What Changed?

A rash of school shootings has people scratching their heads wondering why. Many locate the problem primarily in America’s love of guns. Each new campus tragedy becomes a rallying point in the call for gun-control legislation. Gun owners and Second Amendment advocates push back. The debate degenerates into name-calling and useless vitriol.

Now we hear of an emerging epidemic of suicide. While a number of experts have been calling attention to the problem for a while, the recent deaths of two celebrities, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, has moved the issue to center stage.

I don’t think the increasing frequency of school shootings and suicides are disconnected. I believe they find their origin in the same cause.

Are guns the problem, as many propose? A little online sleuthing does indeed indicate the USA has the highest per capita gun-ownership by a wide margin over most other countries. But that rate hasn’t increased markedly over the last forty years. Yes, there are a lot more guns. But there are also a lot more people. So, per-capita fire arm ownership hasn’t increased significantly. A remarkable statistic asserts only 3% of the entire population owns half of all fire arms! Of that 3% a statistically insignificant fraction are involved in mass shootings, such as took place in 2017 at the Route 91 Music Festival in Las Vegas. Yet school and mass shooting incidents were unheard of forty years ago, though per capita gun-ownership was virtually identical to today.

So, what changed?

Secular pundits look for causes in economics, politics, and sociological trends. They ignore the spiritual dimension because it’s regarded as a non-starter. Religion is neglected as a viable paradigm for consideration in social trends in the modern world. It’s only place of relevance for secular moderns is as a curiosity of ancient history and a handicapping hiccup to the advance of enlightened Progressivism.

In order to cure a malady, the right diagnosis is required. As long as sociologists and policy makers ignore the spiritual nature of humans, they’ll miss an important ingredient that shapes society. They’ve done so in understanding the root cause of both mass shootings and the rising tide of suicide.

I propose what’s changed over the last half Century is a hollowing out of the transcendent in modern society. The State-sponsored public school system from kindergarten through university has promulgated a materialistic worldview that’s told people they are little more than grown up germs. Mistakes. Pure chance. The fortuitous combination of chemical reactions that produced self-replicating organic machines. But there is no real purpose to their existence, no significance to their 80 or so years. The best they can hope for is to feel alive. So, do whatever you want, because—well, why not? No one’s ultimately going to judge you, because molecules can’t be right or wrong; they just are.

Is it any wonder people shaped by such ideas slip a noose around their neck or swallow a bottle of pills when their pain seems inescapable?

Deep inside, something irresistibly human, something originally God-imaged, rises up against such materialistic notions. It says, “No! I reject that. I mean something.” It’s that inner voice that prompts many to live as though they are significant and that their life does matter. They strive to achieve something lasting, something worthwhile. But in some, that voice turns dark. It rages against the injustice of feeling significant when the system’s worldview tells them they aren’t. They rebel against the convenient contradiction of modern society: “You’re the product of mindless evolution. So get a degree and make something of yourself.” Their inner turmoil boils over into lashing out at the system. They are in pain and want others to feel it. Since no one seems to care about them, they’ll attack others to spread their misery.

What’s changed is the core worldview that shapes modern society. The Judeo-Christian worldview that framed Western Civilization was replaced by a secular and materialistic worldview a century ago following the horrors of the First World War. It took several decades for the forward momentum of the Judeo-Christian worldview to slow. World War Two brought it to a halt. It’s last fumes are now spent and Secularism prevails.

The remedy is found in something I shared in my last article. What’s needed is a wholesale return to God and His Word. But that’s not something any church or group can engineer. It requires a mighty, soul-shaking, life-transforming move of God’s Spirit bringing revival.