In the wake of the horror in Newtown, Connecticut we need to pause and consider the ultimate roots of this evil. I think these roots have nothing to do with politics, gun control laws or even mental illness. It is my thesis here to demonstrate the cause behind this madness and point the way toward a solution…
Now, of course, we can (and should) consider our gun laws. We can (and should) consider security issues for public schools. We can (and should) consider how we as a society should deal with violence…but our culture is a culture of blame, not responsibility…and I believe that many in our culture are simply blaming the wrong issue.
Of course, the knee jerk reaction is to make new laws on guns. After all…
- Does a private citizen really NEED an AR-15?
- Does the average “hunter” need armor piercing ammunition?
- Shouldn’t we as a society protect ourselves against these horrific weapons?
But, by the same token, does the average citizen NEED a gas guzzling Cadillac SUV? Don’t we all really “need” gas conscious hybrids or maybe we don’t NEED cars at all! Perhaps the government should legislate what types of vehicles we can own based on our “needs”.
Wouldn’t that better protect us as a whole?
Or what about making new laws and providing greater funding to diagnose and treat the mentally ill? After all…
- Does society really NEED mentally ill people wandering around the country just waiting for an opportunity to snap?
- Shouldn’t we as a society protect ourselves from lunatics by testing and retesting every person who displays the least bit of strange or anti-social behavior? Once diagnosed, we can simply “keep an eye” on them – right?
- Doesn’t the right to safety of the many outweigh the right of freedom for the few – especially if the “few” are paranoid, schizophrenic or unstable?
But what truly defines mental illness? Who should decide this? Doctors? Politicians? Wasn’t it doctors in Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s, supported by politicians, who decided that the mentally ill, mentally retarded and other “sub-human” subjects ought to be eliminated from society?
That doesn’t sound like a good plan to me…
Besides, are there not millions of examples of people on anti-depression medication or drugs to regulate schizophrenia who live regular lives…
- …who shop at the super market…
- …have their kids in your school…
- …who go to your church?
I mean, where do you draw the line?
Even if we decide to outlaw every firearm in America we will not solve the problem. After all, Timothy McVeigh didn’t use a gun to murder 168 people, including 19 children at the federal building in Oklahoma. Instead, he used fertilizer and diesel fuel (both of which are still legal). The problem is not necessarily the ease of access to deadly weapons.
After all, Cain probably used a rock to kill Abel.
So – even outlawing rocks won’t solve the problem. We could go so far as to make laws against anything and everything that might be used as a weapon until our entire culture is made up of cotton and wool – and someone angry enough will suffocate a victim with a pillow.
While it is TRUE that tossing in the towel and having NO regulation on weapons is savage anarchy, it is equally true that you simply cannot legislate murder into non-existence.
But just step away from guns and mental illness for a moment and see where a mentality of “needs consciousness” may take us. For example, consider our culture’s problem with obesity! Obviously we “need” to consider our fitness!
- There’s too much sugar in our sodas
- Too many cakes in our cupboards
- Too much fat in our fries!
What we truly NEED is exercise and good health management. Perhaps the government should legislate what types of food we should be allowed…excuse me…“encouraged” to eat. Perhaps the authorities who – after all, really do know what is best for us – should legislate a daily televised exercise program that is mandatory…pardon me…“encouraged” for our better health.
We can call it “Big Brother’s Exercise Hour” (big nod to the novel “1984” here).
Clearly, the danger of legislating based on what a citizen “needs” or doesn’t need is a slippery shoe that can honestly threaten many or even ALL of our freedoms. It’s just not so simple to say “get rid of the guns and there won’t be any more massacres…or…just control the mentally ill and you won’t have any more mass murderers.”
- I’m not saying we shouldn’t have responsible gun laws – we should.
- I’m not saying we shouldn’t diagnose, treat or work to prevent mental illnesses – we should.
- I’m not saying we shouldn’t exercise either – I DEFINITELY should do that.
But this sort of reaction ignores a deeper reality – the reality that evil is a very real thing and it really exists in the human heart. That’s the real issue that needs to be addressed. This is the root of the problem and getting to the root of the problem is what can prevent these things from happening.
You see, our society is under the delusion that human beings are basically good creatures who occasionally get misguided and go bad. But the truth is exactly the opposite…human beings are fallen creatures. Still, our nature remembers the great height from which we’ve fallen and we idealize that model. Our “goodness” is not our natural state – it is the state we had when we were created but from which we have slid.
This is why we desperately want to be good. This is why we want to live up to some sort of standard we collectively associate with decency. Yet, in our hearts, we know we don’t measure up to that standard. We don’t even measure up to our own personal interpretations of the standard. Not completely. Oh – we reach for it. We idolize the examples in our culture of nobility and goodness and generosity because we KNOW that is what we are supposed to be and are not…not fully.
But where do we get this idea of decency? Where does this standard come from in the first place? As C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line”.
As I said, we know in our hearts the great height from which we have fallen – we know what the straight line looks like. The Bible explains it this way: it teaches that human beings are unique and special creations of an infinitely good God, created to reflect His image – just as a mirror reflects the image of my face when I peer into it. We are supposed to be overflowing with goodness, mercy, justice, faith, forgiveness and above all, love – just as God overflows with these things.
And this is why we reach for this fruit. We long for these attributes. We despise those who wander so far from what we know in our subconscious self is right.
Of course if we are just products of mindless evolution and survival of the fittest these concerns about right and wrong are pointless. After all, you don’t see animals worrying about ethical issues. They don’t collectively mourn when one of them kills another. They don’t create laws or have a sense of justice. They don’t regulate how long the lion’s can keep their claws or put limits on how fast the Cheetah’s can run. In their world, you are either fast enough and fit enough or you’re just someone else’s lunch.
So contrary to some opinion we are not animals and in our subconscious we know it.
But God also has a sovereign will. He makes decisions. He is not a computer program or a force of energy. He is a personality. He can make moral choices.
In the same fashion, we were given a capacity to make moral choices. We have a will that is sovereign over our own hearts. We can do with our hearts as we will. Our ancestors decided to go their own way, do their own thing apart from the image of God. We do the same thing to this day. We have all betrayed the image we were created to reflect.
- We set up our own images.
- We try to reflect our own will.
- We want what we want when we want it and our nature is to take what we want at the expense of others.
This is what it means to be fallen. It is a heart issue. This is what evil means – it means the tendency of human nature to be self-absorbed. We even try to dress up our self-centeredness in nice, politically correct clothes too.
- I need to be true to myself…
- To thine own self be true…
- Self-actualization is the capstone of the hierarchy of needs…
- An Army of One…
Indeed, some people so forget the height of the image of God and become so absorbed in a world of their own choosing they can act out in horrific ways. Others, eroded by substances and indulgences can literally damage their own capacity to be rational at all.
So we have forgotten…and our amnesia leads to the curse we so recoil from when it is revealed in tragedy.
Yes – it is certainly true that some mental illness can be an inherited sickness, something that is a short circuit in the brain completely outside the will of the victim. But this, in itself, is also a consequence of the fall of man long ago. Sickness, disease, genetic mutation and even death itself are the evil spores that plague us because we are a world apart from God.
So it is to HIM that we need to cry for help and change. Not to a new set of laws. Not to a politician’s promise or a philosopher’s polemic. We need a TRANSFORMATION of the heart. And only the Creator can provide it.
In the end, the Bible says the only REAL solution to evil is the transformation of the human heart that only He can provide. This He offers to anyone who will bend their will to His will. He offers it freely – He won’t force Himself on any of us. That would violate our sovereignty of will. And until the end of all things God will allow us to choose Him or reject Him.
The aftermath of rejecting Him is tragedy. It is a world where children grow up in a primordial soup of self-centeredness. It is a world where mental illness can accelerate unchecked because our solutions are based on a philosophy apart from God.
But only the Holy Spirit can transform human hearts because the power of Jesus Christ CAN change even the most vile of human conditions. THIS is the key to preventing tragedies like the Connecticut elementary school shooting.
We need to turn away from our self-centered nature and turn to Him in trust through prayer. We need to lead our children to Jesus long before their natures lead them away. We need to turn away from a self-directed life to a Jesus-directed life. If we do He will lead us back toward the height of the image of God we left behind long ago. And this is the solution, this is the prevention. It is Jesus…He is the solution…
John 7:37b (New King James Version)
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.
Patrick C Marks is the author of the suspense novel “Legend” (Kindle price $1.99, http://amzn.to/uwHATL) and a Christian apologetics, non-fiction book about evolution and creation called “Someone’s Making a Monkey Out of You” (Kindle price $2.99, hard copy $15.95, http://amzn.to/snubN1). He is also a husband, father, pastor, and a poor excuse for an oil painter – but he likes getting his fingers colorful anyway.