Columbine High School (Columbine, CO)
Red Lake High School (Red Lake, MN)
West Nickel Mines Amish School (Nickel Mines, PA)
Sandy Hook Elementary (Newtown, CT)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland, FL)
Santa Fe High School (Santa Fe, TX)
Robb Elementary School (Uvalde, TX)
This somber list records the deadliest school shootings in the United States. It is horrendous. And worse, this list does not even include university shootings or innumerable other gun violence events in which injuries occurred but fewer or no fatalities.
Killing is always gut-wrenching; the killing of innocent children even more so.
Uvalde strikes us like Sandy Hook or West Nickel Mines. Children 6–10 years old. Who could do this? Who can understand this?
In SAT-7’s ministry focusing on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), we hear of similar tragedies nearly every week.
This illustrative snapshot of violence against children in the Middle East and North Africa is not meant to trivialize what just happened in Uvalde. The senseless killing of children is wrong and evil no matter where it takes place.
When it happens, we wonder how our Christian faith speaks to these kinds of events? What understanding does it provide?
In part, I believe we are living in the last days. I believe that as Jesus tarries His coming, we will witness an ever-greater impact of sin in this fallen world. In the last days, there will be according to Rom 1, 2 Tim 3, 2 Peter 3, and Jude 1:
Things are indeed waxing worse and worse, and mass shootings are now a part of our lived experience.
Life is cheap in these last days in multiple and various ways, e.g., abortion, death-dealing wars, including what’s happening with Russia and the Ukraine, random killings, systematic criminal killings like those occurring every weekend in Chicago, and school shootings.
What makes a young man want to kill children? Is he mentally ill, as the media often claims? Perhaps he is. I’m not negating the potential of some psychological programs to help troubled young men, if they can be identified and if they will seek help.
But perhaps more often, he is not mentally ill. The issue at the bottom is not psychological or social but moral. He is simply given over to sin. The root of this sin could be his own heart, the individuals around him, or a declining, morally decrepit American culture. Or it is all the above.
Whatever the source, sin works out as an uncontrollable rage making the young man not only want to die (mass shooters are often suicidal) but take as many people with him as he can when he goes. Rage is an evil emotion-then-behavior rooted in twisted feelings of rejection, inadequacy, loneliness, and alienation. And there is also the hopelessness that leads to believing the lie that the only way his life can have meaning is to end it by seeking revenge upon others in some sensational fashion.
This kind of evil can develop in a lone gunman or radical terrorists. It is Satan’s fake triumph, conquering the soul of a person created in the image of God who comes to believe God is not there or does not care, and all that’s left is nihilism.
So, the primary challenge in the U.S. today is not that different from the primary challenge in the Middle East and North Africa. Though “religious” with functioning dominant religions, our different cultures are disconnected from profound spiritual moorings. We’ve rejected moral parameters in the mistaken belief our fate is in our hands, or rather, in our feelings. We think we are social creatures of our own making. We control our destiny.
Except this doesn’t work. Ironically, the disillusioned young gunman discovers this create-yourself approach to life is found wanting when what he sees around him and within him offers no hope.
We live in a fallen world where sin is real, and the Devil is the Prince of the power of the air. Evil events will happen. This is not fatalism. It is realism.
We do not know why God allows tragic events like Uvalde or ongoing trauma in the Middle East. We do know that He knows why and is engaged day by day. That, too, is realism, the truth.
That is where our Christian beliefs and our testimony should speak to the moment. We know the God of the Bible is present, loves, and provides a path to healing and hope.
So, our response to heinous events in which innocent children are gunned down, in the U.S. or the Middle East and North Africa, should be multi-layered:
The best remedy for hopelessness is hope. Christians of all people should understand this.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15).
Dr. Rex Rogers
President, SAT-7 USA