Andrew Ferguson on Evil, the Chattering Media Elite, and Sandy Hook

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Our news media suffer from a terrible supply-side problem. The number of people paid to offer opinions greatly outstrips the number of things worth having an opinion about. Even now, several weeks after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, I don’t think the slaughter was the kind of event toward which one can profitably form an interesting point of view. Leaving church one morning, so the story goes, the great Coolidge was asked the subject of his pastor’s sermon. “Sin,” Coolidge replied. And what did the pastor say about sin? “He said he was ag’in it.” Some things don’t require much elaboration.

In an important sense—in the literal sense—what happened at Sandy Hook was unspeakable, which is why, I suppose, the public disputations that followed it were a towering jumble of non sequitur and irrelevance, a rodeo of hobby horses ridden by straw men. The disputations began even before the authorities had released a final count of victims. Indeed, at the time, good information was hard to come by. For as much as 10 hours after the first reporters arrived on the scene, print and TV journalists were misreporting the killer’s name, his place of residence, his relationship to the elementary school, his mother’s line of work, the types and source of the guns he used, the reaction of school officials in the immediate aftermath of the crime—the long string of mistakes we have come to expect when the compulsion to get it first overwhelms the need to get it right.

The slaughter at Sandy Hook wasn't merely a rebuke to politics or law enforcement or government regulation--it was a rebuke to our desperate hope that evil can be destroyed, or at least quarantined.
--From the February 2013 issue of Commentary, pages 63-64

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationMediaPsychologyReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheodicy

16 Comments
Posted February 8, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Teatime2 wrote:

Initial errors are to be expected when reporting from a chaotic scene. The public expects them to provide information and coverage immediately

I read an article yesterday about how the Lutheran minister who participated in the ecumenical prayer service for Sandy Hook was forced by the LCMS to apologize for being there. They said Lutherans are forbidden from worshipping with people of other faiths. This is the sort of thing that allows evil to thrive.

February 8, 3:25 pm | [comment link]
2. Dan Crawford wrote:

Not according to Mollie Ziegler of getreligion.org.

February 8, 3:50 pm | [comment link]
3. Teatime2 wrote:

#2 Dan, I could understand it if there was Communion or other denomination or faith-specific practice. There was not. This wasn’t a worship service. It was a collection of faith representatives offering prayers for their deceased members and their families. There’s a difference. Will Lutherans not pray for or even witness prayers for non-Lutherans?

This is precisely the sort of thing that the Evil One loves and uses to keep those who love God, and Jesus especially, divided and to seem petty and legalistic to non-believers. If everyone who truly loves our Lord could pray and work together while respecting differences, then the world would be transformed. Satan knows this.

February 8, 4:56 pm | [comment link]
4. Sarah wrote:

Meh.

The position of the Missouri Synod is pretty clear:

Basically we think it’s fine to set aside differences to work together in many things unless the thing we’re supposed to agree to disagree on is Jesus and the context is worship.

I’d probably define “worship” a bit more narrowly than they do, but how this is a belief that “allows evil to thrive” I have no clue.

They’re not going to worship with those of other faiths, and they define worship as “offering public prayers together.”

[shrug] Not a big deal to me.

February 8, 10:25 pm | [comment link]
5. Teatime2 wrote:

Division and legalism, particularly at times when compassion is required, do not bring people to the Lord Jesus. Quite the opposite, and Satan knows this. Our Lord ministered to Samaritans, pagans, and unbelievers. Can anyone imagine Him not being willing to pray with a diverse community who had lost so many children?

I can’t believe that minister had to issue a public apology for simply saying a prayer with grieving people in a gymnasium. They stretched the application of their belief to the ripping point and then made it a public issue. Pettiness in Christianity on display again.

So if this is an accepted and widely known belief then why didn’t the LCMS pastor gather his members to have their own service and not participate in the community event? That would have been a more reasonable approach in keeping themselves untainted.

February 8, 11:07 pm | [comment link]
6. Sarah wrote:

RE: “Division and legalism, particularly at times when compassion is required, do not bring people to the Lord Jesus.”

I’m not sure I understand.  Necessarily, Christians *are* “divided” from Buddhists, Hindus, and others. It’s not “legalistic” to recognize that reality.

RE: “Our Lord ministered to Samaritans, pagans, and unbelievers.”

Sure—but ministering to people—as the quote above from the Missouri Synod Lutheran person acknowledges—is quite different from worshipping with them.  The distinction is just what I quoted above.

RE: “Can anyone imagine Him not being willing to pray with a diverse community who had lost so many children?”

Sure. Quite easily.

RE: “They stretched the application of their belief to the ripping point and then made it a public issue.”

Not at all—it’s *precisely what they believe* so there is no “stretching” of the application of their belief.  This is what Missouri Synod Lutherans believe—beginning to end.  Perhaps you should read up on them and their beliefs.

RE: “Pettiness in Christianity on display again.”

I disagree—merely practicing what they believe and behaving honorably despite public pressure to fold.

I’m more than happy to disagree—perhaps—with their stated theological belief. But I don’t believe it petty for them to practice their stated and written-down beliefs.

RE: “. . . why didn’t the LCMS pastor gather his members to have their own service and not participate in the community event?”

That is precisely what the LCMS church as a whole wanted to know—and that’s why the pastor had to apologize.

February 8, 11:27 pm | [comment link]
7. Teatime2 wrote:

I’m sorry I wasn’t clear. The public apology bit was petty and trotted out more Christian dirty laundry for all to see.

This wasn’t worship. It was a community event at a community center. My question was rhetorical. The minister didn’t put together an LCMS gathering because he likely didn’t see the community event as problematic, as worship. You can glean that from the apology.

By divisions, I was referring to those between Christians. The policy highlights those, too.  As I said, I understand objections related to the sacraments. But prayer is so basic. Here in Texas, there’s prayer said at high school football games. No one considers it worship; just about everyone bows their heads.

It’s very clear that we have different views on Christian practice, Sarah, but you can honestly say that the Jesus we know from the Scriptures would refuse to pray with and comfort grieving families of murdered children? What in the Gospels would support that view? By extension, do you also believe that He may ignore prayers for healing and comfort from the grieving families?

February 9, 12:37 am | [comment link]
8. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “This wasn’t worship.”

So you opine.  But the Missouri Synod Lutherans believe differently. And the minister was brought to heel, based on the clearly and long stated beliefs of the church in which he is ministering.

RE: “It’s very clear that we have different views on Christian practice, Sarah, but you can honestly say that the Jesus we know from the Scriptures would refuse to pray with and comfort grieving families of murdered children?”

Not at all.  But then . . .that wasn’t your original question.  ; > )

Your original question was: “Can anyone imagine Him not being willing to pray with a diverse community who had lost so many children?”

And my answer was yes indeed.

Imagine Jesus among Romans, praying to their gods, Islamic folks, praying to their gods, and let’s throw in some old fashioned Baal worshippers, praying to their gods.  And *then* I can well imagine Jesus quietly slipping away—and the people following Him who wished to follow Him—and His praying for them.

But Jesus merrily taking part in a public little prayer gathering with the Baal worshippers and the Romans?  No, actually, I don’t “imagine” that at all.  He didn’t place Himself as equal to the gods.  He was God, He was Truth, and anything He said in such a public prayer gathering would have gotten Him crucified, as He so clearly stood above all of that.

Not a good example, Teatime.

February 9, 9:05 am | [comment link]
9. Sarah1 wrote:

Heh.

I can just imagine the next day blog-commenters if Jesus showed up at an “inter-faith prayer service.”

“Why did He have to make such a scene?”

“Why couldn’t He have just said a nice, comforting little prayer for all the parents?”

“Better for Him not to have come at all then make all those divisive declarations and make the nice Baal-worshippers so uncomfortable!”

February 9, 9:24 am | [comment link]
10. "Peter in the pew" wrote:

Sarah, very nice management of sentimentality and it’s destructive nature. Modern apologetics well done.

February 9, 10:49 am | [comment link]
11. cseitz wrote:

Leaving aside the LCMS rabbit trail, I did think the conclusion of the actual essay was on target: “it was a rebuke to our desperate hope that evil can be destroyed, or at least quarantined”—though I might have written ‘conviction’ instead of ‘desperate hope.’

February 9, 12:11 pm | [comment link]
12. Teatime2 wrote:

Heh.

Well, I would imagine that if Jesus showed up at said gathering,  there would be quite a stir and no sectarian prayer would actually occur. Anumber of Christians may not believe it’s Jesus because He didn’t sound like a hippy or a Republican.

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus met and ate with diverse groups that contained notorious sinners. The Jewish authorities saw that as accepting their behavior when it was no such thing. He also healed the servant of a Roman centurion, a pagan.

Lest you make a.n issue of my typing and spacing, my computer broke and my only means of internet communication is a not-so-responsive tablet with arthritic fingers. I can’t cut and paste and shouldn’t have to repeat the same, exact phrase describing the gathering. You knew what I meant and you used semantics to reframe it to your liking.

Whatever. Not my game and I m done. But I am beginning to understand why the Jesus of the Denominational Rule Book isn’t attracting many seekers. As per “Peter” here, sentiment and feelings have no place in the rigorous practice of religion. Love and compassion that strain the rules are dangerous so not getting involved is best. How many atrocities flourished because of that? Satan smiles.

February 9, 2:52 pm | [comment link]
13. "Peter in the pew" wrote:

Pendulum .

February 9, 4:35 pm | [comment link]
14. WarrenS wrote:

Apparently Sarah forgot to send her lecture on how the LCMS should behave to the president of the LCMS:

http://wmltblog.org/2013/02/pastoral-letters-on-the-newtown-tragedy/

Had Rev Harrison received the “memo”, it doubtlessly would have saved him from making the grave blunder of apologizing.

February 9, 6:29 pm | [comment link]
15. Sarah wrote:

RE: “her lecture”—nope—just quotes from the LCMS, WarrenS, a denomination with which I often do not agree.

RE: “The Scriptures tell us that Jesus met and ate with diverse groups that contained notorious sinners. The Jewish authorities saw that as accepting their behavior when it was no such thing. He also healed the servant of a Roman centurion, a pagan.”

None of which is the same as Jesus praying at an interfaith prayer service.

RE: “You knew what I meant and you used semantics to reframe it to your liking.”

No—I knew what you meant, Teatime, and disagreed with it and spelled out where I disagreed, as I still do, while you attempted to conflate ministering to pagans with participating in “interfaith prayer services”—which are not the same thing at all.

RE: “Love and compassion that strain the rules are dangerous so not getting involved is best.”

Right—because no Christian can show “love and compassion” without participating in an interfaith prayer service.  Unless Christians participate in an interfaith prayer service, evil will thrive and Satan will be happy.

Got it.

No drama at all, either, for Christians not believing precisely the way Teatime demands regarding interfaith prayer services.

February 10, 8:30 am | [comment link]
16. "Peter in the pew" wrote:

40 love Sarah

February 10, 1:55 pm | [comment link]
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