“Now when Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3).
There’s a saying in some households: “If Mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy.” That saying and this verse share the same kernel of truth—a single individual’s hang-ups will be passed on to those in his or her sphere, one way or another. Herod’s “trouble” translated to tragedy for the mothers of Bethlehem, who saw their little boys pierced through by their ruler’s paranoia.
There’s only one thing we can say for sure about Adam Lanza, the slayer of innocents in Newtown, Conn.: He wasn’t right in the head. Whether by some social pathology or “culture” or secret family dysfunction (all suggested, in the desperation to fix blame), the young man was troubled—and now all America with him.
An academic advisor to Lanza shared an interesting detail: He was unable to feel pain. It’s pain, as much or more than anything, that connects people, especially strangers. And humans crave connection, as though each of us puts out invisible tendrils that seek contact with other tendrils—without that contact, we can’t be sure we exist. Mass shooters are almost always characterized as loners. I sometimes wonder if their ferocious acting out is a desperate attempt to feel something—anything. But we’ll never know.
At every public tragedy, doubters and skeptics appear: If God couldn’t stop this, He doesn’t exist. God doesn’t stop soldiers from bayonetting babies in war, and He doesn’t stop toddlers from stumbling into swimming pools or wandering into the street. He didn’t stop Herod from slaughtering the little children of Bethlehem and He didn’t stop battle-hardened Roman veterans from nailing His own Son to a cross.
We don’t know why the consequences of the Fall have to be played out to this extent. We do know He felt our pain—all of it. In the person of His Son, God took it all to Himself and forged a connection that can never be severed.
“[N]either death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, … nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us” from that love (Romans 8:38-39)—or that pain, which is better than any earthly pleasure.