by Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Here we go again. The nation watched and discussed another school shooting, this time at Santana High School in Santee, California, on Monday, March 6. The general course of events ran parallel to the shootings at Columbine High School and other, high-profile campus killings, only the details differed. This time, the young shooter was Charles Andrew Williams, a 15-year-old freshman who acted alone. When the bullets stopped flying, two lay dead and 13 injured.
The aftermath was also predictable: School authorities did a great deal of hand-wringing while blaming bullying, teasing, depression, guns, movies, video games, and whatever else came to mind as a possible cause of Williams' rampage. Parents expressed fear for their children's safety, demanding tighter security, metal detectors, prompt action on early-warning signs, and implementation of zero-tolerance policies. When they were not trying to get "face time" on television news, Santana High students told reporters how shocked they were that such a crime was committed at their school, and in the same breath, how closely Williams fit the school-shooter profile.
School shootings have indeed become epidemic in America. Though only a handful occur each year, the fact that they occur at all is shameful to the nation. Kids killing kids, whatever their socio-economic backgrounds, should never happen—and would not happen if the people of the United States were still a Bible-believing society. It is not coincidental that such crimes invaded American schoolyards once God was kicked out.
The Real Cause
What, then, is the cause of this campus-crime epidemic? It is not the availability of guns, a common whipping boy of the media. True, America has the highest proportion of guns to citizens outside of nations like Switzerland and Israel. However, Americans have had the right to bear arms since 1776, and it is only in the past few decades that gun violence in school has become a problem. Young boys were routinely taught how to handle guns—both long guns and handguns—from colonial times until well into the twentieth century. The worst school shootings during those times involved spitballs and dried peas.
Are bullying and teasing nerds the cause? Nearly every adult has a memory of a particular school thug who would extort lunch money, flick protruding ears and punch shoulders or guts for fun. Some of us may have been that particular Neanderthal in our school—or his target! However, until recently, the nerds have rarely taken violent, fatal revenge. It has only happened since individual self-esteem has been promoted in our schools over family, community and nation.
Is video, television or movie violence the cause? Studies have found the simulated violence our children see on a screen can cause them to behave more aggressively, while at the same time inuring them to it. It could contribute as an aggravating factor, causing the perpetrators to both create general mayhem and feel nothing for their victims. However, the root cause runs deeper.
Herbert W. Armstrong often spoke and wrote about the "missing dimension" in human affairs. Although unconverted people cannot experience and utilize this missing dimension to as great an extent as a converted person can, it can make a huge difference in the general tone of a society. The missing dimension, of course, is God Himself.
The real cause of these school shootings, then, is God's absence from nearly every sector of American society. Though many would argue that a large majority of Americans believe in God, such a fact is not an indicator of how these "believers" live! James writes, "Even the demons believe—and tremble!" (James 2:19), but their behavior remains demonic. True belief in God, as the apostle explains, is accompanied by works that demonstrate our belief. These works are behaviors, words and thoughts that conform to the revealed will of God. In other words, true believers try to live as God lives!
Virtual Bible Banning
When most Americans tried to live "by the Book," our society had far fewer instances of mass murder, corruption, betrayal, thievery, and sexual crimes. God's Word, particularly the Ten Commandments, strongly influenced decisions, creating a moral, ethical conscience in the majority of the citizenry. In fact, until the public school system secularized education, teachers used the Bible frequently for lessons in writing, spelling, grammar, literature, history and values. Because of both its content and wide distribution, it was a standard textbook in American schools for decades.
Over the past century, more or less, the Bible has gradually been virtually banned from public discourse, producing deleterious effects in private life as well. Beginning with evolutionary theory, materialistic humanism and scientific rationalism, intellectuals and elitists have eroded public confidence in the Bible itself and Christianity as a whole. The sexual revolution, feminism, atheistic socialism, Roe vs. Wade, Vietnam, cult murder/suicides, religious hucksters, and numerous other movements and events have likewise taken their toll.
A most significant factor over the past few decades has been the steady exclusion of all mention of God or religion in the classroom. God has even been banished from graduation ceremonies and football game invocations! Most of us would not want the public schools to teach religion to our children, but we would advocate allowing them to express their religious convictions on school grounds without fear of punishment, ostracism or lawsuit. However, the public has accepted this strict separation of church and state because it lacks the will and conviction to stand for religious freedom (freedom of religion, not from religion).
In the absence of God and godly morality, base human nature fills the void. Raw emotion flares. Self-esteem metamorphoses into radical self-importance, self-interest and self-expression. Common sense and civil behavior lose ground to unrestrained individualism, what the Bible calls "every intent of the thoughts of [man's] heart [being] only evil continually" (Genesis 6:6). It is only a matter of time before bursts of rage, depression and frustration manifest themselves in violence as we have witnessed at Santana and Columbine.
Unsurprisingly, the Bible prophesied of these conditions in the end time. Maybe the best-known list of last-days evils appears in II Timothy 3:1-5:
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
"Disobedient to parents" obviously applies directly to children. Its principle covers rejection of all authority, and in combination with other traits in Paul's list, provides a recipe for the latest rash of school shootings.
Jesus compares conditions in the end time with that in Noah's day. Although His prophecy includes two complementary meanings (see "As It Was in the Days of Noah," Forerunner, January 1998), the most obvious meaning is that the world will be violent and corrupt. Moses writes in Genesis 6:11-12, "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence . . . for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth." Just like today, the pre-Flood world sank into this condition because it rejected God, following the examples of Adam and Eve, Cain and Lamech (Genesis 3:1-4:24) rather than Abel and Enoch, who walked with God (Genesis 4:4; 5:24; Hebrews 11:4-5).
Without contemplating its spiritual meaning, Malachi 4:5-6 suggests a problem with children in these days: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." This follows Solomon's instruction regarding the importance of godly childrearing in Proverbs 29:15: "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother." Undeniably, negligent parenting has played a large role in setting up young killers like Andy Williams, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to carry out their bloody crimes.
God says through Isaiah, "I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. The people will be oppressed, every one by his neighbor; the child will be insolent toward the elder. . . . As for My people, children are their oppressors" (Isaiah 3:4-5, 12). Children and their needs are driving our social policies, but since they are not based on godly wisdom, they are practically useless—and may be doing more harm than good. As for oppression, the United States is certainly oppressed by the merciless slaying of its children by other children.
When it reaches this point, we are assured that the end is close:
Behold, the day! Behold, it has come! Doom has gone out; the rod has blossomed, pride has budded. Violence has risen up into a rod of wickedness; none of them shall remain, none of their multitude, none of them; nor shall there be wailing for them. The time has come, the day draws near. . . . Make a chain, for the land is filled with crimes of blood, and the city is full of violence. Therefore I will bring the worst of the Gentiles, and they will possess their houses. . . . Destruction comes; they will seek peace, but there shall be none. Disaster will come upon disaster, and rumor will be upon rumor. . . . I will do to them according to their way, and according to what they deserve I will judge them. Then they shall know that I am the LORD! (Ezekiel 7:10-12, 23-27)
The good news is that God's Kingdom will descend with Jesus Christ to resolve the mess man has made of society. In Isaiah 11:6, 8-9, God assures us that children then will live in a far different, more peaceful world; kid kid-killers will not even be remembered:
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. . . . The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.