Category Archives: School Shootings

School Shootings: What Would Jesus Do?

I wrote this op-ed short while ago in response to some of the recent school shootings. It was published in the Longmont, Colorado Times-Call under this title: “What would Jesus do about School Shootings?”

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When facing a particularly daunting problem a number of years ago, someone suggested that I consider what Jesus would do and then do that thing. As I think about the most recent school shootings, I’m left wondering, “What would Jesus do?”

One thing for certain is that the solutions we are currently pursuing, passing more measures to restrict access to guns or putting more money into mental-health resources, will have limited effect. No rational person believes that doing these things will eliminate the problem of gun-violence entirely. Most recognize that the mayhem occurring in our schools, on our streets, and in other places in the world is a symptom of a deeper problem. There is something broken inside of us. And if we don’t do something to address that, some will respond to their brokenness with violent acts.

Jesus wants to fix what is broken inside of us. But to come into a relationship with Jesus where this is possible, we have to acknowledge our need for Him; we have to admit that we can’t fix ourselves and that we all are in need of redemption.

This message of redemption has somehow gotten lost in our current “politically correct” society. We discourage public expressions of faith in Jesus and belittle those who speak about Him; we try to silence those who contend that the moral standards established by God and documented in the Bible are both good and right; we tell those who want to pray in public that doing so is forbidden if it could offend someone else; we discount those who say that death is not the end and that an eternal world exists where there are no tears, no pain, no sorrow, and no suffering. Then we wonder why those who feel they have no hope sometimes respond by taking their life or the lives of others.

When I think of this, I’m reminded of how the writer of Psalm 121 in the Bible responded when he was facing a problem He couldn’t resolve. We don’t know what the problem was. But it was a pretty big deal. The writer didn’t throw up in arms in despair however. Instead, he turned his heart towards God and said, “I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

After Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem so that God could dwell in the midst of His people, God said that if the people abandoned Him, the consequences would not be good. God then made this promise: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)”

It seems to me that we are facing a plague of violence in our land. The locusts attacking us may not be insects in our fields but could be bullets coming from guns. What would Jesus do about this? I think He would pray for us. But I believe that He would also remind us that it’s our brokenness – our sin – that is the issue that He is the only one that can fix this.

If this is what Jesus would do, then maybe we should do the same, first by admitting our own brokenness and need for spiritual healing; second, by turning our hearts to the One who promised to save us; and third, by telling those who are hurting that they are not alone – that God does exist and through Jesus has provided a means for redemption from the things that are tearing us apart inside.

When we do what Jesus would do and what He tells us to do, then perhaps He will hear our prayers and heal our land.

Is our misunderstanding of the 1st amendment, the one dealing with freedom of speech, contributing to school shootings?

(I wrote this following the recent school shooting in Florida. It was published in the Longmont Times-call on February 25, 2018 under the title, “Addressing gun violence with a better understanding of freedom of religion.”)

In the aftermath of the latest school shooting, there will undoubtedly be lots of discussion about the second amendment, the one that has to do with our right to bear arms. But though finding reasonable ways to keep guns out the hands of those inclined to violence may be helpful, it doesn’t solve the root cause of the problem. Ultimately the root problem is not having too many guns or having easy access to them; it is our failure to help people like Nicholas Cruz to find more constructive ways to deal with their internal struggles.

I believe that our misunderstanding and subsequent misapplication of the first amendment contributes to this failure. This amendment reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.” The original intent of this amendment was to prevent Congress from establishing a national religion while preserving the rights of citizens to express their own views about God freely – to have the freedom of religion. This amendment has been interpreted in recent decades however as an imperative to keep religion totally separate from government – to keep government free from religion – by removing all references to God, the Bible, and religion from our public venues.

I believe that our efforts to interpret and apply the first amendment in this fashion has done more harm than good. For one thing, it inadvertently communicates to those who may know little about God that He doesn’t exist, or if He does that He doesn’t care about our troubles, or that it doesn’t matter what we believe about Him. In an environment like this where expressions of faith are discouraged rather than applauded, people like Cruz who may be struggling with a myriad of internal conflicts are left with the notion that they have few alternatives for dealing with their inner turmoil other than to express their anger or frustration in destructive ways.

The Bible and its expression through the Christian faith has much to offer in this respect. It teaches that we are all broken people who pretty much can’t fix ourselves. It reminds us that God did something to remedy this and that when His Son Jesus was crucified, He provided a path to both personal and spiritual redemption. It promises that we can find true peace and joy by having a personal relationship with Jesus and that even in our darkest moments He will always love us and remain with us. It also communicates that there are significant consequences, some of them eternal, for those who refuse to acknowledge their need for Him or who give into their inclination towards violence or evil.

I don’t know if Cruz ever heard this message or if he did, how he responded to it. But if encouraging expressions of faith like this in our public places could have motivated him or others like him to consider making a different and better choice in dealing with their inner turmoil, wouldn’t it be worth it even if some may have been offended by hearing that message?

Maybe it’s time to change our understanding and application of the first amendment so that there are more opportunities for people to hear about the redemptive work of Jesus, even if it results in increased expressions of faith in our public spaces.