Remembering the fallen children
Earlier today, Wes Howard-Brook posted some excellent and inspirational thoughts on Newtown, drones, and the unbalanced not just reporting but uproar on the part of the American people. He posted his thoughts on a Facebook page that you need access to in order to read it, so I can’t share the post and don’t have permission as of yet to repost them here. So, I’ll be giving my summary and own thoughts, bringing my own voice into the conversation.
As we (Americans, and in particular Christians who happen to be American) continue to mourn the death of 26 people in Newtown, CT, as well as the continuing deterioration of security when it comes to our kids in school, my prayer for this Christmas time is that we remember.
We need to remember that 27 people died that Friday morning. If you consider the killing of the 26 (20 of whom were dear little children) a tragedy, than the end of one life who is now so shunned, despised, and even forgotten, is just as tragic. He was not the first to do what he did, nor will he be the last. Mr. Adam Lanza lived a life that resulted in him going to that school that Friday morning at that time. And there were many people involved in his life along the way. When enraged Cain killed his own brother, God showed mercy. When the Jewish leaders and Roman Empire hung the unblemished lamb on a cross, Jesus showed mercy. But why are Christians unable to mention the 27th dead person? Why are we not asking for the prayer and support of the family and friends of the 27? If we cannot show mercy, if we cannot forgive, if we cannot shed away the anger and vengeance in our hearts that builds up in response, then we will not be shown mercy.
We’ve all heard pastors tell congregations, “God loves each one of you. He made you and thinks you’re special, and has a great plan for your life.” But, when events like this occur, does something happen to the status of the killer? Was Mr. Lanza no longer special in God’s eyes as he walked into that school? What happened to the great plan God has for his life? Or the Columbine killers? Or the Virginia Tech killer? Did God’s great plans get thwarted? Is God not great enough to ensure his plans don’t get thrown off kilter by fallible, weak creatures? Where is the consistency from the pulpit and the leaders of these congregations?
We need to remember that our children are not the only children on the Earth killed en masse. We’re all aware of the US use of drones to attack political and military targets. But, don’t be misled: those targets are people. In Pakistan alone, from June 2004 through December 2012, there have been 355 drone attacks (303 of which come under Pres. Obama himself). 3,404 people have been killed (you’ll see numbers vary based on who is reporting the number dead). Of those killed, 889 were civilians. The number of children: 176. But those numbers haven’t caused the societal uproar that Newtown has. Those numbers haven’t raised the calls for drone-control legislation. Or, are we to believe, as some have argued with the gun issue here in the US, that the children and civilians in these Pakistani towns should have more guns or even drones of their own as that would put a stop to the violent attacks being done to them?
We need to remember to include in our prayers the children killed by these drone attacks. While any number of people killed in violent attacks gets our attention–it should get our attention–and causes change in a community even if only slightly, the killing of children can be especially embedded in our lives. But while we pray for the families and friends of Newtown, we should extend those prayers to the families, friends, and communities of those children killed by our drone attacks.
Do you remember 30 October 2006? That’s the day one drone attack at a school resulted in the killing of 69 children. 69! But were they not as precious or important or special as our children?
Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to mind. When he spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church on 30 April 1967, he was defiant and prophetic (as he tended to be):
There’s something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, “Be non-violent toward Jim Clark,” but will curse and damn you when you say, “Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children.” There’s something wrong with that press!
There is no difference here. When we call for the protection of our own children, we must call for the protection of their children as well. Why? Because that evil segregation of ours and theirs created by sinful man has no place in kingdom of God. Nor do the people perpetrate that segregation.
We need to remember that just saying we want to help children around the world is no substitute for doing so. From Wes Howard-Brook’s original post, he asked,
Why is it so much easier to respond to visible violence like this than the more hidden violence against children that is involved in producing so many of our daily consumer products?
But lest we put this off on politicians, let’s consider the basic ingredients of our holiday cheer: chocolate and sugar. Unless you choose to buy from ethical providers like Mama Ganache Chocolates, each Hershey “kiss” or other such treat is a direct contribution to the enslavement and suffering of innocent children. Why not a national boycott of sugar and chocolate, if we actually are disturbed by the deaths of children?
Having followed and been involved in some of the modern abolitionist movements today (seen mostly in the anti-human trafficking pushes going on around the globe), I can understand the dilemma he’s pointing out. People are willing to voice their rage against slavery, but tend to be unwilling to change their economic and consumer habits. Whether they know it or not, what they buy has a greater impact on slavery worldwide than what they say. Many people know buying Hershey’s or Nestle chocolates supports the enslavement, impoverishment, and even death of children around the world, but they still buy Hershey’s and Nestle chocolate because they like it so much. They actively make the choice to put their likes over the lives of children.
Is it because those children are not ours? Slaving away, dying, here in the United States? Is there another reason?
This is the time we celebrate Christmas. It’s a celebration of the incarnation, when God took on flesh, coming to release captives. He came to abolish injustice. He came to eradicate racism. He came to give sight to the blind. He came to set the oppressed free. He came to proclaim good news to the poor. And then he would die.
We need to remember this is a time of hope. Not just for those who call themselves Christians and are saved. There is hope for the poor Pakistani child whose already impoverished town was destroyed by a couple of drone missiles. There is hope for the family struggling with their first Christmas morning without their beautiful young kindergartener.
But Jesus brings that hope. And we display that hope not when we hate and kill; only when we love.