I guess it’s my turn to reflect on the seemingly unending parade of mass murders that has passed by our stunned souls over the past several years. Several things cause me grave concern.
First, I worry we will, as a nation, become anesthetized to the absolute horror perpetrated by hate-filled, fame-seeking, evil people who decide to star in their own violent real-life video game.
Second, I worry the surging tsunami of misguided pundits who chalk these tragedies up to the “right to bear arms” or mental illness will so flood our society that better, more rational thinking will be completely washed away.
Third, I worry we’ve completely lost any concept of personal responsibility, as if those who plan and carry out violence are somehow non-humans, devoid of guilt, and unaccountable to society’s moral standards. As unbelievable as it is, they are most often seen as victims of unfortunate circumstances rather than wicked, sinful, free moral agents who must be held accountable for their actions.
Fourth, I worry the legacy of scientific naturalism, which argues all things can be accounted for through purely physical processes, has left several generations with the mistaken belief that life is a set of random situations, with no goal, and no purpose. By refusing to accept the possibility that the existence of non-material elements (eg. consciousness) in the make-up of our humanity argues powerfully for the existence of the supernatural (God), evolutionary materialism has whisked away any reason to live morally, or to stay living at all.
Fifth, I worry my generation has a front-row seat on the devolution of American nobility. Remember how it used to be? Remember when America was the shining city on the hill? Remember when we stood for all that was right and good and noble? Remember when America was a global power for the preservation of life rather than the world leader in ending viable lives for the purpose of selling them for parts? Remember when you could let your kid walk home from school, or ride her bike around the block, or go door to door selling chocolate bars for her soccer team?
I remember when we shouted “these colors don’t run,” though now on the global stage neither our allies nor our enemies are afraid of us. I remember when criminals were punished and law enforcement officers were honored and appreciated. I remember when saluting the flag, taking off my cap, and placing my hand over my heart to pledge allegiance were a set of noble gestures that stirred my civic pride. I also remember when prayers to God for the safety of our soldiers, our police, our officials, and our society were both common and honorable. And I remember when 9/11 brought us together in churches all over America to beseech our God to “shed his grace” on us.
The problem is much larger than gun control policies or improved mental health screenings could ever hope to solve. We can try to force external compulsion with all our vigor, but rules and policies will have no effect on the decaying morality of hearts devoid of hope. And if we keep doing what we’re doing, and trying what we’re trying, we’ll keep getting what we’ve got.
What we need is a radical return to individual accountability, grounded on a shared conviction that good and evil exist, because a supernatural standard has been set by the eternal, intelligent, and moral creator of all things who is, himself, the uncaused cause of all things. What we need is the hope that springs from a realization we’ve been created for a purpose, our lives have great meaning, and despite the brokenness of society, we can find satisfaction in this world even as we prepare for the next.
From where I sit, it is clear our American sense of nobility is waning. We’re killing our kids, and killing each other, even as we continue to whistle and smile as if nothing has changed. But something has changed, and not for the better. What we really need is for God to bless America. But that will only happen if America gets back to blessing God.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.