Bernie Diaz, May 22, 2018
Just when the gun-control movement thought they had it all figured out in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting here in February – ‘just ban assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons and all will be well and students will be safe’ …..
Problem: mass murders are not exclusively committed with particular weapons as again evidenced by last week’s tragedy, in which a 17 year-old shooter and a student at a high-school in Santa Fe Texas, gunned down 20 plus victims, killing 10, among them students and teachers. His weapons of choice? A shotgun, such as the double-action kind that millions of law-abiding Americans safely use for hunting and self-defense purposes and a .38 caliber pistol. Those are not massive, high-powered automatic type weapons folks.
So, what now? Ban every gun or weapon in the United States (of which tens of millions are already in circulation)? Is that the ‘silver bullet’ or magic pill to curbing school campus violence? How will that happen? What about the second amendment of the U.S. constitution which permits gun ownership and is a right that has been affirmed again and again by even the most liberal of Supreme Courts?
This is not to say that local and state governments should sit idly by and do nothing to combat school violence. After all, airports, courthouses, public and private buildings have taken serious steps over the past few years to secure their buildings. Why shouldn’t school districts do the same?
As Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, a professing evangelical Christian said after this most recent event, “In the midst of such tragedy, we pray for the victims and those mourning in Santa Fe, while we work to ensure swift and meaningful action to protect our students in schools across our state.”
Pray and Work. As a wise theologian said many years ago, we of all people as disciples of Jesus Christ should, “Pray as if everything depends on God (which it does) and do as if everything depends on us.”
That said, we fallen and fleshly beings depend more than a bit too much on the latter effort.
Although there are many prudent steps that schools could take to better safeguard students nationwide (i.e. metal detectors and plenty of armed security), the greatest emphasis has been placed on legislating away guns or concentrating on mental health diagnosis and the sharing of background information.
While such actions are well-intended and a few may even be sensical, they are far from full-proof. While the Stoneman Douglas shooter from our local community, carried a load of red-flags pointing to mental health issues and dysfunctional behavior that was not properly dealt with by authorities, the Texas shooter and the Fed-ex package bomber for instance, came from relatively stable homes and environments and had not exhibited any significant, previous abnormal behavior that was documented.
At least one emerging pattern that has become evident from the recent epidemic of school shootings, is the ‘copycat problem.’ In a provocative post, Samuel D. James wrote, “… Literally hours after the deaths of 10 people, cable news outlets are promoting (yes, promoting) the alleged murderer’s Facebook profile, interviewing his classmates and friends, pasting his name atop the internet, and doing in-depth psychological profiles of his clothing and music.
Let’s face it: This stuff is either a ‘celebritization’ or else it’s a form of pornography, a soft-core concoction of tantalizing details and insinuations that titillate the imagination. Either way, this is a carb-rich media diet for desperate and violent men.”
Yes, let’s face it- people in America- youth in particular, love and want fame. According to one statistician, many young people want fame more than they want success, meaning, or even family.
Think about it, if you’re not the most physically or intellectually gifted young adult among your peers, or if you’re a lonely, rejected and isolated teenager in your community, what would be the best way to become infamous overnight? Audition for American Idol or commit a sensationally heinous act of mass murder that would ensure your name and face’s exposure to millions around the world? Doesn’t everybody know and remember the monsters among us?
Writer Malcom Gladwell hit on a key component of the “copycat” problem in 2015, when he argued that the Columbine high-school shooting in Colorado from 1997 changed the paradigm:
The first seven of the “major” modern school-shooting incidents were “disconnected and idiosyncratic.”
Then came Columbine. The sociologist Ralph Larkin argues that Harris and Klebold laid down the “cultural script” for the next generation of shooters. They had a Web site. They made home movies starring themselves as hit men. They wrote lengthy manifestos. They recorded their “basement tapes.” Their motivations were spelled out with grandiose specificity: Harris said he wanted to “kick-start a revolution.” Larkin looked at the twelve major school shootings in the United States in the eight years after Columbine, and he found that in eight of those subsequent cases the shooters made explicit reference to Harris and Klebold. Of the eleven school shootings outside the U. S. between 1999 and 2007, Larkin says six were plainly versions of Columbine; of the eleven cases of thwarted shootings in the same period, Larkin says all were Columbine-inspired.
Here’s Gladwell’s chilling conclusion:
In the day of Eric Harris, we could try to console ourselves with the thought that there was nothing we could do, that no law or intervention or restrictions on guns could make a difference in the face of someone so evil. But the riot has now engulfed the boys who were once content to play with chemistry sets in the basement. The problem is not that there is an endless supply of deeply disturbed young men who are willing to contemplate horrific acts. It’s worse. It’s that young men no longer need to be deeply disturbed to contemplate horrific acts.
According to early reports, there are indications that the Texas shooter engaged in behavior that sounds eerily like the Columbine shooting. He allegedly was regularly wearing a trench coat to school and his choice of weapons and explosives looked like the hallmarks of the Colorado massacre. In thinking about Columbine and Santa Fe, I can connect dots to Gladwell’s essay.
Therefore, another practical step that could perhaps stem the tide of this wave of school shootings is to de-personalize the criminal to the extent that his name would not be mentioned in the mainstream media in effect removing some of the copycat’s motive to commit the crime.
However, whatever the treatment may be, Gladwell points to the fact we are still dealing largely with young men in the grip of a terrible infection, with no cure in sight. Or is there?
Once we come to grips as some officials already have with the idea that these acts are inherently evil, only then can we begin to deal long-term in the cure of this violent infection, which is the eradication of evil itself.
In fact, a recently published interview with the brother of the Parkland shooter – who apparently is an unbeliever, confirmed the notion I hold to that such despicable acts of evil are influenced or tempted by the enemy of our souls.
Zachary, the shooter’s older brother, described a sibling who self-admittedly was wracked with demonic oppression and was unable to overcome his opponent of demonic warfare; “He was listening to music really loud,” Zachary said. “He said something about demons. I hate saying it but I shrugged it off.”
Obviously, the acknowledgement of man’s depravity and a world of evil, implies the spiritual dimension of life and is not a place in which mainstream media is willing to go. As Christians with a biblical worldview, we know better (Matt 10:1; Lu. 8:2).
According to a recent newspaper article, a guardian of the Parkland shooter noticed that his behavior became increasingly bizarre, almost as if “possessed,” she said. “He lost it. He went through a phase. He got crazy. Got weird, cold, distant; his face got mean,” she added. “Someone took over.”
Around Christmas of last year, shortly after his adopted mother’s death, the shooter began to act out in new ways according to the guardian, “He began making demon noises through the night. It lasted a few days”. She spoke of something like the sound of a dark, screeching, squealing horse that would echo through their trailer home. “Me and my mom were so afraid that we slept together, blocked the door with the dresser, machete in hand,” she said. “His fascination with demons continued to grow.”
Whereas such testimony may not be conclusive, it is nonetheless informative and compelling for those that know that the heart of man as the prophet Jeremiah said, is, “deceitful and desperately wicked.”
Being that our world is cursed and infected by sin and evil (Ro. 5:12; 8:22) until Jesus returns to restore and redeem his creation, what then are we to pray and do about school shootings?
Working backwards, we understand the need to take common-sense steps or initiatives that better safeguard our children at school that do not infringe on the rights of people to protect themselves. That’s doing. That course of action though, is fraught with rhetorical and legislative landmines.
For Christians who understand the kingdom of God and heaven, as well as the great commission, we understand that now more than ever is the time to introduce people to the person and gospel of Jesus Christ, as the only way, truth and life and that can transform a demonically oppressed if not possessed killer, into a repentant, forgiven and born-again child of God.
Now is the time for the real American church of Christ to kneel down and ask for a movement of the Holy Spirit that will capture the hearts and minds of Christians to pray and undertake the armor of spiritual warfare on the behalf of others and those that are lost and trapped in a world filled with evil manifest in mass murder (Eph. 6:10-20). That’s praying and God talk.
May God begin to wield his cure to rid this world of the infection of evil by growing his kingdom and church in a fresh way. Let’s Pray and do.