Shortly after the horrible tragedy in Newtown, while legislators and columnists and radio talk-show hosts were engaged in the debate about gun control and mental health as sort of a national catharsis to let them believe they were doing something meaningful, a syndicated editorial cartoon appeared that attempted to explain how something so evil could have occurred. It was a simple attempt to answer the question "Why?"
Titled, "The Root of Evil," the cartoon pictured a representation of the young killer holding a smoking assault rifle, and from his feet, descending into the earth, were roots that depicted the causes for his actions.
What were the roots of this evil carnage? According to the cartoonist, they were "exposure to violence, dissolution of the family, decaying morality, mental illness, apathy, desensitization, lack of social contact, pop culture and unearned fame." While his creation showed more depth in its thinking than most politicians’, the cartoonist came up short.
Despite his attempt to understand what’s wrong in America, he overlooked one fundamental cause of evil, which Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn articulated many years ago when he was asked why our world is fraught with calamity, crisis and horror.
Solzhenitsyn said, "Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened." That well could be the epitaph for America.
In a commencement speech he gave at Harvard, he also said, "The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer."
And nowhere is that truth more evident than in modern America.
The fact the cartoonist even failed to note our loss of spiritual bearings as a society is proof we don’t recognize the crisis of values, which is especially obvious in our lack of respect for human life.
Despite frequent displays of faith and the volume of "religious news" in the media – which often is nothing more than the latest scandal involving a religious leader – America has lost sight of God.
All those legislators who were looking for media time so they could push their views are usually the same people who have no need for God in their public lives because either they’re afraid of offending their atheist constituents or they think God is irrelevant and they’re more effective.
Unless we take back America one person at a time for God, there is no future. Unless we begin in our homes, with our children and grandchildren one day at a time, there is no tomorrow, and the succession of tragedies that has afflicted America for the past 50 years will continue and worsen.
You see, prayer is really our only hope – not another law or another editorial or another investigation or another commission or another TV documentary.
Isn’t it time for a leader of faith to call us to action? It’s time for parents to tell their kids to shut off their iPhones, turn off their iPads, unplug their video games and their DVD players and flat screen TVs, and sit down, one with the other, and pray.
The greatest tragedy isn’t that so few people pray but that so few believe in the power of prayer to avert these calamities and change the world.
For those of us who still believe, it’s time to find our rosaries and prayer books and gather our family members together every day for a time of prayer, to pray for ourselves, our country and our Church.
It’s time to commit to daily prayer in our families, with our friends and in our faith communities. Do we need any more proof that America is coming unhinged and that her only hope, our only hope, is prayer?
If you don’t know how to pray the rosary, then learn. If you don’t have time to pray a full rosary, then pray a decade. If it’s boring compared to TV trash like "Two and a Half Men," the solution is to become unbored because this is about the most important thing that you can do, far more important than anything President Obama or Congress will ever do to solve the problem.
Theologian and author Eugene Peterson once wrote tellingly about God and evil in the modern world.
"We underestimate God and we overestimate evil," he said. "We don’t see what God is doing and conclude that he is doing nothing. We see everything that evil is doing and think it is in control of everyone."
He’s right. Politicians can’t cure what ails America. Only God can, and will, if we ask.
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.