Following every mass shooting in the United States., we hear the all-too-familiar condolences: “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” And we pray. But there’s a lingering sadness in that prayer. It calls to memory the concluding line in the refrain of the hymn “Great Judgment Morning,” written by Bertram Shadduck in 1894: “They prayed, but their prayer was too late.”
So why are we trapped in such a deadly cycle?
On one hand, we have those who point to guns — especially the high-powered, automatic weapons. They contend that guns, together with the National Rifle Association, are the culprits. “Guns kill people!” Unfortunately, in the hands of the morally depraved, so do planes, cars, knives, bats, pressure cookers, and a host of other inanimate objects commandeered from their usual innocuous purposes.
These are the folk who are convinced that if we trample all over the Second Amendment, we can solve the problem. Take away the guns, or severely restrict ownership, and “Presto! Problem solved!” Not only does this line of reasoning not solve the problem, but it could easily create a host of other issues.
Others, on the other hand, believe that the problem is mental illness. On the surface, that certainly seems to be a reasonable explanation. However, Elizabeth Van Brocklin writes the following: “It’s true that severe mental illness does appear in some mass killers. But to pin the blame for violence on mental health problems is misguided.” Continuing, Van Brocklin quotes Yu Lu, a postdoctoral research fellow in behavioral health and research at the University of Texas: “There are a lot of news reports and public perception about gun violence that link it with mental health. However, if you look at data, if you look at actual research, there’s minimal evidence supporting this claim.” (The Trace, March 9, “…Relationship Between Mental Illness and Gun Violence?”)
Van Brocklin’s article proceeds further, quoting psychiatrist Paul S. Appelbaum and sociologist Jeffrey W. Swanson, who wrote in 2010, “…the best available national data suggest that only 3–5 percent of violent acts are attributable to serious mental illness, and most of those acts do not involve guns.”
If, as suggested by the referenced data, legal gun ownership and the presence of mental illness play a minor role in such atrocities, then perhaps it’s time to consider another possibility. Alex Yablon wrote the following: “The Roster of America’s most notorious mass shooters is populated by young, angry men who regularly displayed antisocial behavior before they carried out attacks.” (The Trace, June 28, 2016, “Anger Is the Shared Fuel…”)
The question then begging an answer is this: Why are there so many young, angry men?
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president and one of the founders of the left-leaning Progressive Party (aka the Bull Moose Party), linked Biblical knowledge to education: “No educated man can afford to be ignorant of the Bible.” But the Roosevelt quote most apropos to the current discussion is this: “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” Forty-four years following Roosevelt’s death, the groundwork for the rising “menace” was laid.
In 1963, in the case of Abington School District v. Schempp, the U.S. Supreme Court in an 8-1 decision brought to an end Bible readings in public schools. Little did they realize then that their progressive thinking had “sown the wind,” and 50-plus years later, the country would “reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7)
On April 20, 1999, Darrell Scott lost his daughter, Rachel, in the Columbine High School attack. When he appeared before the U.S. House Judicial Committee a month later, on May 27, he summarized our nation’s spiritual deficit with a poem he wrote following Rachel’s death: “Your laws ignore our deepest needs / Your words are empty air / You’ve stripped away our heritage / You’ve outlawed simple prayer / Now gunshots fill our classrooms / And precious children die / You seek for answers everywhere / And ask the question, ‘Why?’ / You regulate restrictive laws / Through legislative creed / And yet you fail to understand / That God is what we need!”
M.K. Sprinkle writes from Hampstead.