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What is the Answer?

I have been writing weekly blogs since 2014. As I look back, I realize I have written a number of them in response to mass shootings in our country. I have had to edit this blog to include a shooting that took place this past Thursday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal church right here in Birmingham, Alabama. Three members were killed.

There is always moral outrage followed by all types of opinions and explanations over the causes behind these events. Many of our politicians are infuriated over the lack of gun control.

Recently I read an article that professes there is a certain profile for a mass shooter. Most of them are young, angry, and male. This is particularly true in school shootings.

Eric Madfis, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Washington at Tacoma says:

“We teach boys and men that the only socially acceptable emotion to have is not to be vulnerable and sensitive.” In the case of shooters, he said, often “we are talking about boys who have been emasculated over a period of time. They were bullied, or ignored, or didn’t have the dating life or popularity they wanted.”

Ramos, who killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde last month, was said to have been bullied over a lisp and stutter. Cruz, who murdered 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, had exhibited behavioral issues since middle school. Lanza, who killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton in 2012, was a loner.

Gallup has come out with a study that says American mental health ratings have sunk to an all-time low. I think they are probably on to something.

I find the words of the celebrated philosopher Dr. Dallas Willard in his book, Renovation of the Heart, to be very insightful as we seek to understand these horrific events.

Willard says; “Societies around the world are currently in desperate straights trying to produce people who are merely coping with their life on earth in a non-destructive manner.”

He believed that no matter who you are, whether it be a terrorist, a rapist, a mass shooter, or a saint, there is a reason for it. Willard believes all of our lives are the outcome of spiritual formation. He says all of our hearts have been formed. He then pens these profound words:

“We each become a certain kind of person in the depths of our being, gaining a specific type of character. And that is the outcome of a process of spiritual formation as understood in general human terms that apply to everyone, whether they want it or not. Fortunate or blessed are those who are able to find or are given a path of life that will form their heart and inner world in a way that is truly strong and good and directed Godward.

The shaping and reshaping of the inner life is, accordingly, a problem that has been around as long as humanity itself; and the earliest records of human thought bear eloquent witness to the human struggle to solve it—but with very limited success, one would have to say.”

I truly appreciate these words of Dr. John Hollowell, a prestigious professor of political science at Duke University: “The crisis we find ourselves in is the culmination of modern man’s progressive attempt to deny the existence of a transcendent or spiritual reality.” The solution, he concludes, lies in the return to “a society that intellectually and spiritually is God-centered rather than man-centered.”

That is the answer!


Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.

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