Since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we have been much tormented and anguished--and so we should be. Other mass shootings have followed.
It seems as if these horrors are happening everywhere and with disturbing frequency. They are actually rarer than we feel, but perception becomes reality.
With predictable fervor the calls for solutions to such violence have captured the media, and politicians—ever the opportunists—demand that guns should be made hard to get, even impounded. (It’s interesting that the hysteria has produced just the opposite effect: Gun purchases have set records!) But it’s a case of not clearly identifying the problem. This should not surprise us since the anti-gun advocates have another agenda they are aiming at.
Violence is nothing new. It is as old as the human race. In his excellent book, Foundation. which details the history of England into the sixteenth century, Peter Ackroyd recounts the social conditions of the 1200s. “There was…what would now be called a culture of violence….In this society men and women took weapons with them; even small children possessed knives.” (New York, 2011, 178)
As a historian I can assure you that present day America does not approach the level of violence people routinely lived with 800 years ago. Not even in the days of the Wild West! And not even in our inner cities—though it’s getting close. But we are slowly sinking as a society. When I was young we did not live with the level of fear we now accept as normal. So let’s be concerned. Greatly concerned.
The gun control advocates fail to diagnose the real problem, and the solution they’d like to impose on the rest of us completely misses the target. What’s the cause? It’s human nature. People have been killing each other since Cain and Abel. And Cain did not shoot his brother with an assault rifle. He probably used a rock. A few weeks ago the city of Philadelphia was shocked by the brutal murder in her own home of a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital. She had let her killer in supposedly to fix a water pressure problem. And he strangled her with a rope.
The solution lies in two areas. First, to avoid becoming a victim and cause the perpetrator to pause, God has granted human beings the right to defend themselves. David, the great king of Israel, wrote, “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.” (Psalm 144:1) David was addressing the macro situation, the right and responsibility of a nation to defend itself against enemies. But the micro holds true as well. God has given the individual the right to defend home and family and self from those who would do harm. And in a dangerous age, only a fool fails to become proficient in some means of self-defense. Maybe that’s why those children in thirteenth century England went to school (such as it was) carrying knives.
But of course, that is not the ideal. How much better it is if a society is not a dangerous place, if there are not people “out there” on the streets who inflict death and mayhem! The only solution for that is to change the huma n heart. And that’s not easy to do. We’ve chosen to ignore the problem of our hearts. As a society we’d rather keep doing as we please and hope that by passing more and more laws we can stop the killing. We really don’t want our own hearts to change. And so we live in fear.
The reason Jesus came was to change hearts, the impossible task that humans by themselves cannot do. Maybe we ought to go looking for Jesus.
Dr. Rick Perrin is chairman of the WRF Board of Directors and a pastor in Cherry Hill, NJ. He writes a regular blog called ReTHINK that may be accessed at http://rethinkingnews.wordpress.com. You may reach him direct at email@example.com .