What’s Wrong with Us?

empty swingJust thinking about the images makes me crazy. A twenty-year-old young man shot his mom in the face, then using her guns blasted his way into an elementary school and mowed down twenty-six people, most of them six and seven year old before taking his own life. The tears are welling up in my eyes for the umpteenth time coming even as I write this.

I can’t remember the Internet lighting up like this. Everybody has their own theories about why this happened and how to mitigate such incidents in the future, and it is always very emotional and it is always one thing. Honestly, we probably need a little time and distance to come to any real, objective conclusions, but in hopes of a personal catharsis, I am going to try to get an early take.

Here are some of the “reasons” and “fixes” that I have heard.

The most obvious one is availability of guns, particularly, high-powered, automatic and assault-style weapons. I thought that the U.S. was one of the most violent nations in the world. It turns out that fourteen nations have higher rates of firearm homicide, primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean. I never would have guessed that. However, firearm homicide rates were 19.5 times higher in the U.S. than in 23 other “high income” countries.

It seems like most everybody agrees that guns should not be available to mentally ill people or criminals and that assault style weapons are so lethal and unnecessary for self-protection and hunting that they should be banned. No matter what legislation is enacted, it seems like an impossible task to totally keep guns out the hands of criminals and the imbalanced, but we can do better. This is indeed one piece of the problem.

Christians pull the trump card of “that’s what happens when you take God out of the schools” most every time something bad happens. While I understand where they are coming from, I still bristle every time I hear it. It was fifty years ago that the Supreme Court banned government endorsed prayer in public schools. I can’t imagine that a generic, watered-down, government-approved prayer changed the working of a sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent God. That reflects a very small concept of God.

Now, if by saying that, people mean that decision reflects a seismic shift in our cultural values, they are right. Being “Christian” is not in vogue as it once was. The nation is far more secular. Christian folk ways have been largely abandoned. Many Christians feel very uncomfortable about this. Some are angry.

Yet, the U.S. was never intended to be a Christian nation, but a nation where people are free to worship as they want and a nation that will not establish a state church. Christian America as we have known it is coming to an end. Christian values are often no longer reflected by the government or the majority of the population. If this shift drives Christians out of political power and into living like Jesus, great. There is so much more power in a life of love.

School security is another thing people keep talking about. It freaks me out that we have to turn our schools into highly secured zones. But, so be it. If we can’t keep our children safe we are big trouble. Unfortunately, the Connecticut shooter literally shot his way into the school.

Yet another pertinent issue is the treatment of the mentally ill began to change about 30 to 40 years ago. Basically, they were de-institutionalized due to appalling conditions in many state institutions, civil liberties issues, court decisions, cost pressures, and new drugs. Many were simply turned loose to become homeless.

While the institutionalizing the mentally ill was wrong, so is ignoring them.

I heard one psychiatrist talk about how difficult it is to get a person admitted to a locked, hospital psychiatric ward. He had patients who indicated they posed a threat to themselves and others, but the hospital wouldn’t admit them because they feared insurance would not pay for their care. That is simply idiotic. Money trumps psychiatric care and public safety. This must be addressed.

I feel like there is something wrong with us other than the things I have previously mentioned. It is an “us issue,” not just a legal, security, or mental health concern. The words “community” and “love” keep flooding my mind. Jesus summed up all teaching about God, by simply saying to love God and our fellow man. 

If we love, if you love, if I love, things will change. We will gladly assume a some sense of responsibility for one another. We will not grasp on to our “right” to own extremely lethal weapons. We will “say something when we see something” potentially dangerous. We will not expect the government to act religiously, but we will live out a live of love. We will do everything possible to keep our children safe. We will no longer ignore the mentally ill. We will be aware of people who seemed detached and reach out to them. We will get to know our neighbors, our classmates, and our fellow workers. We will allow ourselves to be inconvenienced by them. We will let our heart be broken. We will love.

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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