We all want to stop killings like those in Newtown, Columbine, Aurora and Virginia Tech. There is no shortage of ideas, such as more gun control and arming teachers. But little is said about the root causes. Why has there been such a sudden escalation in this kind of mass violence? Commentators on TV have offered suggestions. Some are well-meaning, others laughable. But something important is being overlooked – what the killers have in common. They all either killed themselves, or wanted to die and were caught before they committed suicide. The consistent denominator is a death wish, the ultimate way any human desensitizes themselves to the suffering of others. It’s the supremely arrogant act of selfishness. There are no consequences to mass murder if you kill yourself in the end, setting aside the final consequence of Hell (which holds little credibility in our culture).
A USA-TODAY editorial (January 29, 2013, p. 8) points out that the final solution of suicide is gaining momentum worldwide. One million Americans try to kill themselves every year, and every 14 minutes one of them succeeds. The suicide rate among returning Iraq/Afghanistan veterans has killed more soldiers than died on those battlefields. Globally, suicides are up 60% in the last half century. We don’t have a gun problem, we have a people problem, people wanting to die and take others with them in a final act of rage. We don’t face a crisis of ammunition clips, but rather a crisis of hope.
And at the root of this loss of hope is a loss of religion. It is faith in God that sustains people in difficult times, the belief that everything somehow has a higher purpose (Romans 8:28). Take that away, and you have a society that fears no Divine retribution and embraces no reason to believe God’s grace will get them through life’s difficulties. We teach our children they have no origin in God and no final answer-ability to a Creator. Eventually, that emptiness takes a toll and there’s not enough Ritalin, Valium, and Prozac to stop the inevitable. Maybe the time has come to hire armed guards for our schools. But before we spent more time on what we want to keep out, we should concentrate on what we didn’t leave in – prayer and the Bible.