Reflections: A little child is murdered, and what is our response?

Last month something occurred in Brunswick, Ga., so horrific that it seems incomprehensible.

On March 21 a mother walked the streets of the quiet South Georgia town, pushing her 13-month-old baby boy in a stroller. I am sure it seemed routine to her. She probably had walked those streets countless times. But this time would be different. Life-altering. Life-shattering, really.

Bishop Woodie W. White

Bishop Woodie W. White

The unthinkable took place in an instant, as her baby was shot in the face and killed in a suspected attempt at robbery.

One so innocent and vulnerable. Who kills a baby? I get sick to my stomach at the thought.

As one who is blessed to be a father and a grandfather, I have walked five little children in strollers at one time or another. I talked to each of them as we moved along, and sometimes they laughed or gazed around in wonder. Often they slept in the cool morning air, or the heat of summer. Always, I was aware of the mystery of new life and of God’s gift. Each time I delighted in the treasure of childhood.

I can only imagine the horror this mother felt when their walk was so traumatically interrupted. The sudden fear, disbelief and then helplessness as she watched her baby die. I am heartsick even as I write, wavering somewhere between rage and utter confusion. I try to understand what can’t be fully understood.

A baby. Who would want to harm a baby?

At first, I truly expected these same emotions would be echoed in the media. This senseless act, I was sure, would garner national attention and outrage, as leaders of every stripe and politicians of all parties reacted to a deed so abhorrent, it defies reason. Perhaps a major demonstration would follow, a march of thousands, particularly of mothers and fathers. An outpouring of shared grief in support of this bewildered and broken mother.

Instead, the case has received only nominal media attention. There has been almost no public outcry.

Why? Could it be that our society is becoming numb to the violent deaths of its children and youth? Have such tragedies become an acceptable part of the landscape of today’s living? Have we decided that not all of life is deemed of great value—even the lives of children?

Perhaps if the infant who was killed had been from some northern suburb, or the child of a prominent celebrity or politician, his death would be judged more “newsworthy.” Would the national response be different, if his parents were from another social class? Or another race?

I have to ask, what makes one life seem of tremendous importance to us and another less so? Especially when we’re talking about a baby. Should there not be the same level of caring for all children, and the same sense of agony when their lives are brutally ended? Cannot all parents identify with other parents who face a tragic loss?

Sympathy. Empathy. Media outrage. Shared pain. Community caring. Where have they gone?

Finally, where are the voices of people of faith? Yes, there are profound theological questions to be faced in the midst of such events. But my question, at this moment, is a simple one: Does anybody care when a 13-month-old baby being walked in its stroller is gunned down on an American street?

Does anybody care?

Retired Bishop White is bishop-in-residence at Candler School of Theology, in Atlanta.


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Steve Horn

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Sadly, in this Age of Information, we have lost our ability to remain "connected" with one another. Why? Mainly because of the onslaught and over-abundance of information available to us RELENTLESSLY, 24-7. This has rendered us to become numb and unresponsive. The shock value of things once deemed to be tragic and/or overwhelmingly brutal, disastrous, or violent leaves little impression because we are being exposed to these world-wide occurrences in a steady stream with such constancy through the TV sets, radios, computers, i-pods, and cell phones. Even as infants, being placed in front of a TV set displaying the results… Read more »

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