Over the weekend, we have once again been forced to endure heartbreaking images of innocent people gunned down in America, in this case, at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and in a nightclub district in Dayton, Ohio.
As we grieve for the innocent victims and their loved ones, we once again are witnessing politicians of all stripes sprinting to microphones and Twitter to make debating points for this or that public policy. We must come together as Americans and insist that we and our leaders, if they want to continue to be our leaders, have not a debate, but a conversation and a dialogue, and we must talk with, not merely to, each other, and seek to answer the question, “Why?” Why so many of our fellow Americans, almost all male, very frequently young — age 20 in El Paso, age 24 in Dayton and age 19 in Gilroy, California — feel so hopeless, enraged and isolated from society that they would slaughter their fellow human beings. Make no mistake, the answers are complex, not simple.
These mass shootings are eruptions, symbolizing the extreme social malfunctions seething and boiling just below the surface in American society. And, gun control is too simple an answer. It is analogous to putting a Band-Aid on a severed artery. The causes are many, and they are problems afflicting the human heart and human soul.
Several vexing problems rending the social fabric of our nation immediately come to mind to jumpstart the honest and frank discussion we must have: Fatherlessness; the failure of our inner cities; racism; identity politics that forever emphasize our differences rather than our common humanity; the mindless glorification of violence in our media and entertainment industry; our failed mental health system; and the systematic disrespect and mocking of police officers, and by implication, disrespect for the law they represent. That’s just the preliminary first draft of a long list of contributing causes.
One other factor must be mentioned: the increasing secularization and abandonment of the spiritual in American life. As religion declines, the disintegration of our society will increase. As Christians, we understand and need to help our fellow Americas understand that, at its root, the human heart must be changed.
The Bible tells us we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and if we are born again in Him, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, KJV). Eve is the mother of all humanity. Likewise, the New Testament condemns racism and all other forms of discrimination from beginning to end. Thinking of ourselves as better than others is un-Christian. Christians should lead the way as salt and light in a new narrative on race and all other forms of discrimination. I, for one, am not willing to give up on Dr. King’s dream. His vision was not a country of quotas and identity politics, but a nation of justice, equal opportunity and character. That must always remain our goal.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was that his children would live in a nation where they “would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Why did Dr. King specifically mention character? He understood that changing the law was necessary but would not be enough. He knew in his heart that while the salt of the law could change actions, behaviors and habits, it was only the light of the Gospel that could change attitudes, beliefs and hearts. The New Testament calls every Christian to be an ambassador of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). So let each of us as followers of Christ be about our Father’s business.