The nation was stunned earlier this week as news was received of yet another school shooting. 17 lives were taken in Parkland, Florida at the hands of a former student, Nikolas Cruz, who, unlike many school shooters, was taken into custody after the event. The tragedy has fired up debate on gun control and mental health, and with good reason. There have been over 230 school shootings nationwide since Sandy Hook in 2012 (nytimes.com). Clearly something has to be done, a desire which has polarized the nation in the past couple days.
“It’s a sin problem” is a very Christian line. Usually that line will end a conversation. You’re in the middle of a heated debate on gun control with a buddy at church when he throws his hands up and exclaims, “Well, none of that changes the fact that it’s a sin problem.” The only possible follow up to that is a discussion on helping people out of sin because every Christian knows the antidote to sin isn’t legislation but a shift in your moral paradigm.
While it’s true that our thoughts and beliefs drive our actions, as Christians, we have to be careful with throwing around glib catch-all’s as solutions to problems. You were frustrated at your kids today? You just need a little more Jesus. You’re upset about something? Just give it to Jesus. What should be done about school shootings? Pray because it’s a sin issue. You’re afraid something could happen to your children at school? God is in control. Perfect love casts out all fear.
I don’t disagree with those statements, but if we follow that advice and do nothing else, we’re not simultaneously utilizing the brains the good Lord gave us.
For example, during my time as a teacher at a Christian school, there were years where the school didn’t have a plan for what to do in the event of a shooting. Of course we imagine that a Christian school is less likely to be the recipient of such a tragedy, but I never believed that. In fact, I always saw it as adding an extra target on my back. Emotions run high when religion is involved. There are people who hate us by virtue of being Christian. There are people who have felt slighted in dealings with the school, and the entity itself comes under attack. So when it came to my safety and my students’ safety, “God is in control” and “we don’t have to fear” wasn’t enough because ideology isn’t enough to physically protect my students. It may be statistically unlikely, but it was still a fact that if someone came in with the intent to kill, people would die. Children would die. We were sitting ducks without any way to protect ourselves. And while I didn’t fear death, I did fear not being able to save my students.
Let’s make our schools more secure. Bring in the metal detectors. Hire armed guards to have a presence at our schools. Design new school buildings with security in mind. Go through frequent, simulated lock down procedures to the point where teachers and students alike can go through the motions without even thinking. Hear students when there are signs of unusual behavior. Provide access to mental health counseling. Listen to teachers on what would make them feel safer, and communicate safety concerns with all staff.
Please go ahead and work on the root of the issue. Debate it, research it, educate, and bring in your expertise. But in the meantime, let’s not watch the world burn because “it’s a sin issue” and we can’t do anything to change the fact that we live in a fallen world. Right now, we have to address some of the symptoms. We can’t just acknowledge the cause and sit out from any discussion on addressing what we’re seeing happen in our schools. Even Band-Aids are going to stop some bleeding.