Now we know what the Culture of Death looks like: 20 children murdered, a Mother shot in the face, a principal killed while lunging at her killer.
Thus far this year, according to Mother Jones which has done a comprehensive count and recount, 140 people have lost their lives in mass shootings, which the FBI defines as one in which at least four people were killed. Hundreds more have been injured.
There’s no doubt that the Newtown, Conn., murders have touched President Barack Obama and the rest of America deeply.
They should. Fully 45% of those killed in mass shootings in America over the past three decades were killed since 2007, the year Barack Obama began running for President.
Now we know, and President Obama knows, what the Culture of Death looks like. President Obama has promised to “do something” about this, and Washington’s chattering class immediately began talking about gun control laws, stronger security measures inside schools, and a handful about treating mental illness.
All of those may be good things, but they won’t protect the public, a fact our nation’s leaders implictly acknowledge. In the last 20 years, Washington, once a city of open vistas, has become a walled, fenced city protected by divisions of police with high-powered weapons.
The question politicians should be asking is what has changed in America. Growing up in the 1950s, I recall only two mass shootings: Puerto Rican nationalists shooting up the House of Representatives in 1954 and the University of Texas Bell Tower shootings in 1966.
This year there have been more than 140 injuries and deaths from mass shootings. The toll this year is twice — yes, twice — that of any other year.
This is not a mere matter of guns being available, because guns were readily available in the past. This is cultural, and it needs to be addressed culturally.
What has changed in America? Why do we now have a Culture of Death, and what can be done about it?
We know the level of violence on network tv dramas, movies and video games — where you actually get to pull the trigger — are incredibly violent. We know movies and TV shows can tell stories about violence without becoming training films on how to kill. But they don’t. Instead, producers seek to provide new thrills by making shows that are increasingly violent.
Move to gun control. The U.S. once outlawed submachine guns, which were the weapon of choice among gangsters in the 1920s-1950s. Why is it now impossible to prohibit assault weapons or clips with six to more than 100 rounds of ammunition per clip?
Finally, there’s the surprising finding this year that since 2002, the percentage of Americans who say they are atheistic, agnostic or unaffiliated has grown to 20% from 15%. Among those who are unaffiliated, 88% say they aren’t looking for a religion that would be right for them.
This is a critically important finding, because religion is not merely about some mumbo-jumbo, hocus-pocus ritual. Nor is it a matter of simply having faith in someone or something.
If America wants to prevent another Sandy Hook, another Columbine, another Aurora movie theater killing, the culture has to change.
America can’t look to science for answers. Science can tell us how things work, but science is neutral on whether a particular action or outcome is moral. (The moment a scientist begins to talk about whether bombing a city is good or evil, he no longer is talking about science but about morality. And science has no particular competence in that area.)
It can’t look to law, because law merely codifies culture.
Only religion focuses on whether something is good or evil. We didn’t learn that murder, theft and adultery are evil from science, but from the Ten Commandments.
Believers must learn to speak up, to explain the value of religion in this context. And if President Obama and Congress want change the culture to end mass killings, they need to look to religious thinkers more than to scientists, lawyers or sociologists.
As an Illinois legislator, President Obama voted against a bill providing legal protection to babies who survived an abortion procedure. But he appears to have been profoundly shaken by the killings at Newtown.
Now is the time to unite our prayers with those of 27 new angels — 20 children and seven adults killed in Newtown — for the conversion of President Obama and other political leaders so they may have the grace to end the Culture of Death in this country.