Writing about a Christian worldview in the face of such a tremendous tragedy, such as the one that took place last Friday is a difficult burden. Although the Sandy Hook shooting, which took place on December 14, 2012, is not even a week past, there is already no shortage of opinions to be found. I hesitate to add my voice to the conversation mainly because it is such a tender and emotional issue which evokes strong opinion and feeling. I tried to write about other things, but could not wrestle away the issue that continues to race in my own mind, thus I will remain obedient and write what God has put on my heart.
I am doubtful that I am the only one who has written on this viewpoint, but I have yet to come across it. While the vast majority of questions being pondered across the country in regards to this tragedy have been: “Where is God?” or “How can God allow such evil to exist” and other variations on this theme,what strikes me in all the coverage thus far is, “Where are all the men?”
Please keep in mind that I am not an authority on the Lanza family, nor am I immersed in the local culture within which Sandy Hook Elementary exists. That said, some questions have risen in my own mind about this situation and I see these same conditions repeating across our country. Also, before passing any judgment upon this writing, please read to the end.
First, my thoughts start with the Lanza family themselves. They appear to be representative of the all-too many broken homes that exist in America today. Whatever caused the split in the marriage between Perry and Nancy Lanza, there is little mention of the father’s continued interaction with Adam or their other son, Ryan. This is not to say that Perry was negligent to this end, it is just simply not mentioned anywhere in any of the articles I have read to date. All that I have read have been details of Adam living with his mother and her protective behavior towards him. The father did provide financial stability for her and their children, which is admirable, but it is not enough.
Did Perry Lanza interact sufficiently with his sons; I do not know and may never know. What I do know is that there are way too many fathers out there who do not interact sufficiently with their own children. Having spent over a decade working in Prison Ministry, I saw the fruit of fatherless homes or homes with absentee fathers. Homes where the fathers knew more about their favorite sports teams than they did about their own children are a breeding ground for the children’s ultimate failures.
Do not confuse what I am saying. I am not accusing Peter Lanza for the actions of his son, Adam. These situations are far too complex to be boiled down to such an oversimplified conclusion. What I am saying is that the details reported about Nancy Lanza are quite numerous, while the information about Peter Lanza is unusually ambiguous. The actual relationship within this family is known only to them, but the symbolism of this disparity is commonplace among men who struggle with their identity as they grow older.
Second, my thoughts are upon the courageous staff at Sandy Hook Elementary. There is no doubt that these brave and selfless administrators and teachers gave their full measure to protect the children in their care. Now, I do not know the full faculty roster at that school, but what strikes me is the complete lack of any male presence mentioned during the events as they unfolded.
This is not a chauvinistic belittling of the courage of women as I honor the service of every woman who gives selflessly of themselves in the education, nurturing, and protection of our children. What strikes me, similar to my first point, is the conspicuous absence of men in the school. I recognize the financial implications and myriad of other reasons why men have increasingly excluded themselves from the education system. But that does not mean that they need be completely absent either.
Schools across our nation have been working hard to find ways to bring men back into the classrooms and hallways of the education system. There are tremendous programs such as Fathers@School and Watchdog Dads, which help dads to be a continual presence in the schools that utilize such programs. Did Sandy Hook Elementary have such a program? I do not know. If they did have such a program, would that have made a difference in the outcome? I do not know.
What I do know is that as the events unfolded in the news, the first entrance of a male figure appears to have been among the first responders. By then the travesty was complete. It was too late. Perhaps one could argue that Adam shot himself only after he heard the presence of the first responders, but in my opinion, that was just simply too late for the presence of male leadership. The teachers and students had already switched into protect and preserve mode (in heroic fashion).
All of this is not to downplay the important role women fill each and every day, but it is instead a plea to men; fathers, uncles and grandfathers to recognize that we are failing to work alongside with the women of our generation to raise, protect and nurture our children.
I do believe that those men who do not hold to a particular faith system will undoubtedly continue to fail to a greater degree in knowing their proper place in the family and their community. Men who do claim to hold to a particular faith system should be able to identify their roles much better than they do, collectively, today.
For the Christian man, God is very clear about that which he expects of men. Perhaps the greatest success men reach to today is in the providing for their families. This is just and noble as described in 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Unfortunately many men do not progress beyond this point. They fail to search God’s Word for additional responsibilities and thus fail to adequately live out the call of God upon their lives. Let us put this to an end!
If you are a man, and you are unsure just what God has to say to YOU about being a man, here is a short list:
How a man is to LEAD
1 Timothy 3:4
2 Timothy 3:17
2 Thessalonians 3:10
How a man is to LIVE
1 Corinthians 15:58
1 Corinthians 16:13
How a man is to LOVE
1 Peter 3:7
I am not holding myself unaccountable in the failure to live up to God’s daily calling as a man. There are many areas I too realize that I have failed to live up to my calling in the past, but it is only by trying to learn from those failures that we can accept the responsibility of the future. What I pray and hope for is for a time when the men of this nation, during such a tragedy as those which have recently befallen us, are not as absent as they currently appear to be. I believe in a world where men lead from the front and are not there simply to pick up the pieces after tragedy has already struck the women and children in our lives.