Monday, December 17, 2012

What's wrong with us? Why another mass murder?

I don’t purpose to understand or know all the details of what to do concerning the shootings in Newtown, CT. I surely don’t have anything to say that would help those who lost love ones. With them I can only mourn and grieve. Interestingly the politicians and news programs immediately focus on gun controls and regulations. What is driving this line of thought? In my opinion it is, in a word, “Emotions.” It’s a very dangerous thing when we start talking about making laws when driven by emotions. Not that those emotions are bad, because they are not, but laws are made based on reason, responsibility, and accountability.

Two things are brought to mind with viewing all the news media’s response to this tragedy. Humanly we are always looking for someone or something to blame. Are guns to blame? In my thinking, no! More people die in drunken driving accidents every month than the worse mass shooting event. There are, on average, 18 children killed every month by drunk drivers. Do we blame the vehicles or vehicle makers? Do we try to make laws to ban or regulate vehicles so drunk drivers won’t or can’t have access to them? No! There have been more laws and stricter laws passed against drunk drivers. Has it helped? Maybe. Have we absolutely been able to protect our children? No! All the news talk shows on Sunday morning are all talking about gun control. This is the easy out in my opinion. It is the political thing to do. It is the emotional thing to do. It makes us feel like we are doing something to help.

The second thing that comes to mind is we as Americans want a guarantee of safety for our children and ourselves. Yet, there is no such thing as absolute safety. For instance, though it is a relative thought, parents in Israel send their children to school every morning not knowing if a car bomb, suicide boomer, or by some other Arab means their children will be kill. They live in this tension of constant stress every day without blaming the bomb, vehicle, or other tools used to perpetrate such horrible acts. The blame is placed upon the person and culture that produces the reasoning behind the acts of violence. We, too, need to place responsibility and accountability where is belongs. It is a cliché but the truth is guns don’t kill people. People kill people. They may use guns, box cutters, airplanes, fertilizer, vehicles, or some other tool but make no mistake it is ultimately a person behind the tool that uses it to murder.

Allow me to voice my opinion on what we face as a nation and purpose a ‘why’ for these acts of mass murders we have seen an increase in over the past decade. I do not believe we have a gun problem or even a mental illness problem. What we have is a cultural problem. As a believer and follower of Christ, I ultimately will come to a conclusion that what we have is a spiritual problem. As Mike Huckabee said “We have a sin problem.” That is the root of the problem. But that is a problem we have always had. So why do we see these types of mass murders increase?

In my lifetime, I was born in 1957, there has been a significant cultural shift. At some point over the past 55 years we have a culture where there are more people who do not attend a Christian type church than there are people who do attend a Christian type church. Religious activity such as going to church is not what prevents mass murders but it can create a culture where there is a respect for life. The Christian message has always emphasized the ultimate highest value of human life. The Gospel message is that Christ died for humanity to have life and have it abundantly. In true Christianity there is a message that enthrones and encourages respect for life and of others. As America becomes more and more populated by people who less and less attend Christian churches the less and less we have a population that values and respects Christian virtues. I specifically say Christian churches and not just Religion because radical religious fervor, whether in the name of Christ or other dogmatism, produces fanaticism that does not have value and respect for life and others. Religion produces a disturbed rationale where the end justifies the means. True Christianity is more about the means and willing to leave the results up to a sovereign God.

The true Christian message fosters a culture that desires the need to know and care for our neighbors. A culture where there is a respect for and acceptance of other. It campaigns for a culture that cultivates and teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We have lost the culture where true Christian values are present and propagated by the majority. I do not believe that Biblically there is such a thing as a Christian Nation but there is such a thing as a Nation where Christians have a significant influence. In America, Christians have lost this influence. Christians have bought the lie that since Christianity is personal it should not have any weight in the public square. Our culture is now living out the propaganda of those who have forced on society that we need to separate the State FROM the church.

There are times recorded in history where communities experienced such spiritual revival that the crime rate dropped so much that the police had nothing to do. What we now have in America is the opposite of that revival spirit. We have more and more turning their backs on the true Christian faith and message as they reject the religious rules and rituals of misguided religion. They've thrown the baby out with the bath water.

Ours is a culture that has not only encouraged mothers to leave the home and become significant by working in a career but has forced families to become a two wage earner family in order to maintain the middle-class lifestyle they desire. Greed has endorsed a society of debt that allows us to bury ourselves under plastic money that binds us to the past and robs us of future potential. Our culture has been fooled into believing that we can exchange our personal attention to our children with giving them “things.” The family culture of America has been torn apart with the disintegration of the loving bond of matrimony. The virtue of loyalty to and support for one’s own family has been greatly subverted. The concept of true, happy, lasting love has been destabilized and has robbed our culture of the dream for marriage and family. The first and second generations of children that have had to suffer through the pain of divorce are the ones perpetuating these mass murder acts on society. The ones who actually perform these mass murders may not have been from a divided family but our culture over all carries this pain. The first and second generations of “latch key kids” are the ones who are perpetuating these mass murder acts on society. Again, the ones who preformed these acts may not have been a “latch key kid” but our society carries the emotional effects. Could there be a connection between the dissolution of the family and the increase of these violent acts?

Another cultural change that has come about because of the loss of significant Christian influence is one where the value of life is determined by a humanistic society rather than a Holy God. Is it a coincidence that the value of life has been greatly diminished since 1973 in the legalization of abortion? We mourn and grieve the killing of 20 children while we celebrate the legal right to kill millions in the name of freedom, a woman’s right over her own body. In our society the value of human life is determined and displayed by financial income. The wealth we bestow upon certain professions and the lack of wealth we bestow upon other professions says a lot about who we are as a culture. Look at what we pay those who keep and teach our children verses those who entertain us. The ultimate end of a profession is no longer to benefit society but to accumulate wealth. Serving our fellow man is commonly placed behind ‘what’s in it for me.’ Selfishness and self-centeredness has replaced serving and sharing.

There has been a cultural change in our education system where we don’t allow conversations about God, morals, responsibility, patriotism, and accountability. This has advanced a culture where individual rights have trumped the good of society. As society has become less and less “churched” the values that teachers have brought into the classroom are more and more those espoused by the humanistic education system rather than the church. Teachings that elevate humanism, situation ethics, gender neutral sex education, along with other secular adopted positions has replaced accountability to God, morals that benefit society (i.e. The Ten Commandments), personal responsibility, and proud America patriotism. Because of a few who failed the system we no longer give authority in the classroom to the teacher but we still want to hold them responsible for what goes on in the classroom. The idea of discipline in school has become a bad thing and we wonder why our young people have no respect for authority. Without authority and discipline there is removed the boundaries that develop the ability for self-control. Emotions need boundaries and without discipline those emotions become unbalanced. We say of those who do these horrible acts that they are unbalanced, that they have mental and emotional problems. Part of the reason for this unbalance is that almost all discipline that teaches a balance to those emotions has been removed in society. Respect for authority has been compromised. Respect for positions of authority like teachers, police, and adults in general are a thing of a past culture. A culture where there were guns but not mass murders.

Another cultural illness symptom in our society is in an entertainment industry that glorifies violence. From our sports to our movies there is a glorifying of violence. We have at least one generation that is now under 40 that has been desensitized to killings, death, and violence. There is less compassion, empathy, and sympathy. I think in this, the news media must take some responsibility. Our instant information age has made it possible for us to know every detail about these news events as they become available. This obsession for instant visual dispersing of information has in many ways spread the idea of becoming famous by doing something horrific. Along with the news media the movie industry has done an unbelievable job at making things look real on the big screen and emphasizing it by showing it. In the Westerns of old, that I use to watch as an adolescent, had killing, death, and violence in them but most of the actualizing of it was left to the imagination. It wasn't shown. As our culture has become less and less influenced by Christian values it has become more and more saturated by the values of Hollywood. What we are reaping now are children, adolescents, and young adults who are disciples of Hollywood rather than disciples of Christ.

In my thoughts about culture, there is a cultural problem in our justice system. Not very often is justice served swiftly, severely, and substantially. Violent offenders should not have rights after they are proven guilty. Prison shouldn't be a place just below an extended stay at a health and fitness resort. Punishment should be swift, severe, and significant to the crime. Our justice system has become unbalanced. Our laws have evolved to favor the guilty rather than producing justice for the victim. Our legal system has lost its ability to deter violent crime by a culture that lost the understanding of the purpose of the death penalty. Our culture has produced prisons that are overflowing with criminals that have more rights than many of their victims. The legal culture of America takes those who have been found guilty of sexually violating the bodies of children and places them back in communities where they can do it again. We grieve the emotional trauma of those who survived in Newtown while all across America are countless more children who suffer emotional trauma from sexual assault of repeat offenders. Our culture has an eschewed view of justice.

Finally, we have created a political culture where Americans expect government to “fix” all the problems of our culture. Government has become bigger and bigger. Legislators pass more and more laws that fail to provide and protect us from ourselves. Our culture is such that every time there is an incident we put pressure on our politicians to do something to prevent it from happening again. Yet, our cultural problems continue to escalate. Government is not the answer. Not only is it not the answer but it has become part of the problem. Our political culture has evolved into a system where the majority of the people, especially those under 40 years of age, believe it to be corrupt and void of their influence. In our culture politician is a dirty word. Most believe the government is no longer, as President Abraham Lincoln said “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Most Americans believe that politicians are corrupt. Most believe that politicians serve the government (themselves) rather than serving the people. Being a politician is seen to be more of a career choice than a choice to serve one’s country. The culture of our young adults has lost complete confidence in our government to keep available the opportunity to achieve the American Dream and have turned more and more to the government to provide the American Dream. Our culture has lost hope and when hope is lost disillusionment, despair, and detestation turns into violence.

There is no way that history can deny that our Founding Fathers were driven with a Biblical awareness. Our Constitution was written with a Biblical influence. Our laws were formulated from a Biblical understanding. That is not to say that all our Founding Fathers were Christian or that they even believed in the Bible. Our Founders were wise enough that they didn't force the Bible and their beliefs upon their fellow countrymen. There is a separation of church and state. But there is the recognition that there is a church and a state. With that recognition there was a principled foundation that was built upon. And that foundation was principles gleamed from the Bible. One of the primary principles established was in limiting the role of Government in ruling over the people. The Constitution, Articles, Bill of Rights, inalienable rights, separation of powers, republic, democracy, property ownership, and other principles all point to a limiting role of government in the lives of its people. So, in light of this and the cultural problems I've identified let’s take a look at the Second Amendment.

There is a reason that it is Second. The First is the guarantee of freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceable assembly, and petitioning the government. Second only to the First is the right to keep and bear Arms. It has been well debated and further defined that this right is not defined by or diminished by a well regulated Militia. From our Founding Fathers of whose names, papers, arguments, and debates have been preserved the Second Amendment Right was not just for the purpose of hunting and recreational shooting. Its purpose was to provide a defense for oneself, one’s family, one’s property, and one’s freedom from the tyranny of governments, from the assailants, and from those who are determined to commit crimes.

As the Second Amendment comes under attack because of horrific mass murders such as the one we see in Newtown, CT let us remember what Thomas Jefferson said, "On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." 12 Jun 1823 (The Complete Jefferson p.32) The Second Amendment was established to guarantee Americans the right that they could mass and bear arms as a deterrent.

Now you ask, “Why do we need weapons that can spit countless numbers of bullets in seconds?” “Why do we need semi-automatic military style rifles and handguns?” “What purpose do these types of weapons, meant for the battle field, have in the hands of the common man?” To these questions I remind of the words of Noah Webster, "A people can never be deprived of their liberties, while they retain in their own hands, a power sufficient to any other power in the state." The reason these type of weapons are needed in the hands of peaceable Americans is that we need a “power sufficient” to those who would do us harm. If we chip away at this Amendment of freedom we weaken the defense of freedom.

I will consent that laws to somehow legalize the ability to mass and bear arms may be helpful to some extent. Laws can never be the complete answer and can never provide complete safety. To ban some arms under the pretense of protecting the public is only a restriction of the power of the people to protect themselves from those that would infringe upon their right to freedom. In the ole adage, it restricts us to bringing a knife to a gun fight. I agree with Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert on Fox News Sunday when he said about the Principle of Newtown's Elementary School, “I wish to God she would have had an M4 in her office locked up, so when she heard gunfire she pulls it out and she didn't have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, But she takes him out, takes his head off before he could kill those precious kids.”

Our cultural problems have easily lead Americans to allow the minority to rule over the majority. We see a surge in killings where weapons with the ability of mass murdering capability have been used and compassionately we desire to do something to prevent another one from happening. Politically our first response is to make those types of arms illegal. This recourse gives us the emotional satisfaction that we have done something. Yet, in the vein of the saying of frustration, “Do something even if it is the wrong thing”, gun bans and more gun control is the wrong thing. To that I leave you with words from James Madison, Jr., "I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." To try to absolutely ban certain types of arms for reason of the criminal, the mentally incapacitated, or those who are irresponsible with such weapons is, in my opinion, a gradual and silent encroachment in the abridgment of the fundamental rights of our freedom. It is allowing the minority to rule over the majority. With the rights of millions of peaceful, respectful, responsible gun owners across America being threatened, bans and more gun control is not the answer to our problems.

Yes, we need to do something but the something we need to do will probably be much harder than to just pass another law against something. We must admit that what we have is, not a gun problem, but a culture problem. What we must do is look in the mirror and say as Walt Keller in his Pogo comic strip, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

(Coming later this week: How we can help.)

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