They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore, the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes- Hosea 4:1-3b NASB
It’s been a long sad, grief-filled week with two mass shootings last Saturday, one in Dayton, Ohio and the other in El Paso, Texas. There were few parallels between the two shooters. The El Paso shooter appears to be a right-wing racist nut-job. The Ohio shooter appears to be a left-wing socialist nut job.
The one clear connection between the two shooters is that they were both young white males. Much has been written on the subject of “toxic masculinity”. Most of it is patently ridiculous and blatantly sexist. That being said, it’s simply a fact that young white men are the only demographic who routinely walk into crowds, pull out weapons and proceed to massacre as many humans as possible in the shortest time imaginable.
The question we must answer as a society is “why”?
What on earth are we doing as a culture that triggers young white males to become so detached from humanity that they kill their fellow humans with wild-eyed abandon? The kneejerk reaction on the left is to blame guns and mental illness. The kneejerk reaction on the right is to blame the collapse of the family and mental illness. I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about everything. I do know that this problem is far more nuanced and systemic than knee-jerk reactions or mental illness. Fixing it will mean taking a hard look at the following six issues:
Self-control ceased to be a “thing” a long time ago-
I get that emotional repression is bad. I understand that it is critical we allow kids to express their feelings. I have no issues with respectful, polite forms of verbal expression. HOWEVER, I have to wonder if the opposite extreme we have landed on is really any healthier. Is it prudent to encourage kids to vent their aggression without some really firm boundaries, like respect for others? Should we really allow kids to scream, yell, hit and insult their parents and teachers in the name of averting emotional repression? It seems to me that there were fewer (like no) mass shootings back in the day when kids were expected to control themselves and disciplined for not.
Selfish adults do selfish things that inflict trauma on innocent kids sometimes the kids don’t recover-
Most mass shooters experience early childhood trauma (google it). The nature of childhood (and trauma) is such that it is pretty much impossible for a child to inflict trauma on him or herself. Parents who abuse drugs and alcohol, who are selfish, violent, neglectful and who put their own sexual gratification ahead of the needs of their children are the primary cause of childhood trauma. Traumatized girls are typically self-destructive, traumatized boys are just plain destructive. They take their rage and anger out on others including sometimes complete strangers. Unless there is a revolution in the expectations we have of parents in this country we will continue to see young men acting out in violence.
We have encouraged young men to sear their consciences with violent, sexualized entertainment-
A great deal has been said concerning mass shooters and violent video games. I see no need to belabor an already belabored point. However, video games are not our only problem. How about the spread of porn that combines sexuality and violence into a confusing, toxic, soul-twisting vortex of foulness? The Ohio shooter had a “rape list” as well as a “kill list”. He was also a regular consumer of pornography. The El Paso shooter reportedly spent a lot of time on the 8chan message board where sexual violence and misogyny are celebrated. When are we going to wake up to the fact that pornography is stripping us of our humanity? Wisdom recognizes that sometimes the rights of adults to see what they want to see needs to be curtailed in deference to the needs of children and society as a whole.
We have not taught children to fear God-
When God is discussed in our culture it is always in terms of love and grace. Love and grace are fundamental aspects of the Christian faith that should be taught. However, we have forgotten that good evangelization and biblical teaching carefully balances the concepts of judgment and grace. Without teaching on sin and judgment the reason for God’s grace lacks context. Without context we end up with a generation who sees God as nothing more than a feeble blessing machine who doesn’t really care what people do as long as they are happy (insert gagging noises here).
We have not given young men a vision or purpose-
Instead we tell young men (and women) that God is dead and life is meaningless. We tell them they are blobs of protoplasm with impulses and urges. We tell them it is natural to act on their urges and impulses because they have no greater purpose than self-actualization. Mass shootings are just one natural consequence of this folly.
Too many young men don’t have Dads and if they do the Dad is useless-
Nearly half (41%) of all babies are born to unwed Mothers. This is unacceptable on a million different levels and I mostly blame women. Wise, intelligent women do not have sex with men they barely know. Nor, do they have sex with men who have not proven they have the character to adequately parent the children they produce.
We have enshrined selfishness as a virtue-
The Democratic Socialist Convention got lost in the madness of this past week. I tuned in and what I saw was mostly just a carnival of narcissism and silliness. On one level it was actually kind of amusing. Privileged (mostly) white people spent a lot of time selfishly insisting that no one do or say anything that might possibly make them uncomfortable or hurt their feelings. I seriously doubt they accomplished anything of any significance. My take-away from what I saw is that too many kids in our culture have not been taught the virtue of self-denial. Nor have they been taught that feelings are far less relevant than facts. In the best situations these kids grow-up to enshrine their selfishness in silly political causes. In the worst situations these kids grow-up and think it’s acceptable to slaughter strangers. It’s tough to predict what will happen when you teach a child that selfishness is a virtue.
Everyone wants a “one and done” solution to the problem of gun violence. It will not happen. There is no single law that will fix the problem we have produced with our willful foolishness. Instead we have to do the hard work of changing how we raise our children.