Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Making Sense of the Connecticut Shootings

The recent shootings in Connecticut were so heinous, so senseless, and so beyond the grace of God that we shudder with horror just thinking about it.  Imagining how those massacred teachers and children must have felt while that devil made his way through the school shooting away is not easy.

This type of tragedy brings to mind the reality of pain, suffering and death.  It forces you to reconsider the basic notions of good and evil.  One question that comes to mind for me is, "How could a good God allow this to happen?"  Why isn't there an upper limit on the amount of evil that God might permit?  These were young children.  They did nothing to the shooter.  They had barely begun their young lives and now their stories are over.  It is absolutely sickening.  These same sorts of questions come to mind when I consider the Holocaust.  

Hearing about the shooter's mental illness, or his troubled upbringing with a mother paranoid to the point of stockpiling supplies for the "end times" does little to make the basic problem of evil remain.  The standard reaction is "This happened because human beings have free choice."  If this is so, then that freedom seems to be more important than human suffering, which to me seems incompatible with the basic notions of a good and just God.  

Mr. Rodgers once said that in the face of suffering and tragedy, we must "Remember the helpers."  We must look to those who despite the overwhelming force of evil and wrongdoing, there are those who come together to help those in need.  It is through this that we see God's grace to work through the loving actions of others to bring healing to a broken world.  

Perhaps our basic notions of God as divine chessmaster are all wrong.  Perhaps God is impotent to directly influence human action.  It may be that God is a divine lover, but one who simply lacks the power to prevent some actions from happening.  At least this position makes sense.  I don't believe it diminishes God to reduce his metaphysical power.  It may be that we are ready for a real reconsideration of God's divine powers.  It certainly would be more consistent with the notion of a loving God who works through the loving example of Christ on the cross and influences the world through love, not divine power.  If God knew this tragedy was going to happen and could have prevented it and He chose to not do so, then he is directly implicated.  At the very least, he could have prevented the shooter from having been born, considering the circumstances.

The argument that this world is broken and we can expect better in heaven is unconvincing.  Even if this is true, it still remains fundamentally unjust that children should be dealt such a terrible hand in life while others live long and prosperous lives.  There are escaped Nazi war criminals still living.  How is it right that they are given a long and relatively prosperous life while little children are senselessly slain?  

This tragedy is so horrible.  We want to feel in control.  We want to feel that if we do the right things, our children will be safe.  The unfortunate reality is that we cannot prevent these shootings.  There will be more.  Nothing is going to stop them.  There are simply too many guns in America right now, and God help the sheriff assigned to round up the guns owned by those who won't give them up unless they are pried from their cold, dead fingers.  Both those on the Left and those on the Right all want the same thing--they want our children and teachers to be safe.  They want to live in a safe America.  Liberals believe that if you take away people's guns or have more restrictive gun laws, gun violence will decrease.  Conservatives believe that if you allow people to have guns to defend themselves, gun violence will decrease because of the deterrent effect.  

Norway, a country with restrictive gun laws, suffered a massacre by an extremist that killed 77 people.  Apparently gun control laws in Norway did little to stop the violence there.  When asked by forensic psychologists about the most effective way to end gun violence, the answer was interesting--they said not to publicize the details of the killings because these facts encourage other people with mental problems to act in a copycat like fashion.  Inevitably there will be an increase in school shootings now.  

From a mathematical point of view, the likelihood of your child being killed in a school shooting is insanely low.  70 million children are currently in school and this year less than 50 were killed by school shootings.  The problem with this is that human beings are not statisticians.  We react emotionally to senseless violence because it defies our sense of justice and goodness.  Hurricane Sandy created much more destruction and death than the recent shootings, but because this was an act of nature, we look at it differently.  

I believe in mental illness as a potential contribution toward violence.  I believe in evil as a cause of violence as well.  In this case, I think there was both.  There are plenty of people with mental illnesses who don't hurt people.  Most autistic people, Asperger's Syndrome patients, paranoid schizophrenics, and depressed people don't hurt anyone.  In this case, the shooter was trained by his mother to mistrust the world.  He was taught the end times were near and that he needed to be ready.  It is telling that the shooter had the rationality to wear protective armor before he went on his rampage.  He had the malice of forethought to do as much damage as possible before the police arrived.  He attacked a school because he wanted to hurt and destroy what his mother loved most--little children that she taught.  This was more than just mental illness.  It was unspeakable hate and evil combined with insanity.

I don't know whether there is a heaven or hell.  But I hope he's in hell.  I don't believe that we can only heal by forgiving this madman.  I believe we should hate evil and wish that it be banished from our midst.  Telling the families of the victims that they must forgive this man is an insult to how they are feeling.  They must be given the right to heal in their own way without theological or pop psychology platitudes.  Anything else diminishes the pain they are suffering, a pain that only someone who has lost a loved one to senseless violence can understand.

The truth is that this tragedy is beyond our ability to make sense of it.  It is beyond our ability to easily dismiss.  As Shakespeare once said:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 159–167

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore Website Review

The Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore is a website, blog, and podcast created by Jimmy Moore.  Moore used to weigh over 400 pounds.  Using the Atkins diet, he lost more than 180 pounds.  The dangers of obesity are no stranger to Moore.  His brother died as a result of complications from morbid obesity.  His mother underwent bariatric surgery.  Moore recognizes that he faces a daily struggle in keeping down the weight to stay healthy.  Since losing the weight in 2004, Moore has since regained some of the weight, despite following a low carb diet.  Refusing to give up, he reexamined his diet and through research discovered that for his body, low carb was simply not enough.  He needed to be mindful of the amount of protein he ate along with the carbohydrates because the protein in sufficient quantities was being turned to sugar in his system and causing weight gain.  Moore has recently been on a ketogenic diet.  He has reduced his protein and carbohydrate levels and consumed additional levels of fat.  The results of this have been successful.  He has recently lost over 50 pounds over the last few months.

Moore interviews a variety of health experts, diet gurus, and scientists on his podcast.  Many of the guests are fantastic.  A few are total crackpots.  Moore shows all of them respect, and is a skilled interviewer.  He also is co-host of a podcast entitled Low Carb Conversations with Jimmy Moore and Friends.  This podcast is informal and is similar to a paneled talk show like "The View."  The difference is that the focus of this program is diet, health, and nutrition.  Not risking any down time, Moore also hosts Ask the Low Carb Experts, a live call in show in which callers pose questions to nationally renowed health and nutrition experts. 

The best part of Moore's programming comes from Moore himself.  He is optimistic, determined, and energized.  Despite facing some very serious setbacks--including failed fertility attempts with his wife and having regained some of the weight he initially lost--Moore doesn't keep his head down for long.  He doesn't feel sorry for himself.  He doesn't give up.  He just picks up and keeps moving on.  Sometimes, when I am having a difficult day, I tune into the podcast just to feel perked up.  "If Jimmy Moore can face challenges and not give up, then maybe I should, too" I think to myself. 

Moore also has a Youtube channel in which he films diet and nutrition programs.  Some of the best, however, are those related to his personal life.  Through his channel we get to meet his wife Christine.  She is a delightful person who helps Moore with his low carb adventures.  She frequently travels with him to out of state locations for diet and nutrition conferences. 

Having lost 30 pounds on the Atkins diet over two years ago, I believe in the low carb message.  My wife suffers from Type 1 Diabetes.  Her body cannot produce insulin as a result of an autoimmune disorder.  If she eats a moderate or high carb diet, she becomes incredibly sick.  Eating low carb has kept her blood sugars in check and helped her avoid having to give massive doses of insulin, which can cause wild blood sugar fluctuations which can lead to her dying.  The Atkins diet has worked wonderfully for her.  Like any other diet, sometimes you lose a bit of your self-discipline.  This has happened to me lately and my belt is starting to show it.  I've been listening to Moore more lately, and becoming more inspired to not give up and get back on track.  Considering Jimmy has had struggles much more difficult than mine, it feels empowering to listen to his show.

His podcast is ultimately much more than one man's journey to maintain his health despite difficult genetic tendencies toward weight gain.  It is about maintaining a can-do attitude despite enormous challenges and not giving up.  Because when you have stopped fighting, they have beaten you.  And this is something Moore refuses to let happen.  Whether you are struggling with weight issues or not, the website is highly recommended.