If Friday had happened a hundred years ago, most of America would probably still not have heard of Newtown. A limited narrative of facts would eventually have trickled out across the country, and maybe even reach a few other parts of the world. Perhaps there might have been a brief paragraph in The London Times and a few other significant international newspapers.

Horrific specifics
What a difference a hundred years makes. Within seconds we know not only what happened in general but all the horrific specifics. Within minutes we have eyewitness accounts. Within hours we have photos and video. By the end of the day we have hundreds, maybe thousands of reporters swarming over the town. Press conferences are carried live; interviews with bereaved families and spared families fill the non-stop news cycle; the perpetrator’s evil mind and twisted past are dredged; amateur psychologists opine on the ravings and ranting of evil. Old and new media are drowning us in a deluge of frightful information and fearful images.

For most of us, it’s time to pull the plug and avert our gaze.

It is neither necessary nor wise for most of us to know all this horrifying information. What good purpose does it serve to hear or read exactly how the murderer went about his vile business, what was heard or seen in the classrooms and offices, how victims tried to defend themselves and others, etc? It is deeply damaging to our short and long-term mental, emotional, and spiritual health to expose ourselves to such bloodcurdling details.

Self-inflicted trauma
I’m not saying we ignore what happened, nor that we shouldn’t sympathise deeply with the families and the community. I’m saying most of us need only know enough to pray intelligently for the needs of the survivors, their families, and the community. But most of us know way, way more than that by now, darkening our waking hours and disturbing our sleeping hours. I don’t think most of us realize the deep and damaging trauma we are inflicting upon ourselves.

Some Christians probably should know more, especially those whom God has specially called to interpret and explain these monstrous actions to the public and the church. But most of us  don’t need to glue ourselves to TV and Internet news. Instead, we should actively shield ourselves and our families from much of it. If we wouldn’t read books or watch films that gave such details, why do it with real-life events?

Not necessary or wise
I’m at the stage where I’m reading some headlines, and maybe the first paragraph of some reports. But that’s where I’m now drawing the line. For most of us it is not necessary or wise to watch the multiple funerals and memorial services, to read the latest insights into this evil mind, to watch crime scene reconstructions, or to listen to harrowing interviews with teachers and parents. It’s time to operate on a “need to know” basis.

And we shouldn’t feel guilty about it. 

But we must pray. Indeed, we must pray for Newtown and the nation as we’ve never prayed before.

  • http://www.gracedependent.com mark

    Well said.

  • Maarten

    Thank you David. My wife and I were just talking about this on Saturday!

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  • http://www.rpmministries.org Bob Kellemen

    Wise, balanced, and protective counsel.

  • arlene

    Thank you…well said!!

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  • Katrina De Man

    All weekend I have been reminded of your thoughts a few weeks ago that we should stop talking about homosexuality with such frequency and ease. Those thoughts have stayed with me these last weeks and last Friday, I found myself wishing I didn’t have to know about Newtown but feeling as though I couldn’t help it. To not pay attention was to be cold but reading some of the details was more than I wanted to know. I intended to follow up on that earlier posting to wonder what to do with horrors such as these. I so appreciate that you were ten steps ahead of me and wrote so thoughtfully and helpfully about how to enter in to this.

  • http://asmallwork.posterous.com Ryan

    David, thank you for this wise, timely counsel. I needed it and I suspect many others do too.

  • Catie

    Thank you very much! What you wrote is so true and something I really needed to hear.

  • Ryan Huguley

    Thank you for this David. Very wise and very helpful!

  • Rick

    I agree that this is a terrible tragedy for those directly involved, the loss of almost 30 lives, and that prayers should be offered up on behalf of those who survived. It is unusual (almost 30 innocent people were killed in one place at one time and most of them were children who “died before their time” and, for that reason, it is also “sensational” ["arousing or tending to arouse (as by lurid details) a quick, intense, and usually superficial interest, curiosity, or emotional reaction"-Merriam Webster]. A Google search finds that, around the world, 20,000 children die every day and, by definition, their deaths are also “premature”. I don’t know the number of unborn babies who also die daily at the hands of abortionists. This outpouring of emotion, flags at half staff and so forth for this event seems to be a mostly emotional response that is lacking in any sense of proportionality.

  • http://themobilemontage.com Jonathan Engelsma

    Very well said David. I can’t help but think that the almost instant world-wide notoriety the perpetrators of these horrific crimes receive as a consequence of the media coverage somehow incentivizes their sick minds as they plan their deeds. At minimal, keeping the criminal anonymous in the media coverage that follows may help eliminate some of the motivation.

    • Irene

      I agree!

  • Lynda Hickman

    All of the media coverage of this horrible incident has not stopped. It is everywhere. And you are absolutely correct to say that all people, especially Christians need to know where to draw the line at what is the “need-to-know” and what is just spirit, soul and mind clutter.
    I have found myself crying many times since the news first broke on Friday. And as often as I have cried, I have prayed for the families and friends of all those who died, especially the parents of the children. I know from personal experience how death of a loved one, no matter how it happens seems to become a memory benchmark on a particular day. And having that death occur near a holiday, it seems that the holiday can be forever marred by that memory.

    David, you said, “Within seconds we know not only what happened in general but all the horrific specifics.” And that is very true, however, as the hours and days have past, those “specifics” have proved less than specific. In nearly every report, the so called facts have changed. So the first reports were so skewed that other than the basic fact that the murders had taken place, all the other “specifics” were added by over zealous reporters and witnesses who wanted their minutes of fame.

    The LORD reminds me all the time of His Word about what’s going on in my brain. And when He does, I immediately think of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church. He said, “Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus. Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good. Model your conduct on what you have learned from me, on what I have told you and shown you, and you will find the God of peace will be with you.”

    That’s Philippians 4:6-9 in the JB Phillips version. I love the gentle way that it is worded, as words from one who is lavishly filled with the loving Spirit of God.

    We all need to step back and think on those things…..and while we think on the good, the holy and right, pray that the peace of God will guard the hearts of those who lost someone they loved on Friday.

  • http://www.spiritfilledpuritan.com Art Costigan


    Thanks for the this. It’s a good caution not to get caught up in media-driven hype that can lead to sinful curiosity and responses.

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  • RockyMtnPatriot

    I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I was just talking with a friend about this long before this tragedy struck. Being an election year, I would spend hours a day reading about the Benghazi murders, Fast & Furious, etc. It’s so easy to get obsessed with wanting to know everything possible. Most of the time, there isn’t anything we can do about it but pray. More importantly, instead of spending all of this unproductive time reading about events over which we have no control, we should be staying in God’s word and praying.

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