If only it were as simple as gun-control.
There is something far more troubling and sinister about mass shootings than the availability of firearms. If you want to fix this problem you have to look at the killers a whole lot more than the instrument they are using to kill. And it doesn’t seem like anyone is willing to do it.
What kind of a person is nonchalant about taking the lives of people he hasn’t even met who haven’t done anything to him (outside of the geopolitics of war)? What kind of people don’t even have a fleeting thought about the lives they are ending and the indescribable pain they are causing their victims’ family and friends (as well as their own families and friends!)?
We seem to draw comfort from labeling mass shooters, serial killers, and mass murderers as “sociopaths” (people without a conscience). Comfort? Yes. We’d like to believe that sociopaths are the exception rather than the rule. It happens but it’s not the norm. Perhaps. But I would suggest it is fast becoming the norm.
How many times have you been grocery shopping and two people were carrying on a conversation in the middle of the aisle and seemed oblivious to you though you know they could see you standing there waiting to get by? How many times have you been on your way to school or work and someone whipped out in front of you and then puttered along at about 10 mph slower than you were going? How many times have you seen one or two parents ruin everybody’s night screaming about the officiating at the game? How many times have you seen a Facebook post or a tweet on Twitter that was wholly devoid of decency (to the person it was aimed at as well as everyone else who saw it)?
These things (and much worse) happen every day of the week nowadays. And the common thread between them all is the complete indifference to others that is on full unapologetic display. People. Don’t. Care.
Drunk drivers do not give one whit of concern for all the people they are putting at risk when they get behind the steering wheel. Neither do all the myriads of people who think their text message is more important than anyone else’s well-being while driving. In politics, liberals could care less about the suffering their policies cause people. Abortionists don’t give a second thought to the carnage they inflict on others. They joke about it.
We are in the midst of an epidemic of narcissism and yet somehow we think gun control will save us from the sociopaths among us. I’ve got news for you. If you think we can reign in a handful of sociopathic shooters with some gun control legislation in Washington, D.C. you clearly don’t know the scope of the problem. Everyone who doesn’t care about anyone but themselves is a potential sociopath and is a potential mass murderer because the soil that cultivates the sociopath is enriched with a lack of concern for others.
Concentration camp survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel said,
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference.
It is startling that the Christian church in America seems to have had so little effect on stemming the onslaught of narcissism/apathy/indifference. It’s certainly not like caring for others is some peripheral or background issue in the Bible. Ruth, Esther, Rahab, and all the prophets teach the lesson in the Old Testament that others matter. And certainly, Jesus and the apostles made it clear over and over again that love is sacrificial. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is a stark contrast between the indifference of both the priest and Levite and the empathetic compassion of the Samaritan. The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), the royal law (James 2:8), and the warning to the Laodicean church against their apathy (Revelation 3:14-22) are just some of the more well-known passages about the fundamental and foundational expectation in the kingdom of God to consider others.
It is not merely implicit either. Paul wrote,
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
How much more plain can it be?
There are a lot of reasons our nation is so sick and fractured. But it all really comes down to our national insistence that we don’t need God to take care of ourselves. And if we don’t need God, there are a lot of others we don’t need as well.
Mass shootings are merely the end of a long line of circumstances that begins with not loving our neighbor. Love is a much-maligned word these days, I know. In the English language, we use the same word to describe our feelings for our spouse and our pet. Something is a bit off with that. There is much that can be said about love from a biblical and covenantal perspective, but that is really not the point in a blog probing into what can be done about mass shootings.
Let me just say this about mass shootings, our culture, the church, and love. At a bare minimum (no matter what else it does mean) love means acknowledging others. It means moving over if you're carrying on a conversation in the middle of the grocery store aisle so another shopper can get by without having to ask you to do so. It means acknowledging that you are not alone on the streets and highways and you owe it to everyone else out there to not drive inebriated and to put your cell phone down, for everyone’s sake. It means realizing that you and your kid aren’t the only ones at the ballpark. It means that it matters to others how your words come across when you type your status on Facebook or reply to someone’s tweet on Twitter.
Don’t see the connection yet between this and mass shootings? What if we changed the context of the culture so that it wasn’t rooted in narcissism and there was a light that shone into the darkened lives of those who have been conditioned to think that since they don’t matter to anyone, no one matters to them?
Maybe you think this is ridiculous. The reality, however, is that everything happens in a context. We have become a society where no one matters outside of my circle. When you bathe in that kind of indifference every day of your life, then to borrow from the Elie Wiesel quote above, hate, ugliness, heresy, and even death become the norm.
The job of Christ’s church on earth is not to save people. God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) alone has made provision for that. Our job is to provide a context for salvation and eternal life. We are the good soil meant to nurture and provide the opportunity for that seed to respond to the miraculous work of God.
The hidden horror of the mass shootings is that along with those who don’t know better, it’s been us (the churchgoers) taking up the whole aisle in the grocery store not caring about the person wanting to get by. It’s been us drinking or texting and driving not caring about all the lives we were putting at risk. It’s been us who haven’t voted because Jesus wasn’t on the ballot. We knew what kind of policies the liberals and progressives were going to put in place but we didn’t care. It’s been us who have allowed the slaughter of tens of millions of unborn babies (“it’s not my daughter so who cares?”). No, churchgoers aren’t responsible for mass shootings. However, we are responsible for contributing to the context of culture that ultimately provides the shooters with their lack of concern for others.
Passing gun control legislation will not even dent the problem of mass shootings. We have to change the context of our culture. And that is precisely what the church is here for. More and more Christians are ready to fight the good fight but it begins with loving our neighbor by at least acknowledging his/her existence. Moving over. Yielding. Counting others as more significant than ourselves and looking to the interests of others. That is God’s way of retaking America for Christ. I hope you help get it started.