In the wake of the massacre in Colorado we must pray. We must pray for the souls of those killed, for the healing of those shot, for all of those families and friends affected. We must also pray for the conversion and repentance of the shooter so that, while he will face the consequences of his crimes on this earth, he may be spared eternal damnation in the next. However, we also must act. Like the agonizing pain that torments our bodies when something is gravely wrong, the pain we feel in response to this tragedy is a warning sign of something terribly wrong with our society.
Unfortunately, while this shooting is unprecedented in America, it is only unprecedented in scale but not in kind. We already know what happens next: our loss will be politicized. Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, they will go through the now all too familiar motions. This happened because guns are too accessible. This happened because guns aren’t accessible enough and regular citizens can’t defend themselves. Gun rights is an important issue, but in the case of shootings like this it is also an irrelevant one. This is not an issue of accessibility; this is an issue of morality.
Ordinary, regular people like the Colorado shooter, an honors student and Ph.D candidate with no arrest record, commit mass homicide, seemingly on a whim, because we live in a morally dead society that can’t even label an act “right” or “wrong” anymore. This tragedy will be labeled insane; that is, it will be accused of mental deficiency. It will be called vulgar or disgusting; that is, it will be accused of a lack of manners. Finally, it will be condemned as loathsome and revolting; that is, it will be accused of a deficiency or destruction of aesthetic beauty. The shooter may have certainly have had a mental breakdown, the act was certainly disgusting and the scene, I’m sure, revolting but what makes this incidence evil is the simple fact that it was wrong.
A hundred years ago the great English journalist, G.K. Chesterton, said the following, “If the modern world will not insist on having some sharp and definite moral law, capable of resisting the counter-attractions of art and humor, the modern world will simply be given over as a spoil to anybody who can manage to do a nasty thing in a nice way. Every murderer who can murder entertainingly will be allowed to murder. Every burglar who burgles in really humorous attitudes will burgle as much as he likes.” Perhaps humanity has grown since then, maybe we’ve evolved – but I don’t think so. In fact, I believe that the future that Chesterton warned about is now.
Kill a human being with a scalpel and it is your right; kill a human being with a knife and you’re a murderer. Shoot innocent bystanders with missiles from a drone and you are defending democracy; shoot innocent bystanders with missiles from a gun and you are a monster. Deprive your dying uncle of food and water in the hospital and you are merciful; smother him with his pillow and you are a villain. Our society picks and chooses which of these acts to condemn and which it will embrace – all based on the most trivial superficialities – but they all possess one common characteristic: they are all intrinsically wrong.
Society, however, seems to have regressed into such an infantile state that it cannot even label an act evil anymore, simply on the basis that it is wrong. The younger generations of America have been brought up under the sentiment condemned by C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man, that when “we appear to be saying something very important about something . . . we are only saying something about our own feelings.” Right and wrong is only a matter of sentiment and when we make a value statement we are only valuing our own, subjective feelings. The modern educators seek to abolish these sentiments because America is “too diverse” to adhere to any one moral code. Instead, our society has tasked itself with the impossible burden of adhering to all creeds at all times – which is to say that we adhere to no creed ever. C.S. Lewis’ response? “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.”
The shooter in Colorado is a crude and violent person but only by the enabling hands of a crude and violent people did he become so. We have ripped out our children’s hearts through years of conditioning; We have bred a nation of men without chests. Thus, it becomes our task to restore America’s heart. As the rebounding gun control debate rages in politics let us foster soft hearts and hard heads in schools. Let us act: that is, let us act with morals. Let us call an evil thing wrong because it is wrong and a good thing right because it is right. Let us teach our children to do the same.
May the victims of the Colorado shooting rest in peace.