Many Years Ago…

guns were available at hardware and sporting goods stores, no background check and all the ammunition you could afford. Walk in, buy, walk out. You could even order them via catalog if you didn’t want to leave the house. My grandfather, as a young man, even had access to dynamite to help remove stumps from the ground.

Yet, no mass shootings basically anywhere. So what’s the difference between then, in the freewheeling bad old days of virtually no gun control and now? I don’t think its the guns. I do think its us.

The one difference I can see between then and now is that back then there was a larger moral framework rooted in a Judaeo Christian ethic where “Thou shalt not kill (murder)” was still taken seriously, and even the mobsters took care to follow it in their own way by trying to minimize “civilian” casualties.

Leap forward to now and that narrative is largely gone, done in by a culture where even some sense moral and social caution is identified as repression, where human identity is entirely divorced from any concept of the image of God and reduced to a basic consumer equation, and violence as a routine solution to human challenges has filled the moral vacuum with a hundred little deaths and, from time to time, explosions of death that make the headlines.

Politicians, bathed in this culture, see only more and different kinds of laws as the solution because they have forgotten about, or deliberately sought to undermine, the law inside a human heart. A moral human, properly formed, encouraged, and supported by a larger spiritual and ethical imperative, will hesitate to do violence even when its tools are close at hand but a person who has no  proper morals, and lives in a culture where there is no larger context than how a person feels at any given moment, will use any tool at hand and no law can, or will, stop them. Witness the couple in San Bernadino who obtained the weapons used in the horrific crime outside of the existing laws.

No, I’m not advocating a weapons free for all. What I am advocating is something that most politicians, pundits, and sometimes even preachers have forgotten. We need a moral revival, a return to a larger moral narrative that affirms human life, impresses a moral responsibility on its members to strive above all to do no harm, and calls us away from our consumer driven, violence saturated, world. That revival will start when Christians decide to be Christians again and churches do the same.





2 thoughts on “Many Years Ago…”

  1. Father,

    There are a number of things wrong in culture and we seem willing to continue to believe lies. We have forgotten or rather we choose to ignore that humans are images of God. If culture was to say, truly believe, that humans are the image of God would result in an entirely different economic and political reality as well as commensurate duties and responsibilities…….
    Man strikes out and kills man because he believes lies first about God then about man. The striking and killing is iconoclasm; man’s rejection of his Creator, man’s acceptance of and belief in lies that are either told to him or those of his own making.



  2. Back in grand dad’s day, we had communities like our churches… where everyone knew everyone and if you went off the reservation… everyone knew. America fled that model for the anonymity of commuting… and looser and looser ties. Some of that was bound to happen… not everyone wants Aunt Tilly to know EVERYTHING all the time. But this was part of the fabric.

    We also didn’t glorify violence. Whether it’s sports or entertainment, as we got bigger and faster and hit harder, we became more and more about “the hit”, the blood, the gore… and fantasy of what violence is… violence with no consequences where in the movies everyone is a war hero and gets up after the director yells, “Cut!”. Complaints back when this was measured in a spoonful of ketchup were one thing. Today the blood on “the set” comes from a firehose, it’s literally what we call “blood porn”… and turns your stomach. Find I’m shielding my eyes in the middle of trailers more and more. Video games are simulations, training grounds for terror. How does Hollywood get a free pass for provoking madness and selling it as entertainment? Somehow, we tell ourselves its just the work of a few deranged folks… but you’re right. It’s the work of all of us… and our few deranged folks are just a sign of a wider sickness… the canaries in the coal mine.


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