On the other hand, what if hatred, malice, the dark wish to inflict harm on innocent others -- what if these were the primary driving forces in Lanza's makeup? Would that realization not color the discussion in useful ways? And, yes, if it did, would it or would it not prove that evil somehow lurked around Newtown, Conn., on that stomach-churning day last December?
Prove or disprove it how? That would be next question. Merely asking it conjures up mysteries and wonders more familiar to our forebears than to us. Among these: the presence among us of malice and wickedness.
Is it really possible, outside theology, to address the question of how a mere boy -- never mind where he got the guns -- could murder the woman who gave him life then slaughter children on whom he never before had set eyes? And if (as many would contend) you can't talk about such a thing without theology, does the world not owe itself the duty of asking whether our forbears knew some theology it wouldn't hurt us to recall?
Disbelief in the Devil, whether as blackened angel, symbol of perverted love or both things at the same time -- would strike our ancestors as a huge favor to the old boy, letting him retreat into the shadows while humans sort out their sorrows. He won't get that kind of surcease at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, I venture to predict.