The nation was rocked again by a recent school shooting in Florida. This incident makes it the eighth school shooting to result in injury or death in just the last seven weeks.
Every time these events happen, pundits on both sides of the political aisle speculate and pontificate on the probable causes, and what could have been done to prevent it. Liberals rail against the NRA and call loudly for stricter gun control. Conservatives point to everything from mind-altering medications, to violent video games and media, to broken homes, to simply culture run amok.
Unfortunately, we’ve been repeating this cycle for years. Senseless violence, followed by political squabbling, followed by more and more senseless violence.
I am not going to try to solve this dilemma with simplistic clichés or feign hopes that throwing insults, or government money, at the problem will fix it. However, I would like to present one piece of the 100-piece puzzle that perhaps hasn’t been adequately examined.
The Psychology of a Murderer
Some years ago, I served a volunteer chaplain for our county’s juvenile detention center. One week when I arrived to teach a Bible class, the unit was on heightened security (and notably elevated stress levels among the staff). Earlier that week, a bomb squad had shut down our local public high school, because a student had called in a bomb threat. Thankfully, law enforcement acted decisively and apprehended the student before there could be an incident.
This young man was in the detention unit where I was going to lead chapel. I wondered if he would make an appearance. I knew most of the other inmates by name, but there was one young man who sat in the corner, by himself, during my Bible class, and looked as hard as granite. He didn’t seem enraged, but rather emotionally dead inside. Cold and unfeeling. As unnerving as it was, conducting the class with a very distracting presence of intensity staring at you, I managed to lead a relatively normal class, until the end. I asked if anyone had any final questions.
Finally, the young man spoke. He stoically asked, “I have a question. Why does God hate gays?” I assured him (and the class) that God offers forgiveness and hope to everyone, regardless of who they are, or what they have done. I told him I would like to answer his question more thoroughly, but my time was up, and I would need to come back later that week during visitation hours. I arranged with the staff to have a meeting with him, and confirmed that he was the potential bomber. I wondered if he would bother to show up. He did.
For about 40 minutes, he asked me very direct, non-emotional questions about the Bible, and about ethics and issues he had always wondered about and struggled over. I did my best to answer his questions from the Bible itself, rather than giving my opinions, and had him read various passages for himself.
When the time allotted expired, he stood, shook my hand, and said, “I want to thank you for answering all of my questions. I wonder why none of the pastors and youth pastors I asked ever answered my questions? They always skirted them, or told me to ‘just have faith,’ or ‘stop thinking so hard’.”
What Can We Do?
I thought of that young man this morning, as I, along with the rest of our nation, am grieving the loss of those killed and injured in this latest school attack. I was thinking about how many of these young people, future killers, may cross our path in the everyday course of life. Could these future killers be our neighbors, our nieces, nephews, kids in our youth groups, or friends of our own children? If they were to ask us direct and hard questions, would we be equipped to give them sound answers? Would we be too busy or distracted to truly listen and take their concerns seriously? Would we deflect, or punt the conversation to “the pastor” or some trained professional?
School shootings are not performed by pollical parties or institutions. They are committed by hurting individual teenagers, who feel marginalized and hopeless. The path to mass murder doesn’t happen overnight. These young adults have countless encounters and conversations with adults in their lives, who have ability to influence them. What if the people who can help them the most, are not politicians, but you and me? It is possible that we may only have one shot to say something that could give them hope and help.
I am not suggesting that you and I can prevent future school shootings by merely being prepared with solid answers about life and faith. But I do know that people without hope, often do desperate and deadly things. Have you found answers to life’s major questions for yourself? Those of us who claim to have life and hope, found through Jesus Christ, can make a big difference in someone’s life if we are prepared to give an answer to others regarding the hope we ourselves have found. Are you ready? If not, now is a great time to prepare!
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Download the IFI App!
We now have an IFI mobile app that enables us to deliver great content based on the “Tracks” you choose, including timely legislative alerts, cultural commentaries, upcoming event notifications, links to our podcasts, video reports, and even daily Bible verses to encourage you. This great app is available for Android and iPhones.
- It’s FREE!
- Specific content for serious Christians
- Performs a spiritual assessment
- Sends you daily Scriptures to encourage and equip you
- You determine when and how much content you get