On Wednesday, January 24, my wife and I sat down to have breakfast and to watch the news. During the commercials before the broadcast, an ad for a popular movie sequel came on the screen. Noting that it’s a movie we’ve never allowed our son to watch, Kelly asked me, “Do you think we shelter Owen too much?” I shook my head and said, “There is actually a lot of violence in those movies. We could explain to him that it’s not real. But, I’m not sure he’d understand.”
A few seconds after I said those words, the news began with a breaking headline: “New video emerges from deadly Kentucky school shooting.” As of the day of the shooting, January 23, there had already been 11 school shootings in the United States. Stunning.
There was another Kentucky school shooting 20 years ago—three were killed and five wounded during a prayer circle at Heath High in West Paducah—that was the first to receive nationwide attention. The last 20 years have produced a continual string of school shootings: 15 dead and 21 wounded at Columbine, 33 dead at Virginia Tech, 28 dead at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, five dead at Marysville High in Washington state, 10 dead at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, three dead at North Park Elementary in San Bernardino, six dead at Rancho Tehama in California, and now two dead and 14 wounded at Marshall County High in Kentucky.
In Plainfield, we’ve experienced the anxiety that accompanies a threat of school violence. Thanks to God, we’ve never experienced it. But, the danger is real. When I went to school, my biggest fear was that a fistfight might break out. Today, my son and his classmates practice intruder drills at school. To Owen, the word intruder produces great fear. This violent culture is affecting his innocent heart in ways that grieve Kelly and I as parents.
Why does our culture breed so much violence? Why are our kids so often the target? What can we do to counter the culture and demonstrate the love of Christ?
We must stop feeding the beast
Why does Hollywood keep releasing extremely violent movies? They do it because we keep buying tickets. Why do video game makers continue to purvey the most lifelike and grotesque violence? Because we keep downloading. Why do streaming services keep distributing gruesome content? Because we continue to binge watch.
Christian households—starting with yours and mine—must stop consuming violent content and allowing our children to be exposed to it. We cannot control what happens in other homes, but we must take a serious inventory of what happens in our own.
We must stop feeding the beast that is perverting our minds, poisoning our culture, and devouring our children.
We must instill faith—not fear—in our kids
As I watch my son climb onto the bus, I frequently asked God to protect him from the violence we see on the news. I admit that my prayers often come from a place of fear. None of us are immune to fear in a day and age in which allowing our kids to get on the bus can feel like an act of faith.
However, we cannot live in fear. And we dare not instill fear in our children’s hearts. These violent news reports—as tragic as they are—provide an opportunity to teach the meaning of faith to our children and to demonstrate our faith to them by way of our own attitudes and actions.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” says our Savior, “and do not be afraid” (John 14:27, NIV). Jesus is with us, no matter where we go. While he does not promise to protect us from all physical harm, he does promise the presence of His Spirit and an eternal home with Him. If we teach our children—and remind ourselves—that we belong to Him and that nothing can separate us from His love, we can live each day in faith and in utter dependence upon Him.
We must be people of peace
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NIV).
We follow Jesus, the Ultimate Peacemaker, the One who made peace between God and mankind by shedding His blood on the cross. He asks us to follow Him. So, superseding our own political leanings, personalities, or preferences, our role as Christians is to join Jesus in pursuit of peace.
The most profound example I have witnessed comes from the reaction of the Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to a school shooting that took the lives of 10 young Amish girls. According to the Lancaster PA Blog,
"In the midst of their grief over this shocking loss, the Amish community didn’t cast blame, they didn’t point fingers, they didn’t hold a press conference with attorneys at their sides. Instead, they reached out with grace and compassion toward the killer’s family. … After [the shooter] cold-bloodedly shot 10 innocent Amish school girls, the Amish almost immediately forgave him and showed compassion toward his family."
Even during times of unspeakable tragedy, will you and I—followers of Christ—be known for fighting back, condemning perpetrators, and stockpiling guns and ammo in self-defense? Or, will we shine for Christ by showing grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love? To us, Jesus still says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
These are scary times. But, we live for Christ and there is nowhere we can go to escape His presence. Let’s be people who are supremely confident in Him, people who reject violence, people who instill faith—not fear—in our children, and people who join Jesus in working for peace until He returns to bring us home.
Come, Lord Jesus.