By TOM MAY
National headlines capture our attention with their piercing urgency and far-reaching implications. Television video coverage, on-the-scene interviews and in-depth analysis attempts to tell the entire story, painting pictures of why, and how, and could it happen again. We watch, sometimes riveted because of the intensity of the events; sometimes striving desperately to make sense of it all.
Paul Ciancia, a 23-year-old, was dropped off at the Los Angeles International Airport early by a friend. According to roommates, Paul had been hounding his friends for a ride all week long. He said that he had to catch a plane to fly to New Jersey to help his sick father.
When no one offered to help, Ciancia burst past one roommate’s door and demanded a ride. The roommate obliged. Hours later, authorities were left trying to piece together the details of a fatal shooting spree at the busy California airport.
Richard Shoop, barely 20, entered the lower level of the mall just before its scheduled closing time. Dressed in black and wearing a motorcycle helmet, the young man fired rounds of shots into the air. Witnesses said that the sound of the gunfire sent customers and employees hysterically screaming and running, desperately trying to find exits or hiding places. Shoop’s body was found in the wee hours of the next morning, a note found nearby, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. There were no other physical injuries; intense trauma will be present for years.
Maybe your headlines are more local. Serial killer found guilty. Alleged killer acquitted. Teens killed in a car accident. Home burned in an apparent attempt to cover a murder. Drug bust nabs a handful of dealers. Local business closes; hundreds left without a job.
Perhaps the words you are concerned with are the headlines of your heart. My daughter was killed in the accident. My job was lost when the business closed. My family has been devastated by a senseless act of violence. My son is a drug addict. My hope seems lost.
The newspapers of our souls print headlines we do not understand. We seek to find the answers in the details of the stories through media, through experience, through conversation, but we are limited in both our access to information and our own ability to gather and process that information.
We are left with a haunting emptiness, a yearning to understand the why’s and how’s of the story of lives. How will we choose to interpret the story?
We really only have two choices. We can accept an answer that we do not understand on faith. We can choose to ignore the question and the search for the answer.
Some choose to ignore the question. We see the result of that choice daily. A 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that hospitalizations for alcohol and drug overdoses increased dramatically among 18 to 24 year olds between 1999 and 2008. According to a 2010 report by The Century Council, more than 10 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 20 report alcohol consumption within the last 30 days, a number that represents illegal activity for over a fourth of the age group.
The Guttmacher Institute estimates that of the 12 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases among Americans each year, seven million involve people under the age of 25. The overwhelming majority — almost 80 percent — were individuals who had multiple sexual partners. When asked the reason for the frequency of their sexual experiences, most answered the search for acceptance and pleasure.
Some choose to blindly accept an answer. The most widely accepted answer is that there is no answer. It assumes that one can wrestle with life’s questions and find no real meaning. It is a logical conclusion. If life began in a random way, there is little chance that meaning will arrive in the details.
There are two responses to the idea of no meaning in life. One is anger and rage. CBS News and CNN both report increases in acts of violence at the hands of late teens and early 20 year olds. The FBI reported that in 2012 there were more than 1.2 million acts of violent crime in the United States. The same study showed that an addition 8.9 million acts of violence were committed against the personal property of individuals.
The other response is despair. The Center for Disease Control released results that suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 20 through 25. There were 38,364 suicides in 2010 in the United States — an average of 105 a day.
Among young adults 15 to 24 years old, there are some 200 attempts for every completed suicide. Among high school students, almost 16 percent reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months prior to the survey.
Others choose to accept an answer that has the greatest probability for truth. The Bible calls that faith “the reason for things hoped for.” It lays its foundation upon truths that are absolute and consistent. It accepts the premise that mankind is here for a purpose, not a random performance. It assumes that the design of the universe was from intelligence, not ignorance or chance.
It answers life’s headlines with faith in an intelligent Creator. We all need that kind of answer.
— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org