The root(s) of the problem
Multiple sources of blame do not let a sinner off the hook
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A man was born blind, and Jesus’ disciples saw only two possibilities: Either he sinned or his parents sinned. Jesus replied it’s “neither nor”; this man’s condition is so “that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Then He healed him (John 9).
At other times Jesus taught “both and.”
“It is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes” (Matthew 18:7). That is, sin is the fault of both the one who sets a stumbling stone and the one who trips over it. In the Old Testament, if the watchman doesn’t sound the trumpet and people die, the dead die for their own iniquity, but their blood is on the watchman’s hands (Ezekiel 33:6).
Our nation wants explanations for an epidemic of mass shootings, of which there have been over 400 in the United States so far in 2022—with months to go. Mass shooting is a term that no civilized country should ever have to define technically but that we are forced, for practicality’s sake, to define as a shooting that leaves at least four victims, not including the perpetrator, and that is random in its targeting.
We can spend all day shouting back and forth, “It’s the shooter’s fault!” “It’s the culture’s fault!” “It’s the guns’ fault!” but Matthew 18:7 suggests multiple blame. Personal guilt and cultural guilt are not mutually exclusive. Young males capable of slaughtering their grandmothers, then driving across town to murder children they don’t know (as in Uvalde, Texas), cannot be said to be healthy people raised in a healthy environment—and you don’t need to be a social scientist to say so.
Guns are often the scapegoat, but 25 percent of U.S. children live in households with no father. Seventy percent of child murderers are from single-mother homes. Another interesting statistic: What do mass murderers Eric Harris, 17; Jeff Weise, 16; Cory Baadsgaard, 16; Chris Fetters, 13; Christopher Pittman, 12; Matthew Miller, 13; Kip Kinkel, 15; and Luke Woodham, 16, have in common? Answer: They were on psychotropic drugs.
Are these causes or coincidences? Either way, the boys are guilty of murder.
As a schoolgirl, I knew of precisely one child from a divorced home and zero children on psychiatric meds. Doom, Mortal Kombat, and Grand Theft Auto III were not yet a twinkle in their developers’ eyes. We rode our bikes, scraped our knees, dickered over our weekly allowances, and watched Bonanza on Sunday nights.
Last week I learned of two “Christian” marriages close to me that are in the process of divorce, both couples being parents of a toddler and splitting because someone is “not happy.” Now there’s a case of jumping from the frying pan into the fire if I ever saw one.
And why not stay for the toddler’s sake? Is that an offensive suggestion nowadays? While we’re crooning “I’ve Gotta Be Me” with Sammy Davis Jr., a child ripped from his security is set up for lifelong problems. The street gang Jets in Leonard Bernstein’s musical West Side Story rib arresting Officer Krupke, explaining that the reason they’re delinquents is because of pernicious societal influences:
Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, / You gotta understand: / It’s just our bringin’ upke / That gets us out of hand. / Our mothers all are junkies, / Our fathers all are drunks. / Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks! / Dear kindly Judge, your Honor, / My parents treat me rough. / With all their marijuana, / They won’t give me a puff. / They didn’t want to have me, / But somehow I was had. / Leapin’ lizards, that’s why I’m so bad!
Those excuses might wash in San Juan Hill or the Upper West Side, but God sees every multifaceted side of human choice and causality. In the film Gladiator, Marcus Aurelius says to his son Commodus, “Your faults as a son is my failure as a father.”
Maybe. But God will know how to deal with both father and son, both the trigger man and the milieu that formed him.
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