The United States has a gun problem, but guns are not the problem.
The United States has a problem with mental illness, but mental illness is not the problem.
The United States has a divorce problem, but divorce is not the problem.
The United States has a drunk driving problem, but alcohol is not the problem.
The United States has a pornography problem, but sex is not the problem.
There are people in the U.S. living in large mansions with every material good in the world while other suffer from hunger and exposure--but money is not the problem.
There is something deeper going on not only within the United States, but in the world. For instance, a Facebook friend arguing for gun control (who tends to research things thoroughly) said frankly, the per capita murder rate in the United States is no different than the per captia murder rate in any other industrialized nation--even those nations who have very strict gun control measures. If guns were the problem with the murder rate in the United States, it stands to reason that the murder rates in nations where gun control was enacted and enforced would be less. But it is not. People commit murder with or without guns, and that is a symptom of a deeper problem--a human nature problem.
The shooting in Newtown, CT offers all the evidence needed to point to the brokenness of human nature.
- There is the family who had material wealth and no need who underneath it all struggled with some major issues.
- There is the family affected by divorce.
- There is the single mother desperately trying to care for a mentally ill child who (according to a recent report I saw) didn't feel comfortable reaching out to others for help.
- There is the child who suffered from mental illness.
- There is the senseless violence and killing of innocent children.
- There is the report of a father or a brother (depending upon which news sources one reads) who had not had contact with the shooter in years--further evidence of brokenness in the family.
If one needs almost a picture perfect shot of the broken state of human nature, this story had it. And in the aftermath, there is a push to do something, anything to stop such senseless acts of violence.
But how does one address the brokenness of human nature? How does one address the fact that we have an idea about how the world should work, but clashes against the reality of the way the world actually works? Some believe we can actually legislate our way out of such a thing. Some believe we can pass just the right laws with just the right words, and we can make the world safer and better.
For those of us from a particular theological background, we know the folly of such thought. God already tried to get us to do the right things by the power of the Law. Hey, if people actually followed the law, "Thou shalt not murder," we wouldn't be having this conversation in the first place.
But people don't follow the law. People always do things they know they should not do. Even though every fiber of their body knows something is immoral, they still do it. There is something within human nature that leads us to do this; something that we cannot fix, and believe me, as a student of history, we have tried.
In our past, as a nation, events like what happened in Newtown, CT would have caused us to pause and take stock of ourselves. It would have caused us to do some very deep reflection on the nature of our nation and how such a thing could happen within us. We would have been shocked by the evil we saw and turned to deep introspection to look in our own hearts. We would have seen that given the right circumstances, we too could have been the shooter. We too could have taken innocent life. We too could have committed such an atrocity because that seed of evil lies within each and every one of us. And we would have turned in humility to the only One who can bring about change within the nature of human beings.
Yeah, I know, here's the "Turn to God" part. But bear with me because in no way do I want to go down the path of many televangelists and other noteworthy Christians, no matter how well meaning and well intentioned they are. I have no wish to go down that path of repent-or-these-things-will-keep-happening or repent-for-this-is-God's-judgement-for-turning-away-from-Him. God tried those methods once. Read the Old Testament for insight into that.
But look to Jesus for the different tact God chose. For you see, Jesus didn't come into the world to condemn the world. He came to save it. (John 3) Jesus didn't come into the world with threats of, "If you don't follow me, then I will zap you and your family." Instead, He came into the world to take our suffering upon Him. He came into the world as God incarnate--God clothed in human flesh--to suffer, to bear pain, to bear rejection, to bear suffering, and to die, just like we die. Jesus had to face human nature and our worst--to take it into Himself--so that He could transform it and bring about something new: resurrection.
The resurrection is the hope that God will one day transform our broken nature and make it whole again. God will make the wrongs right. God will end suffering and pain and death. This is His promise.
But what about the interim time? What happens now? What happens to us as we patiently await His return and the restoration of our broken world?
The promise of Christianity is that God sends His Spirit into our hearts to begin that transformation now. God comes into us to make us more and more holy (the fancy term for this is sanctification). Through prayer, study, reflection, confession, worship, fasting, and other such disciplines, our hearts become more and more attuned to God and His will.
I am convinced that it is this and this alone that can address the problem of our broken human nature.
One Facebook friend called it a bit simplistic to think that we could just get people to believe in Jesus and come to church. He thought such a comment would be offensive to me, but call me simplistic and unoffended. As I posted to his comment, so I say again: I can cite thousands upon thousands of stories of people who after coming into a relationship with Jesus who improved their morality and began caring even more deeply about humankind and having respect for others. I can cite very few stories of people who became Christian and then became more evil--they are out there, but their number pales in comparison. If we dared to do what Jesus asked us--no commanded us--to do; to make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey all that He commanded; to help others become more and more Christ-like; to help others love their enemies and forgive those who persecute them; to help others be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger; what would be the down side?
Perhaps I am foolish to think such thoughts, but please, call me a fool for Christ. I have dedicated my life to Him and to serving His people in His Church. I believe deeply, passionately, and whole-heartedly that He is the answer to the problem of human nature. I believe it is He who can change hearts and transform people so that events like Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Killeen, and countless other senseless acts of violence become even more rare.
If guns were the problem, I'd be the first in line to seek a ban on them. But I am quite positive the problem is deeper and dwells within our very hearts. There is only one solution, and He's more than willing to go to work.