The September 7th School shooting in Normal, Illinois had the potential to be much worse than it was. Nobody was physically harmed, only three shots were fired and the evacuation plan went as smooth as it possibly could. But it was certainly not a smooth morning. According to the Huffington Post,
“the gunman walked to the front of the room and pulled the gun, a hatchet, a canteen he said was full of kerosene and a bottle of what he said were painkillers out of a backpack.
…he [the student] had pulled out a weapon and pistol, and said, `Now it’s time for you guys to listen to me,’
…a few students managed to slip out of the room, and that led the shooter to fire the first shot into the ceiling. The shooter told at least one student he wouldn’t hurt them, and after lining the remaining students up against a wall complained that no one was willing to listen to him about unspecified problems.”
After a heroic effort by the teacher, the student was subdued until police arrived. And while this all ended better than it could have, this raises some questions that Christians must address about the culture at large.
Why are so many so unhappy?
In America, There are more kids (and adults) on anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication than those who are not. We are disenfranchised, selfish, lonely and desperate. Have we always been like this under the surface or are we getting worse?
What can be done to prevent not only shootings, but the isolation and desperation that lead to events like this?
Sure, metal detectors and security guards will find most of the kids with guns but how can we get kids to no want to shoot up their schools? Will there always be reckless minorities of angsty kids, or can this be curbed? On a larger scale, it seems to be a lost cause in the present. The present cultural darkness is simply different and more public than it has been (not to say that it is getting worse, just changing shape).
What is the hope of the youth culture?
As Christians, we have a hope and a joy to offer a disenfranchised, sad, licentious youth: Jesus. But is that what they hear at church? The gospel of Jesus is the only hope that the youth culture (and any culture, for that matter) has. But is that doctrine alive in the church? As Richard Lovelace points out on the progression of spiritual live and death in the church, After Luther awakened the gospel kraken of Justification by Faith alone “subsequent generations of Protestants were capable of turning Luther’s teachings into dead orthodoxy, and this seems to have happened especially in the Lutheran sector”
How can the church communicate and address this in the current culture?
Are old methods just in need of spiritual renewal or does the church need creative, new outlets? I am not convinced that the methods in use to reach the youth are issue, but it is the heart of the matter. Gospel renewal and revival is not as much a question of what, but of who. Who is changing the culture? Is it the Holy Spirit or the hardworking Christian crusader? Offering an alternative to the moralistic perspective of cultural change, Richard Lovelace notes that renewal is not of human strategy but
“Rather, it is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit which restores the people of God to normal spiritual life after a period of corporate declension. Periods of spiritual decline occur in history because the gravity of indwelling sin keeps pulling believers first into formal religion and then into open apostasy. Periods od awakening alternate with these as God graciously breathes new life into his people”
So the church’s response to the brokenness of the world need not be one of despair but one of prayer. Only Spiritual revival will change the church and affect positively the world around us, and only the Holy Spirit can do that, as seen in Acts 19:18-41. In sum, it really is only God who can change the hearts of those so desperate and despairing that they would turn a gun on their classmates.