Mental health issues, extremism and assault weapons contribute to mass shootings, but an increasingly godless culture is the deeper underlying cause.
The mass shootings last month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, remind me of an era I would rather forget. The 1960s were a time of virulent and violent racism, when homegrown terrorists committed acts of cold-blooded barbarism out of the misguided belief that they were rescuing America from racial, ethnic and social trends that were destroying the country.
I was one of them.
Racist populism in the South was my undoing. I was a patriotic American and a nominal church-goer, who as a teenager was seduced by the racist, anti-Semitic, far-right ideology of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. I became filled with anger and hate and took up arms to fight against what I mistakenly thought were the enemies of America, Christianity and the white race. The consequences were disastrous, and I deeply regret having done so. Tragically, the same kind of seduction is going on again today.
A sign of turning away from God
Since the time of my capture, imprisonment, conversion to Christ, and ultimate release, I’ve had a long time to think about the conditions that breed this kind of violence— the kind that led me to try to bomb a Jewish leader’s home and, unrepentant, attempt a prison escape. Those conditions appear to be with us again.
Why do these shootings continue to plague our country? A number of factors have been cited by people across the political spectrum, including mental health issues, racist/anti-Semitic/extremist ideology, easily available assault weapons, social media run amok, and a toxic political climate.
Most Christians I know would see at least some of these as important contributing factors, but would go on to say that mass shootings are ultimately symptoms of a deeper underlying cause. That cause is the fallenness of human nature and the consequences of living in a culture where more and more people are turning away from God, thereby eroding the spiritual and moral foundations of society.
I suspect even secular people would find it hard to dispute that if there is no transcendent creator to whom people are accountable in a future life, and if human beings are simply the product of time and chance, without inherent value or purpose, then meaning and morality are a fiction, and there is little internal restraint for those who seek fame and vengeance through a murderous rampage.