Another mass shooting in America. Many are rightly screaming, “Terrorism” and others, “Gun control!” But there is a deeper reason for all this violence, and in the end, it has nothing to do with Muslims or mental illness.
Of course, we have to look for patterns, to try and stop the bloodshed. But are we really getting anywhere? If the answer to that question is “no,” we need to be willing to change our approach. But we’re not changing our approach. In the wake of the Planned Parenthood shooting last week, social media was afire with condemnation of Christians and Pro-Lifers. Never mind that, by all appearances, Robert Dear was nothing more than a violent, emotionally disturbed man with a history of domestic violence and no religious affiliation. A million voices clamored that Dear’s actions were the result of Internet trolls spewing vitriol against the abortion industry. Except that Dear lived in the proverbial shack in the woods with no electricity.
There is zero intellectual coherence and even less shame to be found in these grandstanding opportunists, and things would probably have taken the same course in the case of the San Bernardino shooting, except that there is already plenty of evidence that it was a terrorist attack. The married Muslim couple, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, had weapon stockpiles and ties to terrorists. All this was enough for the FBI to refocus its investigation.
Nevertheless, the disheartening message from the White House this morning was an inane obfuscation that amounted to There may be terrorist motives here, but all we really know is that it’s too easy for people to get hold of guns. The president spoke with a straight face, even as he showed no sign of rethinking his plans to import more people from the Middle East. Call me crazy, but the global picture emerging since 9-11 is enough to give any rational person pause when it comes to immigration. The BBC World Service recently reported that Muslim terrorists conducted 664 terror attacks in just a single month (November 2014). Naturally, they picked a bad month to get the reader’s attention, but some estimates put the total number of terror attacks since 9-11 at 27,375. That’s more than enough mayhem to render irrelevant all our discussion about compassion and fairness when it comes to national policy on immigration. Don’t we need to be compassionate toward our own people first? Not according to 41 percent of respondents to a recent Quinnipiac poll, who are in favor of bringing in 10,000 or more refugees from Syria.
I feel sorry for the Syrian refugees too, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to roll the dice ― especially when it is most likely other people, not me, who will pay the price if the decision turns out to be a foolish one. If the Middle East is as full of gentle, rational people as the pro-refugee set insist, then why, with all their petro dollars and human goodness, can’t they help their own neighbors out? Not a single country in the region is offering to take in Syrian refugees.
The Pew Research Center mounted a study to determine how the average Middle-Eastern Muslim feels about religious violence. It conducted polls in Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and several other countries in the region. The respondents were asked whether suicide bombings were ever justified. The percentage of people from these countries who said “yes” were 29%, 13%, 26% 22% 47%, 15%, and 39%, respectively. Even in the United States, eight percent of Muslims responded that it is sometimes okay to strap on a vest packed with explosives and blow up a few score of innocent people to make your point. This is what we’re dealing with.
Meanwhile, the rhetoric coming from the White House in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting is depressing. The Attorney General stated that her “greatest fear” was the “incredibly disturbing rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric” in America. I might’ve hoped Loretta’s greatest fear would be that more American citizens might die if we don’t start vetting people better before permitting them into the country. There were clear and longstanding ties to terrorism, a colossal arsenal of weapons and a careful plan. My thoughts a few days later would be: “How in the world did these people slip past the radar? We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again — no matter the screeching that comes from the left.
The president’s only definitive statement was that we need to tighten controls on guns. Many people sincerely believe in this approach, but let’s take a closer look. Even if all gun sales were stopped, there are still anywhere from 270 million to 300 million guns already floating around (probably more, counting unregistered guns, which are owned by criminals). These guns fall into dirty hands through thousands of gun thefts each year, or when gun owners die, leaving their guns inaccurately registered. All such weapons end up on the black market, where criminals can easily purchase them. All of this happens regardless of the number of gun laws a given state has.
Of course, we could deal with mass shootings much better if law-abiding citizens were trained and encouraged to carry concealed weapons, but this approach is anathema to enough people (many of them policy makers) that most states (such as California) reject the idea out of hand.
Although I condemn the exploitation of mass shootings to push gun control, it is inevitable. For a few at the top, it is a cynical power grab, but for most advocates of gun control, the response, which comes mostly from liberals, makes a certain kind of sense. After all, most people in the liberal camp believe that humans are essentially good. What causes crime, this set believes, are childhood traumas, or fundamentalist cults that churn out people with pinched minds, or families that raise their children to hate certain ethnic groups. Underlying all these is the simple disease of hate and bigotry, they tell us. If we just work on stamping that out through education, aggressive legislation, judicial fiat and the manipulation of mass media (and by controlling guns in the meantime, of course), we can correct all these problems and get back to enjoying the America we know and love: unfettered materialism and sexual liberty, with a pharmaceutical product for every ailment that has the nerve to resist our Utopian efforts. All mankind’s ills, they say, are a matter of biological misfortune and social conditioning.
But evil cannot be eradicated through better government or education or pharmaceutical products. The human heart festers with strife, envy and self-serving madness (Jeremiah 17:9). It is part of our hardwiring ever since the Fall. What is happening to America may shock us, but senseless violence is nothing new. Many other countries have lived with routine violence for centuries, their streets strewn with carcasses. Violence is a global plague that can’t be outrun, and peaceful hideaways are getting harder and harder to come by. There are 7.2 billion people stomping around the planet. All of them are looking for a meal, and most of them are angry about something. Few of them even realize that the real culprit is inside each one of us.
So what is the meaning of all these mass shootings? We’ve been asking this question for a long time. I remember seeing the story about the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre on July 18, 1984. I was just a child, but I was shocked and frightened by the number of innocent people the gunman had shot and killed ― 21. I thought, What’s happening to our country? To the world?
The answer is that it is falling apart, in a spectacular way that is beyond the ability of governments and societies to reverse. The human race is facing many catastrophic problems ― pollution, food and water shortages, political and social instability and a looming economic crisis, to name a few. And yet, the powers that be are playing the same old game of thrones. In America, the story is no different. All our major institutions are failing ― education, the family, the economy, the legal system, and so on ― while our government plays its Red and Blue board games.
I’m not preaching defeatism. I’m not saying we should stop voting, trying to improve our communities, volunteering at shelters and giving to charity. I’m saying it’s time for followers of Christ to forget about trying to fix America (and the world) and concentrate on things of eternal significance. Our time, talents and treasures can be better used to reach the lost, feed the hungry, speak the truth and represent God wherever we may find ourselves. We’re in the end game now. It’s becoming more and more apparent that the world isn’t our home. All the more reason to abstain from endless political discussions. There is no human solution to this problem. Gun violence, Islamic extremism, rage and racism are only symptoms of madness in a world that has completely rejected its only hope ― God. Even as the days darken, the unbelief of the general population shows no sign of turning. One day after the San Bernardino shootings, the cover of the New York Daily News was splashed with a single cynical statement printed in huge block print: “God Isn’t Fixing This.” This was apparently a response to the many Congressmen and presidential contenders who offered prayers and support for the victims and survivors of the shooting.
The thing about God is that he’s not a genie. He promised to save people out of their sins, not to keep us safe and prosperous in our casinos and brothels. God doesn’t force himself on anyone. I won’t go into America’s many sins, but what we’re seeing in our nation is a reasonable outcome for a people that has essentially told God to get lost. God has clearly honored our request. If you told someone to leave your home, would you expect him to stand outside your door to defend you against gunmen?
Actually, God is most definitely at work, but we’re not going to see what he’s doing in the secular media. Right now, according to Christianity Today, there are 1.31 million full-time Christian workers serving overseas. These people live hard lives, face constant persecution and hardship, and often work their posts under threat of death. According to Reuters, the number of Christians martyred for their faith doubled from 2012 -2013, with many thousands of others scattered, imprisoned, raped and assaulted. Yet their benevolence continues. Philanthropy Roundtable reports that Christian organizations sent $13 billion overseas in 2009 to aid impoverished nations. In 2015, Habitat for Humanity, a self-identified Christian organization, built or rehabilitated homes to house 1.8 million people. The Salvation Army, which raised $4.3 billion in 2014, spent 82 percent of that feeding, housing and clothing people, providing disaster relief, veterans affairs services, prison ministries, elderly services, adult rehabilitation, and fighting human trafficking.
There are way too many Christian organizations to list here, but the reader will get the point. As for the growing violence and madness in the world, it is a sign of the times. This old world is on its last legs, but a new world is coming.
“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.” (Isaiah (9:6-7)