Thoughts on recent mass shootings and attacks
This past Thursday I attended a seminar on church and school response to “Active Shooter” events. The presenters were current and former law enforcement and legal professionals. The statistics they presented are scary, and while there are strategies that can help prevent or at least limit the number of deaths and injuries when a shooter attacks, I and others were also searching for the why.
Why has the number of Active Shooter events increased from about 7 a year at the beginning of the century to 16 per year in 2014 –; 2017, and 2017 will set a record for deaths and injuries due to the Las Vegas concert shooting. https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/activeshooter_incidents_2001-2016.pdf/view
Statistics from 2000 to 2015:
- An average of 11.4 incidents occurred annually from the years 2000 to 2013.
- An average of 6.4 incidents occurred in the first 7 years studied, and an average of 16.4 occurred in the last 7 years.
- 70.0% of the incidents occurred in either a commerce/business or educational environment.
- Shootings occurred in 40 of 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- A total of 486 individuals were killed.
- A total of 557 individuals were wounded.
- In 64 incidents (40.0%), the crime would have fallen within the federal definition of “mass killing”— #59;defined as “three or more” killed— #59;under the new federal statute.
(Statistics from FBI study “A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013”)
What is changing in our society, and indeed worldwide, that allows people to plan and carry out a mass attack that many times targets persons unknown to them? I have some ideas as to the root of the problem and some of the things that I think have contributed to changing human behavior so some of us consider mass murder an acceptable redress for our perceived grievances. I believe that there are many factors that are allowing our minds to become so damaged that killing others is acceptable or even desirable.
Viewing people as objects and not God’s creation
The Bible states: “For you made my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 NIV. If we view ourselves as having been knit together by God, then we also must understand that all people are also God’s children and have value. If, however, we think that we ourselves along with everyone else is simply a product of chance that has no value other than a brief and miserable existence, then it is an easy step to take another’s life as it has no intrinsic value.
Our society has not done anyone any favors by turning our backs on God and cheapening our collective self-worth in the process. Unless we can understand that each person has value and is precious in God’s eyes it continues to be easy to justify hate and violence towards each other. We must turn back to Jesus’s teaching as spoken in John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Violence as entertainment
I believe that it is fundamentally and morally wrong to treat killing and hurting others as entertainment. I do not believe that games such as first-person shooter and similar activities have any place in any society. Philippians 4:8 states “In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.” GNT. We, and especially our youth, are not filling our minds with what is true, noble, right or pure. In many ways our minds are like the Internet, they never forget. Every time we dump violence and hate into our minds we are filling some area with pollution that will never completely go away. It may no longer be page one of our internal Google search results page, but the garbage is still there working it’s decay.
A polluted mind will eventually produce a damaged image of ourselves and others. If a we believe that others are objects that may stand in the way of what we desire, then the step to eliminate or harm the obstacle seems to be a reasonable solution. We must protect our mind and spirit however we can by not ingesting the physical and sexual violence so common in gaming, movies and literature. The simple Golden Rule that we have all learned cannot be kept if we do not see others as as valuable as ourselves.
Disconnection from personal relationships, friends and family… #59;. and God
I believe that we are spending too much time with our screens and not enough time with each other. I am not a luddite, in fact I make my living working with the Internet. However, we must remain connected with each other. This will require that we make the effort to remain connected to each other and to God. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) states “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another— #59;and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I believe that this passage is an exhortation not only for worship, but to spend time together, loving and encouraging each other.
There are fundamental differences between sitting down with each other and having a conversation and really knowing each other and the superficial “friends” we have in social media. We have become addicted to our screens and now go from desktop to tablet, to smartphone. My wife and I enjoy riding our bikes and grabbing a coffee together. It is common to see many of our fellow patrons on their smart phones, we will see a group of four people gathered at a table, all heads down interacting not with each other but texting and surfing away. I think that a coffee shop that does not have WIFI might as well not open in the morning. Does this mean that it is evil to grab a cup of joe at a coffee shop and work on your homework? Of course not. But if we let our screens take the place of interacting with each other it is not healthy. We are unlikely to know how to love one another if we are not even talking to the ones we do love.