I remember being in Atlanta on April 20, 1999 when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, both seniors at Columbine High School, shot and killed twelve of their classmates, along with a teacher before killing themselves. It shocked our nation as we were not accustomed to these types of mass shootings.
That, of course, has all changed. This year alone there have been more than 200 mass shootings across the United States through May 8th. A mass shooting is defined as an incident in which four or more people are badly injured or killed. It includes shootings that happen in homes, schools, and other public places.
So what is going on? These mass shootings have become so commonplace that they don’t seem to affect us as the Columbine shooting. What has happened to us as a nation and where and how will it end? It leaves so many of us bewildered.
I am reminded of an interview I heard years ago with Clayton Christensen. Christensen was a Rhodes Scholar and a professor at Harvard Business School.
I am going to share with you the transcript of this brief interview. Please note that when the word “religion” is used, it is referring to the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which our country was founded.
“Some time ago I had a conversation with a Marxist economist from China. He was coming to the end of a Fulbright fellowship here in Boston, and I asked him if he’d learned anything that was surprising or unexpected. And without any hesitation he said, “Yeah, I had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy. The reason why democracy works,” he said, “it is not because the government was designed to oversee what everybody does, but rather democracy works because most people most of the time voluntarily choose to obey the law. And in your past most Americans attended a church or synagogue every week and they were taught there by people who they respected.”
“My friend went on to say that Americans followed these rules because they had come to believe that they were not just accountable to society, they were accountable to God.”
“My Chinese friend heightened a vague but nagging concern I’ve harbored inside. As religion loses its influence over the lives of Americans, what will happen to our democracy? Where are the institutions that are going to teach the next generation of Americans that they, too, need to voluntarily choose to obey the laws. Because if you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.”
In Proverbs 9:10 we are told that our knowledge of God is where we get our understanding of life. Dr. Tim Keller says how we relate to God is the foundation of our thinking. It determines how we view the world and how we are to live in it.
Keller goes on to say that spiritual darkness comes when we turn away from God as our true light and make something else the center of our lives. He says the Bible sometimes compares God to the sun. Why is the sun so important? It’s the source of visual truth because by it, we see everything and the sun is a source of biological life because without it, nothing could live. And God, the Bible says, is the source of all truth and all life. If you orbit around God, then your life has truth and vitality. You are in the light, but if you turn away from God, and orbit around yourself, the result is spiritual darkness. You are turning away from the truth, away from life, towards darkness, death, and destruction.
The Apostle John described it best; “Jesus, the true light came into the world, but mankind loved darkness rather than the light and their deeds were evil. For everyone who loves evil, hates the light.”
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.