“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
Last week a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 17 people including Aaron Feis the assistant football coach who threw his body in front of students to protect them from being shot. Aaron Feis, Chris Hixon, and Scott Beigel are heroes who gave their life to protect their students. Unfortunately they are dead heroes. I wish, with all my heart they were still alive! Specifically I wish one of them or perhaps one of the other teachers who came into contact with the murderer had a gun and put an end to the threat before these teachers and their students died at the hands of that evil human being.
I wish we were talking about living legends rather than dead heroes today. Instead, some continue to believe that keeping soft targets soft is the answer and that if we simply outlaw certain types of guns the shootings will stop. I find this line of thinking to be fanciful and naive at best. Before you "git yur dander up" (I'll admit, mine is already up, but I'm attempting to control it), let's remember their are already 265,000,000 guns in circulation in the United States. No amount of buy back programs are going to significantly reduce this number. Outlaw AR 15's, and its cousins, and their are a 100 other models waiting to take the market share. Maybe you want to go door to door and collect peoples guns, good luck; if you think people aren't going to find ways to hide their guns and keep them you are delusional. Worse this could result in armed conflict. Now, I am not saying there aren't some things that we can do to limit bad guys from getting guns, I think there are. I am suggesting, however, that the best thing we can do to have an immediate impact on the safety of our students is harden the target. Yes, teachers who are willing to go through additional training and carry guns while at work should be allowed to do so and should be paid extra. As the saying goes, "When seconds count, the police are minutes away." This isn't a dig on police, it is just a recognition that they aren't omni-present.
Think about it, we protect our money, politicians, federal buildings, court buildings, movie stars, sports venues, and a whole host of other places with guns and metal detectors. But we send our kids to unsecured sites that have been regularly attacked and we do it everyday. Then we are shocked when things go horribly wrong. Locked doors aren't going to get the job done! Yet, we continue to refuse to put good guys with guns in schools and increase the risk of anyone who wants to attack those targets.
Wouldn't it be better if one of the teachers were being invited to the White House to have a medal pinned to their chest for stopping a would be mass killer instead of mourning their loss of life because of their heroic actions? I for one prefer living legends to dead heroes.
Many school districts across the country are already doing this; in Texas 110 districts allow teachers to carry, in Ohio the Sidney and Mad River districts have trained teachers and put guns in safes throughout the school, and there are many more districts beginning to do the same thing including Hanover district 28 here in Colorado. I will be emailing the Jefferson County school board and the superintendent to show my support for Jeffco to follow suit. It probably won't do much today, but maybe it will at some point. I hope you'll join in making our kids hard targets instead of easy ones.
For 99 years God graced this earth with the presence of Billy Graham. He was a sinful man, but one that was faithful to the calling God gave him to preach and to preach to millions of people. Billy had beautiful feet, that is to say his feet carried the mouth that proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ, the grace, mercy, love, and justice to the world (Rom. 10:15).
Billy was the Pastor to America, he counseled presidents, filled stadiums, and preached to all who would listen. Billy's message was simple, we are sinners in need of the grace and atonement offered through Jesus. As I sit here and listen to one of his sermons I am reminded that he was not shy about preaching about sin. He didn't preach self help, he didn't preach how to, he didn't tickle peoples ears; no, he preached sin, Jesus, redemption, salvation. Oh, that my preaching would be half as good as his. His passing represents a change in the guard. The culture he preached to is different than today's, the church he was part of is different than todays, the world he lived and preached in is different from today's. Nevertheless he recognized that the gospel doesn't change. He once said, "The message I preach hasn't changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed, but deep inside man has not changed, and the gospel hasn't changed."
No longer are preachers filling stadiums. No longer is there at least some kind of basic understanding of the message Scripture. People have been inoculated, in many ways, to the message of the gospel. Culture has turned its back on the teachings of Scripture that it once embraced even if it did so unintentionally. Who is America's Pastor today? The truth is there isn't one. He hasn't been actively preaching for the last 7 years and he hasn't been his most effective for 20 or more years. During that time America has continued down the road of secularization rejecting truth, morality, and the Judeo Christian worldview as a whole. The world has changed.
The church has also changed. Many churches, in fact some of the most prominent churches, have turned from preaching the gospel, from preaching Scripture, to preaching self-help filled with religious language (1 Cor. 6). Some parts of the church have rejected fundamental truths found in Scripture embracing sinful behavior like homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and even the killing of the unborn. Evangelicalism is changing as well. In many ways it is becoming undefinable. The validity of Scripture is being questioned along with some of the fundamental truths of the faith, at least in some circles. The church and evangelicals are being maligned and marginalized by media outlets. They are condemned when they do preach Scripture and hold to Biblical truths. People who attempt to live acording to their religious convictions are sued and taken to court and forced to violate their convictions (Masterpiece Bakery and many others).
The page has been turning for some time, but the death of Billy Graham, at least symbolically, completes that page turn. What will the church become? Who (probably more than one who) will lead the church? Will there be a return to Biblical values in culture or will God judge America? Will we preach the gospel with all our might like Graham and Spurgeon before him or will we fade into irrelevance?
Thank you God for giving us Billy, now give us the fortitude, conviction, and backbone to return to preaching the truth of Scripture no matter what the cost. Give us hearts like Stephen, Peter, Paul, Luther, Whitfield, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, and Billy.
Okay, I'll admit it right up front, the title is click bait. Nevertheless, I hope you will read on. I don't have a solution that will eliminate mass shootings any more than I have a solution to ending poverty...at least not in any realistic manner. Many have been making statements about the signs the most recent shooter gave ahead of time to indicate he might do something like this. Shouldn't we see this coming and do something about it ahead of time? Maybe, but there is something deeper.
Crime prevention is a dangerous business, not in the physical sense, but in the sense that we may end up punishing people for crimes they haven't committed. This reminds me of the movie Minority Report with Tom Cruise. It is a movie worth watching and considering. There may well be more we can do to prevent crimes like this, but that can only go so far before people begin being punished for crimes they have not committed. For instance, if there is something we can do to track down the identity of people who make comments online like this most recent shooter did on Youtube that might help, but I'm not an expert in this area and I don't know what this would entail.
While I think there are real things we can do to limit this kind of thing, the more important difference we can make is on the cultural level. When we teach our children there is no objective morality, morals are really just preferences, and social contracts are all that determine right and wrong, you create an environment where crime is simply a disagreement with the social contract in play. Crime is bound to be taken less seriously by individuals who have bought into such an approach to morality.
Furthermore, the teaching that humans are simply an evolved animal perpetuates violent and harmful behaviors like mass shootings. If people are not created in the image of God and Godless evolution is true then Ted Bundy the brilliant but extremely evil serial killer who admitted to 36 murders of women was right to ask "What is the difference between killing a human and some other animal?" If people are soulless animals and morality is relative and can simply be boiled down to preference or social contract, then there is no reason to respect human life. The social elites, the tolerant, and others who promote such thought are shocked at such evil activity, but they lack the resolve to teach there is such a thing as good and evil.
It's not just views on morality and issues of evolution and God's design that make the difference, but that is the foundational place we should all start. There is more, kids need to be taught how to cope with difficult emotions and situations in life. They need to learn how to navigate loss, tragedy, and so on. We cannot save our children from discomfort. To do so is to create week minded people who give in to wrong emotions rather than fight them. We constantly tell our children to embrace their identity without challenging them to be something better than they are. This is most obviously seen in the area of sexual identity. Girls who see themselves as boy are now encouraged to "identify" as a boy instead of being challenged to reject wrong feelings and train their thoughts and affections to reflect the truth, they are, in fact, a girl. I know what I just said is politically incorrect, but I don't care, it needed to be said. We should not simply accept thought and emotions that don't reflect truth. Instead we should "take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5-6). Instead of empowering kids to simply embrace every emotion and thought they have as their "authentic self" we ought to teach them that their authentic self is only found in recognizing they were created in the image of God, yet they are fallen people and so they must take every thought captive and reject that which does not reflect reality and only embrace that which is good, honorable, and godly.
There will be more school shootings and we can and should do things like making soft targets, like schools, hard targets, doing what is reasonable without infringing on people's rights to prevent crime, and a variety of other things; there is no answer that will have a long term impact apart from changing the manner in which we raise our children. We must reject relativistic teachings about morality, false teachings, like Darwinian evolution that result in humanity being nothing but evolved animals, and the embracing of all thought and emotion as one's authentic self. We must embrace the reality that people are made in the image of God, that He is the moral law giver, and our authentic self is the self not yet realized and it can only be realized fully in glory. Yet we strive to become authentically human and mitigate our fallenness in the here and now.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.