In light of something as horrible as the Sandy Hook shooting, it’s not surprising that people want to know the reasons why something like this happened — presumably so they can prevent it from happening again. Shortly after the shooting, Mike Huckabee made some comments about a cause that received no small amount of attention and criticism, including some from CAPC’s very own Alan Noble.
And now, Ted Baehr and Tom Snyder — the folks behind Movieguide, a popular movie review site that has received criticism in the past for reviewing and ranking movies according to various criteria including “Anti-capitalism, anti-wealth, politics of envy”, “Anti-patriotism or anti-Americanism”, and “Evolutionary worldview or elements” — have chimed in with their thoughts as to what caused Adam Lanza to murder twenty young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary. In a piece titled “Rejection of Faith, Values Leads to Social Mayhem and Murder in Newtown”, they write:
We doubt if we will ever get a definitive answer, especially one that satisfies all people, or even most people. As God Himself says in Genesis 8:21, “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (all of the mass shooters seem to be men).
However, we urge everyone to consider this answer:
By removing God, the Bible, God’s Law, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit from society, including the mass media and the schools, we are raising generations of people with no faith in God or Jesus and, hence, no moral conscience, and no self-control. If so many people have no faith, no moral conscience and no self-control, then it’s no wonder our society is suffering from all these mass murders by evil lone gunmen.
Without God, without faith and values, we are just soulless meat machines who can kill without mercy. Apparently, that’s how too many of our fellow citizens have reacted lately.
Such statements make for good sound bites, but at best, they come across as incredibly condescending to our non-Christian neighbors.
Is it really the case that if someone lacks faith in Jesus, that they have “no moral conscience” and “no self-control”? Is it really so clear and easy to draw a line from our nation’s declining faith in God to mass murders? And if that’s really the case, how does one account for the fact that violent crime has decreased over the last five years, and murders have dropped significantly in the last decade — all while our nation has been apparently becoming increasingly godless?
Not only are such statements demeaning to our non-Christian neighbors, they also smack of self-righteousness. Baehr and Snyder reference Romans 2:29 as proof that “people become good and do the right thing only when their hearts, or their conscience or inner souls, are at least partly sanctified, cleansed, redeemed, and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.” They seem to have forgotten the opening verses of Romans 2, however.
Romans 1 contains a litany of sins and iniquities that provoke God’s righteous wrath, including envy, murder, deceit, and gossip, with perhaps the most egregious sin being the rejection of God despite His revealed aspects in creation itself (Romans 1:18-23). Indeed, Romans 1 rises to a fevered pitch as it continues, pounding home the evil of those who reject God. And then we come to Romans 2, and one of the great twists in Scripture. Here, Paul writes:
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man — you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself — that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
Paul immediately turns the tables on those who might read Romans 1 and want to pass judgment on those that it describes, for the accusers are just as guilty as the accused. In other words, the scandal of the Bible is that, but for the grace of God, professing Christians are just as capable of vicious, wicked acts as anyone. (Witness the various church-related sex scandals in recent years.) And to sit in judgment of the world from a place of self-righteousness, to place ourselves outside of that sphere of potential wickedness is presumptuous. As Solzhenitsyn wrote:
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains… an unuprooted small corner of evil.
Should the tragedy at Sandy Hook lead to a call for repentance and humility? Absolutely… but let it begin with the House of the Lord. Should there be discussions about the role that media can play in affecting culture, in shaping our hearts and minds? Absolutely… but let’s not operate under the false pretense that, because we Christians profess faith in Christ, we are incapable of being “soulless meat machines” — or that our non-Christian neighbors, because they’ve rejected Christ, are incapable of being anything but.