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Two mass murders

Where do we go from here?

Two mass murders

A vigil to remember the victims of the Cielo Vista Mall Walmart shooting. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images))

Rush-to-judgment pundits left and right are opining about the two shootings this weekend. Nothing they or anyone else says will bring back to life the 31 who died. Words won’t repair the spirit of those who loved them or heal the bodies of the many who were injured. But for the rest of us, before the blame game goes into extra innings—let’s take a deep breath. 

Leo Tolstoy opened Anna Karenina with this now-famous line: “Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” That’s true about eras in American history as well.  

The 1960s had four infamous assassinations: Two Kennedys and two African American leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. It featured race riots in more than 100 cities. The toll was enormous. In 1965 Los Angeles, 34 dead, more than 1,000 injured. In 1967 Detroit, 43 dead, more than 1,000 injured, and 1,400 buildings burned. 

One book of the Bible has the name Lamentations, and the two mass shootings are certainly an occasion for lament. But no book of the Bible has a title, The-Sky-Is-Falling. That’s because in ancient times and modern times God holds up the sky—so this is neither a time for panic, nor a time to say America is in worse shape than ever before. 

National Brotherhood Week (NBW) became an American institution in 1936, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the first honorary chairman, giving a national radio address on Feb. 23. It became particularly significant during World War II, when Roosevelt took pains to lay out the difference between Americans and Nazis: “We are fighting for the right of men to live together as members of one family rather than as masters and slaves.”

That was the aspiration. In 1946 Frank Sinatra won an honorary academy award for a short film in which he broke up a gang doing religious/ethnic bullying. He sang “The House I Live In,” a hit song that asked, “What is America to me?” He offered an answer: “The children in the playground / The faces that I see / All races and religions / That’s America to me.”

Two decades later that sentimental flag was frazzled. In 1964 and 1965 satirist Tom Lehrer sang this about NBW:  “Oh, the white folks / Hate the black folks / And the black folks / Hate the white folks / To hate all but the right folks / Is an old established rule.” He concluded with a wry comment about NBW: “It’s only for a week so have no fear / Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year.” 

Over the years the Week idea weakened and presidents stopped proclaiming it. Maybe President Donald Trump should Make NBW Great Again. He’s added to the problem by portraying opponents as enemies and using dehumanizing language. His political opponents also bear responsibility, but as possessor of the “bully pulpit” that goes with his office, President Trump has a special calling.

A back-and-forth now about who turned debate into warfare is not helpful. It’s better to emphasize some areas where left and right can agree, and others where left and right can agree to disagree without creating enemies lists. 

First, can we agree not to encourage either “send her back” or “jail to the chief” chants? When tempted, watch Sinatra’s song on YouTube. Better yet, read Chapter 3 of James in the New Testament, where the apostle explains, “The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness … a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” 

Second, let’s not thump each other over the head with big Bibles in an attempt to stake out a definitive Biblical position on guns and government. The one Bible verse I know about sword control summarizes a Philistine regulation: “Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, ‘Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears’” (1 Samuel 13:19). That’s descriptive rather than prescriptive, and not much to hang a policy on.

Third, the Bible does feature an analysis of human nature that goes well with what history teaches us: From both we see we are sinful people who misuse weapons, but we also have sinful governments that slide into dictatorships. The two sides differ on whether a home with a gun in it is safer (by deterring criminals) or more dangerous (by mishaps, homicides, and suicides) than one without. But it’s clear that if every Eastern European Jew during World War II had had a gun and was willing to use it, Nazis would have had a much harder time killing 6 million of them.

Fourth, while that was an extreme situation, the Constitution does include a right to keep and bear arms precisely because the Founders feared tyranny, so any ban on all weapons should require a Constitutional amendment, not just legislative or judicial finagling. An originalist argument could be that the Founders did not know about AK-47s and the like, so a ban on them (allowing individuals to keep single shot rifles and handguns) could be constitutional. 

None of these four suggestions will solve the problem, but they might help. James 3:8 summarizes the deeper problem: “No human being can tame the tongue.” We by nature are haters. Tongues sooner or later express what we think and feel. Happily, only a few turn murderous thoughts into murderous actions, but for them and all of us, the only lasting remedy is a heart change that only God’s grace, because of Christ’s sacrifice, will bring about.


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  • Janet B
    Posted: Mon, 08/05/2019 07:03 pm

    You are so correct, Mr. Olasky: we are by nature haters.

    I, myself, had quite a negative reaction (though I pray it stopped quite short of hate!) to your statement which placed the blame of portraying opponents as enemies and using dehumanizing language on the President's shoulders when I know that this sort of thing went on years before he ran for the office. I agree that it would be good for him to call for a stop, and I believe he has come out quite strongly against it, as quoted in another WORLD article.

    Still, your call for cool heads is a good one.  It is always good to be reminded that God still holds up the heavens, and we can let Him hold our hearts.

    But I will respectfully disagree that since the Founders couldn't foresee AK-47s, an originalist/constitutional argument could be made for banning them.  An originalist would argue that the Founders understood that the people must be able to fight back against a tyrannical government, and to do that, they must have the same instruments to fight with.  The early Americans had muskets and rifles and pistols, but then so did the (British) government. That government also had cannons, and it became imperative for the patriots to have the same.  Had they not, we would be one nation with the Canadians perhaps.

    The need is not to ban guns, but to speak to the hearts of people so they do not use them for evil. Let's look at the influence of video games, social media, isolation, and a media growing in their desire to repeat inflammatory statements to stir up emotions before we jump to taking away firearms.

  • DaleCutler's picture
    Posted: Tue, 08/06/2019 08:58 pm

    Regarding originalist arguments, however, if the people must be able to fight back against a tyrannical government and have the same kinds of armaments, then we should have the right to own tanks and tactical nuclear weapons.

  • MJ
    Posted: Tue, 08/06/2019 09:33 am

         There were 31 mass shootings from the Columbine shooting to the end of 2012. Seventeen of them were committed by someone known to have or suspected to have a mental illness. That does not mean they were just a little depressed. These people had a mental illness that was visible to others. Only four of these crimes were committed with something that fits the ambiguous definition of "assault weapon." Political leaders and their rhetoric are problematic. But mental illness is a bigger problem. Until those political leaders are willing to devise a Constitutionally sound method for evaluating and treating the mentally ill, we will continue to have these tragic events. In some of these previous horrors the shooter was eligible for long-term admittance into a mental health care facility.
         In the 1960's Geraldo Rivera exposed an abuse that was occurring in mental health facilities where the mentally ill, the mentally retarded, and people with physical disabilities were being housed together and cast aside. So America reacted by swinging in the opposite direction. Now it is very difficult and extremely expensive to put someone with mental illness and a history of self-harm into a long care facility. It is also extremely expensive to have certified people to monitor the mentally ill living at home.
         As long as lawmakers cannot remove the mentally ill who actually pose a threat to others, and as long as the American public are not educated enough to alert authorities about observed behavior of the mentally ill, I need to fully maintain my right to defend myself and my family.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Tue, 08/06/2019 11:01 am

    "What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Do they not come from the evil desires at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder."  James 4:1-2

    Of the last 27 mass shooters, 26 of them were fatherless.  They have no one to guide them or teach them how to control their passions.  An FBI agent also mentioned a common thread of "involuntary celibacy", meaning they can't get a girlfriend.  The media is all sex all the time, but women have the power to ruin lives even decades later if they feel like it.  Act like a gentlemen and you might be called a misogynist.  Feminism, gender dysphoria, sexual confusion have twisted gender roles.  Masculinity is called toxic.

    Society is at war with young white males.  They are hated.  They are blamed for everything wrong with this world.  They are called privileged racist oppressors.  The media has twisted everything.  Speech is no longer free.  They can’t say what they think so one writes on a bathroom wall.  All sexual norms are under attack.  Sports and careers favor women.  They can't get good jobs.  They recede into porn and violent video games where they are accepted based on how many people they kill.  But it isn't real.  Then they make it real.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Tue, 08/06/2019 04:05 pm

    The previous comments all correctly detail a range of factors contributing to these crimes of violence. 

    At the root of all is our natural inclination to sin and selfishness, and the Enemy of us all, who constantly prods and manipulates us to act out that sin nature. Even we who have within us The Holy Spirit can fall to temptation. God, help us resist and hide in You! 

  • DaleCutler's picture
    Posted: Tue, 08/06/2019 06:18 pm

    I can’t help but think that we're getting the society we deserve, killing our children in utero. We can be thankful that the most frequent mandate in scripture is “Don’t be afraid” or one of its several variations – “Be anxious for nothing”, “Fret not”, etc., and that our sovereign Father has our times in his hand

    "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..."

    It's not our perfect love! It is our Father's, and he only does what is good for both him and us. So whenever I catch myself being anxious about ANYTHING, I can go crawl up on Father’s lap even when court is in session in the throne room, so to speak, and his strong arms will comfort me and shield me.  


  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Tue, 08/20/2019 07:38 pm

    Marvin says the following about Trump.

    “He’s added to the problem by portraying opponents as enemies and using dehumanizing language.”

    Are not the left, who are bent on eliminating any vestiges of our Christian heritage from our society, the enemy of Christ Jesus? Are not those advocating sex changes by confused little boys or girls the enemy?  Are not those pushing young girls to kill their babies the enemy?  Are not those who eliminate our Christian liberties and attempt to shut the gospel out of the public square the enemy? 

    Even Jesus seemed to understand the enemy and the battle we fight.

    Matthew 10:34-36 New International Version (NIV)

    34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

    “‘a man against his father,    a daughter against her mother,

    a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

    36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[a]

    There are always those who oppose the Gospel message, holy living, Christianity, and Christians in general. Did not Hillary and Obama criticize the red states for their God, guns and bibles?  Were Hillary and Obama just our opponents and not our enemies? We could give a long list of injustices that Hillary/Obama acted on against our country - pay to play foreign policy, a private server used with highly classified documents, gross negligence and corruption in handling the Benghazi terrorist attack, selling off 20% of our uranium supply to the Russians with kickbacks, the attempted coup d’eta against Trump, and much more. The point that you fail to get is that there is a strong element of justice in all of this! We sin by letting corrupt politicians get away with their corrupt actions!

    Marvin goes on to say, “His political opponents also bear responsibility, but as possessor of the ‘bully pulpit’ that goes with his office, President Trump has a special calling. A back-and-forth now about who turned debate into warfare is not helpful. It’s better to emphasize some areas where left and right can agree, and others where left and right can agree to disagree without creating enemies list.”

    Calling out corrupt politicians for their dishonesty is not “creating enemies list”. Fighting back against a press that seeks Trump’s head is the only rational and godly option. Putting our head in the sand about what is the battle doesn’t help anything! Ignoring the coup d’eta against the president doesn’t strength our nation nor help win the cultural war!  In fact, likely we will lose the culture war by corrupt politicians who illegally gain power. Fighting for a fair and just political system is required if we expect to win the cultural war. Certainly, we may not win the cultural war but God expects us to do our part and work to bring God’s laws and standards to bear on culture.

    Haggai 2:4 New International Version (NIV)

    4 But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.