What’s wrong with the world?

After the massacre at the elementary school in Newtown, Conneticut, Alan Jacobs writes:

A hundred years ago or so, a newspaper editor asked a number of English intellectual leaders for their answer to the question “What’s wrong with the world?” The most interesting and accurate reply was this one:

Dear Sirs,

I am.

Sincerely yours,

G.K. Chesterton

Today, you and I are what’s wrong. As much as I’d like to believe that guns would be no problem if everyone were just like me, in my heart I know better. Or ought to.

In one of his last speeches as Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams recently said,

People use guns. But in a sense guns use people, too. When we have the technology for violence easily to hand, our choices are skewed and we are more vulnerable to being manipulated into violent action.

Perhaps that’s why, in a passage often heard in church around this time of year, the Bible imagines a world where swords are beaten into ploughshares. In the new world which the newborn child of Christmas brings into being, weapons are not left to hang on the wall, suggesting all the time that the right thing to do might after all be to use them. They are decommissioned, knocked out of shape, put to work for something totally different.

Control of the arms trade, whether for individuals or for nations, won’t in itself stop the impulse to violence and slaughter. But it’s a start in changing what’s taken for granted. The good news of Christmas is that the atmosphere of fear and hostility isn’t the natural climate for human beings, and it can be changed.

If all you have is a gun, everything looks like a target. But if all you have is the child’s openness and willingness to be loved, everything looks like a promise. Control of the weapons trade is a start. But what will really make the difference is dealing with fear and the pressure to release our anxiety and tension at the expense of others. A new heart, a new spirit, as the Bible says; so that peace on earth won’t be an empty hope.

“A Christmas Thought About Guns” (The American Conservative)

Also, see: Ross Douthat, “The Loss of the Innocents” (New York Times)

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