Horrific Shootings are the Symptom...the Heart is the Cause

James Gottry

The unthinkable happened…again. Pain and fear has struck the hearts of the American people, and the reverberations are sweeping our nation…again.

Two deadly shootings last weekend are two too many. Every American can agree—these tragedies need to stop. But the agreement ends there. Prayers are offered, but unbelievably they are condemned. Some politicians earnestly renew the call for gun control and "assault weapon bans," while others staunchly oppose such measures. The debate rages on, while the families of the victims mourn their loved ones and the families of the shooters try to come to grips with what went wrong. And collectively, we all wait for what comes next. 

Something must change. 

I am not suggesting a particular legislative solution, nor am I taking a position on gun control legislation or the scope of the Second Amendment. But I am proposing that we demand that our elected officials—those men and women who have the responsibility to represent "we the people"—stop drawing lines in the sand and start working together to address this issue. These are complicated matters, and any soundbite solution being offered is neither serious enough nor substantive enough. This is not a time to posture on television. We need our politicians to prioritize results over reelection. Lives hang in the balance.

In the meantime, Christians must do more than just wait. We must even do more than pray (though we must continue to pray earnestly). We must act—taking the initiative to offer hope and help within our homes and our communities. 

Our society has increasingly embraced a culture of violence and death. We have celebrated all manner of brutality in film, acted it out in video games, and endorsed it in our public and political discourse. We have also demonstrated through word and deed that human life is not sacred. Unborn children are killed through subsidized "health care." When our family members, neighbors, and those in our communities become too old, too confused, too diseased, or too burdensome, we offer them options to kill themselves in the name of "death with dignity." It's only a matter of time before these "options" become obligations. 

In our homes, we've exchanged conversation for electronic consumption. Family time is sacrificed in favor of ear buds and social media. And marriage and parenting have become expendable commodities—we engage until it no longer suits us, and then we break our vows (calling it "conscious uncoupling") in pursuit of personal fulfillment.

With this cultural backdrop, it should not surprise us to hear tales of troubled shooters who are often angry, isolated, or disillusioned. Many come from difficult family situations, have endured abuse or bullying, and suffer from mental health problems. Removing guns will not cure what ails our society. Yes, we should consider how we can remove weapons from the hands of troubled and dangerous individuals, but we must realize the limitations. Such an endeavor, even if successful, may temporarily disarm the growing despair and anger, but it will not cure it. We must go further.

Change starts in our own homes. Parents must be active in the lives of their children. This is absolutely critical. Harvard Sociologist Robert Sampson has written that "Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States." Heritage Foundation's Emilie Kao notes that, "[a]mong the 25 most-cited school shooters since Columbine, 75 percent were reared in broken homes." The facts are unavoidable. Please understand—there are many amazing single parents doing an exemplary job of raising their children, and we should recognize and celebrate their commitment and sacrifice. But there is no substitute for an involved mother and father. 

Outside our homes, we must also bring a message of hope to our communities, our schools, and places of business. We also can come alongside the families and children who need emotional, physical, or financial support. We can offer hope by pointing to the Giver of life. We can introduce them—through word and deed—to a God who offers hope and a future, even in the midst of evil, and even when He doesn't appear to make sense.

We can disagree about guns, but let's agree on one thing: the problem begins with what's in the heart, not what's in the hands. Regardless of any law, without hope, there will continue to be violence and precious lives lost. We need to have serious conversations about the best ways to promote the safety of all Americans, but if we can change what is in our hearts, maybe what's in our hands won't matter quite so much.

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