America is staggering once more with a spate of horrifying violence. Mass shootings in Texas, Ohio, and California have claimed the lives of astonishing numbers of innocent people who thought they were just at a party or a festival to have a good time, but found themselves traumatized, bleeding, dying, or all three. Meanwhile, the rest of us are just wondering what the blazes is going on.
And it certainly has been interesting listening to the pundits tell us what the causes of the carnage are. Conservatives are sure that this is the doing of Marxists and anarchists. After all, one of the killers wrote some eco-terrorist-sounding stuff online. Progressives swear that Donald Trump is to blame, since one of the gunmen seems to have been some kind of white nationalist. Video games get blamed, as does social media. Lots of people simply throw up their hands in despair. But there are some patterns emerging, and a few factors that are painfully clear.
One simple, unavoidable truth is that all the shooters have been men. Another blunt fact is that they have been young men. All of them. And with few exceptions, they have been young white men. What is happening here? This middle-aged white preacher will hazard a guess or two.
First, are we really surprised when young men who hear over and over that human beings are simply the pointless product of a mindless process of blind evolution actually act like they believe it? We’ve been teaching them that human beings have no more value or meaning than parakeets or flatworms since they were kids. Their horrendous choices make perfect sense in light of the bleak, brutal portrait of life our secular world paints for them. Nature is “red in tooth and claw,” isn’t it? Why shouldn’t we be? And our government-run schools, ever since the 1960’s, have intentionally been growing increasingly godless in all they teach and do. In fact, if you think about it, “secular” and “godless” mean almost exactly the same thing. Is it really all that shocking that kids who grow up steeped in godlessness become adults wallowing in hopelessness? LESSON: Pay careful attention to how you let secularist ideas take root in your children’s and grandchildren’s and neighbor’s minds. Lovingly but fearlessly challenge those ideas. They always end in bloody horrors.
Of course, that doesn’t explain why all the mass murderers have been men. That fact has a fairly simple explanation: testosterone. Whether the politically correct crowd like it or not, men are wired to fight, struggle, defeat, dominate, and (when necessary) kill. Violence runs in men’s veins. The question is, who can give a young man a worthy target or channel for his aggression? We used to challenge boys to become heroes, champions, knights who could win everlasting glory by sacrificing themselves for women and children. In this egalitarian, post-chivalry age, we breed young men who feel quite free to shoot women and children at the local festival. Would it be too sexist to think that real men protect women and children, and only a puny slug who’s pitifully less than a man would ever intentionally hurt them? Well. Call me a sexist, then. You see, those old “sexist” taboos had a purpose, after all. At a visceral level, they taught boys how to be men. LESSON: Don’t be afraid to hold on to good old-fashioned “Coward-of-the-County” ideas about manhood and the proper place for violence.
And then there’s this. While there has been much misinformation and disinformation about whether an inordinate number of the shooters were raised without a father at home, the simple fact remains that boys raised without a father have noticeably higher rates of violence, incarceration, suicide, and other heartbreaks.
LESSONS: 1. Support and help single moms. After my father died, my brave mother had to raise my brother and me by herself, and often found herself overwhelmed. Our church family surrounded her and us with love and help. They really were a family to us. 2. Men, invest yourselves in the lives of boys. My “Big Brother” Bob Grasso made a lasting impact on me, as did pastors and male Sunday School teachers and even the men my mother dated – and especially the one she married when I was eight. I know, the news is full of how men have abused boys, and it’s a very real danger that must be guarded against at all costs. But the complete absence of good men from a boy’s life may be almost as damaging as the presence of bad men. Get involved, guys!
Am I saying this little 3-step plan will stop all mass shootings? No, of course not. But each of these three is a step in the right direction. And whatever you do, pray!
- Pastor Chris