contribute to the process of death.
God has limited his interference with man’s free choice. Paul says, “God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (Romans 1:28, NAS). He has not restrained humanity from taking its own selfish and sinful course.
However, God has not abandoned the human race. Through Jesus He has provided for all to be awakened from death and restored to life. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:22). The provision of future life through Christ is based on Jesus’ death and resurrection. “The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). It was for this reason that Jesus was born into the world as a human being (Hebrews 2:9-14).
In describing how Jesus became the Redeemer of the world, the Bible uses the word “ransom” (I Timothy 2:6). The Greek word for ransom means “a corresponding price of release.” Jesus was a perfect man, just as Adam was a perfect man before he sinned. Thus, in death, Jesus became a corresponding price for the forfeited life of Adam. As all lost life through Adam, all are redeemed from death through Christ.
All will be awakened from the sleep of death, “both the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15). Millions of noble people in history have had no faith in God. One reason for their unbelief has been their observation that the innocent suffer as well as the guilty. They could not understand why God would allow those who have been killed by events like at Newtown to suffer such tragedy. Had these unbelievers known the full plan of God, they would have understood.
A Knowledge of Good and Evil
Jehovah placed a test of obedience upon Adam. The Creator had provided Adam and Eve with a home and plenty of food (Genesis 2:8-17). There were the trees of life, and another described as “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God commanded Adam not to eat of this particular tree, under penalty of death. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” This demand of obedience was a divine law. God informed Adam that death would be the penalty for disobedience.
This information did not deter Adam from taking the wrong course. He lacked full understanding, because his knowledge was not based on experience. Doubtless, Adam loved his Creator, but perhaps he falsely reasoned that since Eve had transgressed, and would die, it would be better to die with her than to live without her. Not having the strength that experimental knowledge would have given him, Adam transgressed divine law and was plunged into death.
Adam’s disobedience led ultimately to a fuller knowledge of God’s standards of right and wrong. The tree of which he was forbidden to partake was “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” It followed that having partaken of this tree he would gain the knowledge implied by its name, even though in the process he would need to suffer and die.
After both Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit, God said concerning them, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Genesis 3:22). This does not mean that the forbidden fruit had some magical effect, enabling them at once to have a full knowledge of good and evil.
It means that because of disobedience man was now destined to know both good and evil through experience. Thus the education of our first parents began. They were driven from the garden into the unfinished earth. They were plagued with all sorts of unfavorable elements spoken of as “thorns” and “thistles,” against which they would have to struggle until in death they would return to the dust from which they were taken.
God designed that our first parents would generate an entire race. God knew that in order for Adam’s children to really know him and have a true appreciation of his standards of right and wrong, they also needed to learn by experience the terrible results of disobedience. God, therefore, allowed Adam’s offspring to be carried into death with him. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12).
Yet, the world of sin and death is not final. The Psalmist wrote, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). This “night time” of sin, sorrow, and death began with the disobedience of our first parents. It has indeed been a night of weeping. The sorrow brought upon the human race has been bitter, and many in their distress have wondered whether God has any pity.
But there is to be a morning of joy for the human race! That morning of joy will be ushered in by the rising of “the Sun of Righteousness,” who will have “healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2). Jesus is this glorious “Sun of Righteousness.” The new day of blessing will come through the establishment of Jesus’ Kingdom, which is a government of righteousness foretold by God’s holy prophets (Acts 3:19-21).
During the present nighttime of sin and death, all die — believers and unbelievers, the innocent and the guilty, the righteous and the unrighteous. But during the reign of Christ, only those who wilfully disobey the laws of God will be destroyed. All others will continue to live and mature toward perfection. If they continue faithful, they will enter as perfect humans into the everlasting future ages of happiness and life “with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads … sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10).