There have been many acts of violence this past month from the brawl against Steven Crowder to the mall shooting in Oregon. And then there was the mall shooting in Oregon in which a man decided to gun down innocent people because his girlfriend broke up with him. Elected officials in Michigan have been bombarded with death threats, and the people in this video certainly look angry enough for serious violence. Some Union Protestors have threatened shooting officials and conservatives with a gun.
All this goes to prove is that our culture has a large propensity for violence within itself. The only way to prevent violence is to remove the cultural elements that make mass murder so appealing. Tackling the culture itself will seriously challenge people because it means analyzing every single aspect, some that others consider harmless.
Certain groups have called for gun bans, but laws can never make people righteous. On Twitter, there has been an outcry to shoot and murder members of the NRA. Murder is already against the law, anyway. Morality can only be taught and cannot be legislated. Violence is already a large part of our culture. Wickedness is a large part of our culture. Somehow, people recognize this only in its extreme forms and not in the more subtle or lesser ways. Ignoring the subtle and lesser forms will ignore the whole scope that creates the epidemic of mass shootings.
When racism existed in our culture, there were extreme and obvious forms of racism, and there were subtle and lesser forms. The extreme and obvious were the burnings and lynchings. The subtle, lesser forms were in the absence of African-Americans on television.
Readers, we cannot blame these shootings as isolated incidents when they are so commonplace. In the 1900s, a focus on lynchings as isolated incidents would have overlooked and ignored the problem of racism in our country. "No, there is not any racism epidemic in our country. Just a bunch of deranged whites." Because culture changed to tolerate and accept racial diversity, lynchings finally came to an end. Likewise, when we change our culture to overcome the violence, the epidemic of mass shootings will come to an end.
Of course, there is the question of "why does God allow this to happen?" especially to innocent and defenseless children. God allows wicked acts to happen precisely to remind us that evil exists in the world. One of the messages that drew me to scripture was that this world really sucks. However, the common belief now is of humanity's intrinsic goodness. If humanity is naturally good, then evil cannot possibly exist. If evil does not exist, then evil actions such as the Sandy Hook massacre is impossible.
In a book by psychologist Phillip Zimbardo, interestingly-titled The Lucifer Effect, he describes how "good" people end up committing evil atrocities. Another description, although more of a strong case study, is within the book about the Japanese terrorist cult Aum Shinrikyo by Robert Jay Lifton. These two books describe how good people result in committing evils.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
Contemporary culture endorses the belief "do what you feel is right" while forgetting that what feels "right" to one person can be an evil act. The scariest and most disturbing thing about terrorism is that the terrorists actually believe they are right in hijacking passenger airplanes and slamming them into skyscrapers.
Once we acknowledge that evil exists and that all humans are capable of iniquity, then the next question concerns the existence of morality. Because evil exists means that moral virtue must also exist. And we must search out a morality that goes beyond deceitful or subjective feelings. Determining right or wrong goes beyond the extreme and obvious examples presented in the news. All wickedness and bad thoughts belong to a spiritual disease. To describe only the extreme examples as evil and to ignore the lesser and more subtle evils is like describing the ebola virus as an illness that forgetting that humans can also get colds and fevers where they throw up and have runny noses. Both are illnesses, although one more dire than the other.
All the lesser and more subtle evils when not corrected will result in the large and obvious evil of murder and violence. A thief begins shoplifting candy bars as a kid and later robs convenient stores for their money as an adult. Love for one's neighbor is a moral virtue, yet the neighbors of Nancy Lanza never showed any neighborly love and ignored her plight with her son. All of us, readers, are guilty of the withdrawal and removal of this moral virtue regarding our own neighbors. If the neighbors had helped this unmarried woman and fatherless child, then events would have turned out very differently.
Precisely because these lesser and subtle evils go unnoticed, readers, these atrocities surprise us more than they should. However, not a single atrocity has occurred in a cultural vacuum. Every aspect of today's culture has contributed to the epidemic of mass shootings. The best way to cure the problem is to treat the disease and not the symptom. The mass murderers have been taught by the lesser and subtle cultural evils. Because this is about culture, the same basic wickedness lays in the subconscious of every human.
For instance, quite a lot of people in today's culture have a preoccupation with the entertainment of death. The murderers consider death amusing entertainment, which is why they kill. There is the TV series Dexter where the title character stalks and kills in each episode, the anticipated highlight of the show. Now, viewers can enjoy the same entertainment as a serial killer! Recently, I heard about a proposed television series "Best Funeral Ever" that makes entertainment about real people's funerals. Are these funerals for the massacre victims now entertaining enough? The mourners of Sandy Hook forbid news media from filming or even going near the funerals. The majority of humans share this particular evil - death as entertainment.
The only problem is the people within this culture. I know that some will object, "I don't want to make value judgments or any judgments on other people's lives or actions." I believe this will be an objection when people hear that our culture has lost any moral foundation. Here, we have people too terrified of being labeled "judgmental" and so terrified of being labeled that they refuse to help others. This laizze-faire view of morality is what results in the obvious and extreme evils. Tackling the wrongs in our society begins first within each individual. Consider what changes you can make within yourself in order to make our culture a better place. And some strong and fundamental changes need to occur within our culture to prevent more violence.
The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. Philip Zimbardo. Random House Trade Paperback. New York.2008
Destroying the World to Save It. Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism. Robert Jay Lifton. Henry Holt and Company. New York. 2000