My heart grieves for the lives recently taken in the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Arguments are being waged on surface issues. But I want to share that such an incident is merely symptomatic of what’s going on in our culture to create the dynamics of such a tragedy. What I list here is not comprehensive, certainly not exhaustive, but are those we need to consider. I humbly and respectfully submit:
First, it begins with our humanity. We have a bent toward sin. “Sin” is not just an act, it is our condition. We all have turned away from God, which results in experiencing brokenness and alienation from Him. This is the root of the tree that bears ill fruit. Without an understanding of objective Truth, there are no standards, simply a slippery slope leaving us all to whims and winds of personal experiences and impulses. Without shared beliefs and values and purpose, real community is impossible. Jesus, whom we believe and trust is the revelation of God, gives us two great commandments (values): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”, and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Out of this belief and these values is born the Great Commission He has given us: “Go and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded…”
Second, our “smart phone” culture has exacerbated our growing isolation from one another. Studies have revealed that our communication by device has reduced our sense of what it means to persist through difficulty and disagreement, and lowered the impact of horror. I invite you to get a copy of Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”. (I have two copies, though the 20th Anniversary Edition is available.) It was written in the mid-80’s and addresses how television has reduced our capacity to think, remember, and connect ideas. The effects are aggravated by the screen now being portable.
Third, yes, the breakdown of the family unit plays a significant role. I have a 5-year old grandson whom I spend Friday afternoons with to love and mentor as a positive male model. Mr. Cruz’s (the shooter) relationship with his father is unknown to me. But that relationship, or the lack of it, has certainly played a role in other shootings. Unfortunately, this is especially prevalent in the African-American population, where knowing one’s father is now in the super-minority. I do not write that statement with any racial bias, only with the observation that that demographic knows a dearth of the male leadership that serves to hold families together in a healthy way.
Fourth, I share out of a pastor’s sorrow-filled heart of love. As Christians, we have allowed our self-imposed isolation to lead us to believe someone else ought to do something or some law ought to be enacted. But one of the chief factors in creating an environment that results in incidences such as Parkland, is the limpid witness of Christians, who go by the Name but have failed to be Christ followers. Christ followers dare to go into their community to love those they don’t know. The real change in our culture will take place one person at a time by the transformation and healing of each human soul. It will be facilitated by courageous and compassionate Christ followers. Sadly, until that happens, more shootings and other tragedies, will occur.
What could happen if we each were to engage one person?