Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Where have all the active verbs gone?"

The murders and attempted murders in Tucson have dominated news coverage since the weekend and almost immediately a large part of the discussion became political. [Why, in Heaven's name, do the networks interview political consultants about this kind of tragedy?] Kevin DeYoung liked Ross Douthat's column about the controversy but felt that even he avoided a central issue:
.... “Politicians and media loudmouths,” Douthat writes, “shouldn’t be held responsible for the darkness that always waits to swallow up the unstable and the lost.” True enough, but who should be held responsible? My vote is for Loughner who, by all accounts, appears to be not only the accused killer but also the real killer. Certainly darkness is appropriate imagery, but I’d argue it’s more appropriate to say he committed a dark deed rather than to imply darkness swallowed up an unstable young man. ....

I have no doubt Loughner is messed up, crazy, off his rocker, and out to lunch. It seems that he’s needed help for a long time. By why jump to conclude that this is a “Tragedy of Mental Illness”? To be sure, mental illness is real but it does not honor those who endure it to rush a diagnosis and start naming disorders every time an anti-social, nihilistic, solipsistic young man with guns and grudges sins in the worst possible ways. Where have all the active verbs gone?

.... Whenever a public tragedy like this occurs everyone on the right and the left struggles to find some cause, and that cause is almost always outside the self—video games, strange novels, mistreatment by friends, a culture of hate, the second amendment, heated political rhetoric. And when an internal cause is suggested it almost always points away from personal responsibility to some element of us that doesn’t really belong to us—like a mental disorder or our own personal demons.

We instinctively resort to passive speech, unable to bear the thought (let alone utter the words) that a wicked person has perpetrated a wicked crime. The human heart is desperately sinful and capable of despicable sins. Of course, no one commends the crime, but few are willing to condemn the criminal either. In such a world we are no longer moral beings with the propensity for great acts of righteousness and great acts of evil. We are instead, at least when we are bad, the mere product of our circumstances, our society, our upbringing, our biochemistry, or our hurts. The triumph of the therapeutic is nearly complete. ....

The world, and to a large extent the church, has lost the ability to speak in moral categories. We have preferences instead of character. We have values instead of virtue. We have no God of holiness, and we have no Satan. We have break-downs, crack-ups, psychoses, maladjustments, and inner turmoil. But we do not have repugnant evil as the Bible has it. And this loss makes the world a more dangerous place. For the words may disappear, but the reality does not. [more]
The Tucson Tragedy and God’s Gift of Moral Language – Kevin DeYoung