Pumped Up Kicks in Newtown, CT?

image credit: Rob Nichols
We're all becoming more aware of how words affect people in ways that are both good and bad. Words do things.

Last Friday I took a group of students to the mall to finish up their Christmas shopping. On the way, one girl in my van asked: "Have you guys heard about what happened at that school in Connecticut?"

Well, yes we have. And we continue to pray for all the families affected by that tragedy in Newtown.

This week I sat and thought for awhile about what part (if any) words might have played in all of this.

Maybe the shooter's mom had said harsh things to him.
Maybe his classmates had said hurtful things about him - to his face or behind his back: loser, freak.
Maybe he said hurtful things to himself when he looked in the mirror: piece of trash, ugly, no good.
Maybe none of those things happened, but I'm just speculating here.

The words we hear from others matter a lot.
The words we say to others matter a lot.
The words we say to ourselves matter a lot.

Words create the worlds in which we live.
Of course, God created the world in which we live with a spoken word: "God said let there be...and there was..."

But words create worlds in another way too.

If a little girl hears her dad tell her, "You're beautiful, you're lovely, and you're worth pursuing," then that little girl's world has been created around those words. When a guy comes along who treats her like a piece of meat, she will see that that guy is inviting her to leave the world she lives in - full of truth, and care, and beauty, and value - to live in the world he's offering with lies, and manipulation, and a lack of value. Hopefully her world will be sturdy enough not to crumble, and she'll tell him to go away because the world she inhabits (the one formed by her dad's affirming words) is better.

Whose words are you allowing to make your world?
What kind of world is it?
Is it full of faith, hope, and love?
Or is it full of lies, despair, and selfishness?

The words that shape our worlds come not only from parents, they also come from friends, pastors, teachers, and coaches. But there's another place where we receive the words that shape our worlds: music. It's likely that Taylor Swift has shaped more Christian girls' thoughts on love and relationships than the Bible has.

And so I sat there and thought about the shooting, the shooter, words, and music.

Then I remembered a song that was really popular in 2011. This song got up to #3 on the Billboard Charts; it was even nominated for a Grammy. It's called, "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People.

Here's the opening lyrics and the chorus:
"Robert's got a quick hand. He'll look around the room, he won't tell you his plan.
He's got a rolled up cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He's a cowboy kid.
Yeah! He found a six-shooter gun in his dad's closet, with a box of fun things.
I don't even know what, but he's coming for you.
Yeah, he's coming for you.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
you better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,
you better run, better run, faster than my bullet."

Again, just my own speculation here, but I would not be surprised if that song was on the shooter's iPod at some point in the last year.


Because words carry great power.
Words create worlds: they shape our imaginations (for good or bad) and tell us what to think and how to feel. For that reason, we should be careful what we say (to others and ourselves), and we should be careful who we listen to. And hopefully the future of the worlds created by our words will be free from tragedies like the one in Newtown.

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