Richmond was stunned last week with the story of an eight year old boy who was killed while trying to defend his twelve year old sister from an attack by an alleged rapist. The news quickly became international in scope, was absorbed into every kind of media. Fox News reported it, as did local TV, of course. The Richmond Times Dispatch and other state newspapers covered the awful episode, and it wound its way through the social media universe. Sometimes we try to soften the blow of stories like this by saying to ourselves, “… But that didn’t happen in my neighborhood.” Our attempted reassurance being based on the hope that it’s somehow different where we happen to live, that a terrible thing like that wouldn’t happen next door. After all, “We’re not like that.” In spite of our efforts, the stark reality of it leaves our minds numb and sends us searching for something to say, something to do, some way to respond that actually matters.
Candlelight vigils were planned and conducted in the aftermath, and charitable efforts were extended to the family to help with the unanticipated funeral expenses. The omnipresent news crews made valiant efforts to add sensitivity and compassion to their professional ‘on camera’ cadence. Something else was present, too. A kind of unspoken awareness, an almost visceral sense that something larger was in play here, and that something more needed to be done, something beyond holding candles and shedding tears, and beyond catching and punishing the perpetrator. Larger issues are lurking here, haunting as they always do these grisly scenes of the unprovoked larceny of innocence and the violent extinction of precious and irreplaceable life.
The reactionary parade of insufficiencies ensued. Warnings and admonitions about safety and parental observation were abundant, of course, and protocols for ensuring that it doesn’t happen to other kids were passed around everywhere. All of which are worthwhile in granting some sense that efforts are being extended, and that people care. Part of that process includes the unavoidable reflex of fixing blame, but the realization soon arrives that no envisioned retribution or retaliation against the attacker seems adequate. Something more is needed, but the ‘something more’ that our hearts cry out for seems elusive. Unfortunately for the anti-gun lobbyists, there was no firearm employed in this murder—only a common brick. No one stepped up with a suggestion that we call on the government to regulate loose bricks, and confiscate all that are unregistered.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some culpability waiting to be attached, but it has nothing to do with the brick. Something far more potentially damaging needs to be addressed in the aftermath of this horrific event. Had someone suggested two weeks ago that loose bricks are dangerous and we need to control them, he or she would have been ridiculed. “Bricks aren’t harmful,” we would have said. “They’re simply building material.” I totally agree. Bricks aren’t the problem that needs to be solved in this awful episode. The issue more serious than the contents of that young perpetrator’s hand was the content of his mind and heart.
Jesus directs our attention to the real problem. He said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies…” (Matthew 15:19 NKJV). Interesting that He didn’t mention any kind of weapon as the danger source here, isn’t it? The Apostle Paul elaborated on the same subject, and said it this way: “Now the works of the flesh (the demonstrations of our fallen human nature) are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…” (Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV). Paul didn’t mention weapons as being the real danger either? How in the world did he miss that?
We know that a common loose brick in an adolescent’s hand became a lethal weapon, and that he apparently used it to take the life of this innocent, defenseless, but incredibly courageous, eight-year-old child. We’ve been told all about the brick, but what is not addressed more clearly is the question of the unbridled sexual lust in the heart of the attacker. How did that get there? Some would say, “Oh, but sex is just a natural impulse. Those desires are commonplace,” and I agree. So are bricks. The problem is not normal sexual desire, it is a normal desire whipped into an uncontrollable homicidal frenzy. If we’re looking for solutions, doesn’t it make sense to ask, “How did that happen – and why?”
How did that normal desire that God builds into all of us get inflamed in this sixteen year old to a degree that was beyond his capacity to control? What encouraged and empowered him to act on those impulses? Were those passions intentionally fed and encouraged until all reason, all compassion, and any sense of righteousness or justice were subjected under their dominance? How many people by their active participation in, or passive affirmation of, easy access to a digital cesspool may have contributed to the infection of the mind of this otherwise normal kid to the point that he was willing to kill to satisfy his desires? And where, I wonder, is the wildly vocal ‘social justice’ and ‘sexual rights and freedom’ crowd now, and where do they point their fingers of blame this time? There’s no gun to make into the culprit in this crime, and no restrictive religious creeds to go after, only a loose brick and a sick and twisted philosophy of life.
Defenders of pornography claim that it is a harmless and normal thing—even beneficial. Under normal circumstances, so are bricks. Video games that are extremely violent and destructive are defended as just harmless entertainment, and after all, they have a protective rating to keep kids from exposure to them. Well, so does the porn, and a kid could never figure out how to get access to that kind of material, could he? Music is a culprit, too, and in spite of the ‘protective’ ratings, kids are exposed to antisocial ideas promoted through lyrics employing the vilest kinds of language imaginable. That garbage is pumped into their brains hour after hour and reinforced with suggestive video images.
Another story about a young boy and some material dubbed unacceptable unfolded last week as well. On the surface, it is unrelated to the tragic event in Richmond, but it highlights a frightening and dangerous trend in our culture. The child in that story was ‘caught’ reading his Bible during free reading time in his classroom and sent home. This isn’t an isolated incident. Bibles and their messages are banned so often it rarely makes the news anymore. Children are taught instead that they are no more than a random confluence of chemical reactions. They are led to think that there is no valid basis for making moral judgments, that there is no real purpose in life beyond the satisfaction of their individual appetites, and there is no ultimate accountability. Filled with this kind of belief system, and with an endless barrage of sexual stimulation confronting them daily, what kinds of behaviors should we expect? If the dominant male can have his way with a weaker female object, then why not? And if a smaller, weaker male tries to intervene and there’s a brick handy, oh well—survival of the fittest.
There is, indeed, a larger issue before us in that awful story, and one that cannot be resolved by any punishment of the perpetrator. If we choose to keep banning the truth, and keep exposing our kids to the ideas Jesus warned us about, then I guess we’d better start trying to ban all those loose bricks.
© 2014 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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