Whither we are tending …

America has suffered a series of terrible tragedies in the past 20 years.

This is a recent feature of our American history.

We went for over two hundred years without facing the insanity of repetitive mass murders of innocent civilians in public places by socially inept angry young men. There have been incidents of mass violence throughout our history, including at least one school bombing in the 1920s.

But the present-day phenomena of one shooter killing people one after the other for no reason began with the clock tower at the University of Texas back in the 1960s. There was a decades-long lull between that atrocity and the next one. Now, they are occurring at shorter and shorter intervals.

What has changed in our national psychology that we have become a people who are living in fear of mass-murdering social misfits?

That is the first question we need to ask about this problem. It would be a huge mistake to come up with a solution without first working out exactly what the problem is that we are trying to solve.

I don’t want to contribute to the word-salad propagandizing that passes for commentary these days. I honestly think that this behavior on the part of people in the media has contributed to this problem. I believe emphatically that it has contributed to the fractured, unthinking way we respond to things. This needs to stop. We the people need to start thinking things through for ourselves.

I’m going to run through the various questions that have been raised by those who are proposing solutions. I’m also going to add some observations of my own. But what I am not going to do is try to whip you up into a froth of emotion. I also will not tolerate those who try to use the com boxes to do that. I want intelligent discussion, not ugly bizarreness.

This is a Christian blog. It’s purpose is to equip Christians to deal effectively with the challenges we face and to be fruitful witnesses for Jesus. That will be our focus.

This is all I’m going to say about whither we are tending today. We aren’t going to find a solution for this problem in a day. Or a week. Unless the President does something unilateral, it will be a slow and contentious process to get anything done at all. We not only need to spend some time thinking, praying and talking this through; we are required by circumstance to let it sit for a while.

All these pundits who push, push, push at controversial issues are doing it because controversy raises their ratings. This has become such an exaggerated, all-consuming focus with many of them that they focus on controversy at the expense of the facts or of fairness. This harms all of us.

I’m going to begin tomorrow with a discussion of changes in the past quarter century which I feel might have contributed to this problem. I’m really interested to what you think is creating this problem.

Then, I’ll list the various ideas people have for reform in government. However, I am convinced that the solution to this problem is not something we can achieve by just passing laws. We need to look at more than legislative changes.

We are going to take a break for Christmas. And then begin again in the New Year. I will also begin the series I was writing on how government works again after the New Year.

Before we do anything, I think we should all take this to the Lord in prayer. I know that I am going to.

  • Bill S

    “What has changed in our national psychology that we have become a people who are living in fear of mass-murdering social misfits?”

    The loss of fear of eternal punishment? Maybe that was enough of a deterrent. I don’t believe in an afterlife but I would feel a lot safer if certain people did. Kids today are not indoctrinated in this belief. They believe, as I do, that when you die you simply cease to exist. Some people adapt well to that belief but are still considerate of others. Others see it as license to do anything you want. We need those people to drink the Kool-Aid and believe.

    • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

      I don’t know, Bill. Nowadays, psychopaths have religions available (or rather, small sub-cults of major religions) which would allow them to mass-murder and even get an enhanced heavenly reward because of it.

      • Bill S

        I know, Dave, that is also a problem. I think we both might be a little off track on this one. One possible explanation that has been raised by someone who knew Adam and Nancy Lanza well was that Nancy was seeking court approval to have Adam committed and he found out about it (or maybe she told him). She had been a volunteer teacher for some of the murdered children when they were in kindergarten. Adam felt that she loved them more than him and took out his revenge on all concerned. In any case, there was severe mental illness there. Maybe, had he been religious, he might not have done what he did or maybe he would have chosen another target like a mosque or an abortion clinic (as someone from my church did years ago).

        • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

          That’s an interesting possibility, but the main thing I fault the mom for is that she didn’t take enough care to make sure the guns were secured. My friend has some guns and bought a safe for them just because some friends of his teenagers were coming over to the house when he wasn’t there. That’s prudent. If she had an inkling that her son was mentally off (and she did), those guns should have been secured to the extreme.

          Now, the kid is described as a mad genius, so maybe they were secured and he found a way around that, but that doesn’t sound like it was the case from what I’ve heard so far.

  • Laura

    As an American patriot, I wish I didn’t have to write this– but as an honest student of American history, I feel like I must: public mass murders are not a recent phenomenon. There have been over 3,500 (and probably closer to 5,000) lynchings in the US, most of those done openly and left totally unpunished. There were even speeches given in favor of lynching on the floor of the US Senate! Not to mention “Birth of a Nation”, perhaps the first “blockbuster” movie ever in the US, which propagandized in favor of it. But that’s not all: we have the ugly traditions of the “blood feuds” between families, atrocities and counter-atrocities between settlers and Native Americans, mob and gang violence (many different races and ethnicities well represented) even now, and the mass crimes done by the military overseas (from the Philippine occupation onward). The main difference I see is that, in the past, antisocial misfits (violent or not) were pushed out of society to the “Wild West” to fend for themselves, or forced into the Army and sent overseas, or allowed to take out their aggression against a particular group of people. Now, there is no “Wild West” to flee to (with the possible exception of Alaska) and the angry misfits stay and stew– we can’t pretend not to see what they’re doing. And the media hype takes what would have been a shocking local story 50 years ago and blares it to the world; but that doesn’t make it a trend, or a new phenomenon, or a sign of anything to come.

    I can’t tell you how much it hurts my heart to write that. But it is the truth, and we can’t make smart choices about our priorities and policies if we don’t realize that. And there are very, very serious drawbacks to every feasible path forward from here (including doing nothing). I will be praying for all of our officials, in every State, for wisdom and prudence in writing and executing our laws and regulations.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Laura, I’m aware of all this. I am referring to the specific phenomena of an Aurora/Sandy Hook type mass shooting by a single deranged individual acting alone. You are referring to societally approved murder in which a group of people is considered unworthy of a basic right to life. We have that too. It’s called legal abortion.

      • Bill S

        Comparisons of abortion victims to masacre or holocaust victims overlook the agonizing sense of loss experienced by those left behind. Ask the parents which they would prefer, a miscarriage/abortion or the loss of a 6 or 7 year old. It’s really all about the people left behind that have to suffer the loss. In either case, the victims can no longer suffer. It is the survivors that need consoling and understanding. I know this from personal experience, as probably many of us do for one reason or another.

  • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

    I haven’t thought through this yet either but, what I see at first glance of the trend line is that it parallels two others. These would be the rise of entitlements which suggests a rise in dependency, and also the rise in what for lack of a better term I will call (please understand what I mean, not what it sounds like) happy-clappy Christianity rather than the old prepare for judgement day when you approach God in fear, that had served us so well for millenia,

    • Bill S

      The fear of God has been a deterrent for all kinds of misdeeds. I don’t mean fear in terms of awe, but fear of punishment, if not in this life, in the next. I don’t believe there ever was any justification for that kind of fear and people like popes, parents and nuns used it as a means of controlling people. But, in that it works when people believe in it, I am all for it. I consider myself a good person who doesn’t have to be enticed or scared into doing the right thing. But I think there are people out there that need to believe in the whole reward and punishment spiel. Kids are pretty astute today and don’t fall for false promises or threats. I know that sounds terrible, but it is the truth.

      • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

        Bill, your point is valid, I disagree in that I believe that Hell does exist, but for these purposes that’s a bit of a side issue. My experience is that in the words of the old saw, “What goes around, comes around”. I’ve seen that work in secular life far to often too have to use God as part of the equation. I’m much the same, I was a moral person long before I was serious about Christianity.

        I also agree, whatever legal that works, I’m for.

  • Bill S

    I believe in certain situations feeling like Hell on Earth and sometimes, but not always, we bring it on ourselves. I believe that War is Hell.

    Unlike what some might believe, I don’t believe that Adam Lanza is in Hell but I do believe that his mental illness created a Hell for both him and his mother and now their suffering has ended.

    I taught my kids to do what is right but I didn’t threaten them that they would go to Hell if they didn’t or promise them that they would go to Heaven if they did. They both turned out fine and very moral as far as I know.

    I still think the threat of Hell will stop some people from doing evil. If that’s what motivates them, then they don’t deserve to know the truth.

  • Jeanne Schmelzer

    There’s another angle here. The killer was on medicine and a lot of these medicines, especially in the young, produce extreme reactions like this. I found a whole list of such people on medicines who did mass murdering.