When news of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas appeared, my friend and colleague Mitch sent me a note that said simply:
“Evil, too much evil!!!!!!!”
That is the answer to why things like this happen.
Politicians, being politicians, will say it’s guns. Social activists will say it’s poverty. Racial activists will say it’s systemic racism. As the old saying goes, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
But before we go any further, can I ask a favor of you?
Will you take a moment right now and pray for the families and citizens and teachers and leaders in the town of Uvalde? Pray mightily for those who have been affected directly, and pray deeply for comfort and for a peace that goes beyond understanding.
You can’t legislate morality
I’m a fan of law and order. Healthy societies have rules of conduct in place, and many of those take the form of laws.
Running a stop sign is against the law and is a punishable offense. So is robbery. So is murder. Those laws are not to be trivialized, although even the most important of them is broken every single hour in America. (In 2018 the average number of murders per day was 44.) Virtually all of that crime is outside our circle, so we don’t feel it.
But when something of the magnitude of the shooting in Uvalde takes place, we feel it and we are horrified, as we should be.
Laws, just like rules at home and at work, are intended to guide behavior. Punishment is there as a deterrent. In Phoenix, where I live, the fine for driving illegally in the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane is $400. I know that because it is posted every couple of miles on the highway. It deters me, and perhaps others, from breaking that law. But it doesn’t deter everyone.
There is no reward for keeping the law, at least not from the lawmakers. Some automobile insurance companies, though, are now rewarding safe drivers with lower rates. Good for them.
Trying to get people to change their behavior with either a potential punishment or a possible reward is as old as bad behavior. My parents tried it, and so did yours. If you are a parent, you’ve tried it as well. Does it work? You tell me.
The nation of Israel had the 10 Commandments, and more than 600 additional commandments over time. Just sticking with the original 10, how did people do? Not good.
When Jesus showed up he spoke about those commandments in what’s called the Sermon on the Mount, and he raised the bar. “You’ve heard it said, Don’t murder. I’m telling you that if you even plan to murder someone you are guilty.”
He didn’t make it a law, he made it a way of living. That’s where we have failed. Too many people make bad moral choices in their every-day lives. Consequences, good or bad, are irrelevant.
When tragedies like this happen people want to know two things, and these are good and difficult questions: Why did this happen? What can we do to stop it from happening again?
A lot of what we are hearing now is a conflation of those two questions. That is, they are combined into a single idea. In this case people will say we can stop it from happening by getting rid of guns because guns are the problem.
If we didn’t have easy access to these weapons, the argument goes, shootings like this would go away.
Simply to make a point, though, let’s say that 18 year-old males are the problem. After all, the shootings in Rochester and Uvalde, were both carried out by 18 year-old males. Should we get rid of them?
No, I am not serious.
The only honest answer we have as to why the Uvalde killings happened is evil. Mitch said it, Governor Abbot said it, and I’m saying it. So have many others. We hate that for many reasons, but one is that we don’t know what to do about it.
Would making weapons more difficult to get reduce shootings like this? It might. Would making abortions more difficult to get save lives? Yes. And they are all lives, important, unique, and worth saving.
What to do?
In this world evil cannot be eradicated, but it can be battled. One of the easiest ways to do that is to stop celebrating it.
Says Wikipedia, “In the 21st century, the first-person shooter is the most commercially viable video game genre, and in 2016, shooters accounted for over 27% of all video game sales.”
First-person shooter games alone are a multi-billion dollar industry. A picture from one popular game is here. To see more pics, along with descriptions of the games, check out this link. Some people, at least, are glorifying being a first-person shooter. Complete with body armor.
Even adults who watch the news are passively fed a steady diet of evil. Here’s a “headlines” list in the New York Times morning newsletter from a few days ago:
- A gunman killed a 48-year-old man on a subway train in New York City in an unprovoked attack.
- Southern Baptist leaders mishandled sex abuse claims, according to an investigation.
- Thunderstorms left at least six people dead in Quebec and Ontario.
- Millions of people are homeless and more than 60 people have died after heavy rains in India and Bangladesh.
- The maker of Jif peanut butter has recalled several products because of potential salmonella contamination.
- The killing of a 25-year-old woman in Texas has rattled the off-road biking community.
Would that more news outlets would feature stories like the one a local channel did in Phoenix last week. The series is called How you can help relief efforts for Ukrainian refugees. There are five short videos, and they are all uplifting and terrific.
Let’s do all we can to replace evil with good, starting in our own hearts.
Do good. It’s in you.