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Miniblog #160: Careful Reflections Concerning the Connecticut Tragedy

by Carson T. Clark on December 15, 2012

I’ve five, intertwined thoughts a day after the tragedy in Connecticut. First, my heart is broken for the family and friends of victims as well as those of the shooter. I cannot imagine the grief they’re experiencing. My thoughts and prayers go out to them. Second, there’s a great deal of faux thinking going on.11.That is, uncritical, undeveloped, and uninspired thought that’s getting passed off as critical, developed, and inspired. N.K. Clifford once observed, “The Evangelical Protestant mind has never relished complexity. Indeed its crusading genius, whether in religion or politics, has always tended toward an over-simplification of issues and the substitution of inspiration and zeal for critical analysis and serious reflection.” Just now I think this applies equally to American society as a whole. Third, too many people are jumping to dealing with the symptoms while ignoring the disease. Look, I’m virtually a pacifist.22.No one can accuse me of being in cahoots with the GOP, the NRA, or any strand of the diverse conservative ideologies that exist. I, personally, am in favor of more and responsible gun control. At the same time (not “but”), this knee-jerk turn toward gun control is too easy. I’m not saying gun control isn’t a part of the solution. What I’m saying is you can’t fix a problem you haven’t identified, and it seems to me the underlying problem(s) remains largely ignored. Fourth, there’s a disturbing sociological trend evident in all these senseless, public shootings. To the best of my knowledge, dating back to Columbine almost all of the shooters have been middle-class, white males. This raises the question, what the hell is going on with middle-class, white males?! Beyond a fairly simple theological explanation concerning the depravity of man, this issue needs to be studied by a collaborative team of psychologists and sociologists.33.A research university needs to hop on this pronto. Anyone know any scholars in these fields? Fifth, I think the key word we all need to start using is “multicausal.” We Americans are imbued with pragmatist DNA to our core such that we want to know the cause. We tend to like short, simple answers because it’s readily understandable and relatively addressable. The trouble is, that’s seldom the way the world works. We need to embrace the multicausal complexities as they exist.44.So, for example, I’ve zero empirical evidence but, in no particular order, here’s a list of 10 things I suspect may have contributed to this trend:
1. Growing legacy of such events promotes copy cats.
2. Disintegration of the nuclear family.
3. Romanticization of violence in the media.
4. Ready availability of resources, i.e. guns.
5. Technological develops isolating individuals.
6. Epistemological relativity undermining moral consensus.
7. Mobile society straining sense of community and belonging.
8. Popularity and graphic reality of video games enhances plausibility.
9. Pharmaceuticals are masking rather than addressing emotional instabilities.
10. White males have no positive narrative of purpose for identity and are suffering from perceived loss of significance.

  • Robert Martin

    For a better narrative of the white male, I would suggest the following book:

  • Erik Pasco

    As Christians, I wonder how to best enact change on our culture. My gut tells me that it will have to be more organic, more grass roots than the conservative political agenda. I really do believe that if believers and churches did a better job of reaching out to the down and outs, the emotionally unstable, the weak and disenfranchised, the bored, the ridiculed the very least that could happen is a greater number of people who are more spiritually nurtured, less lonely, and more whole individuals. At best, we might be able to turn the tide of a decaying culture that lacks a moral center.

    How to do all of that? It starts in our own hearts and lives. We need to not be ok with the status quo. Yes there is the depravity of humanity and I’m wholly uninterested in going down that road. Point out the darkness in the human hearts is only the first step. If we dwell there we fail to point out the image of God in each person and end in despair rather than hope.

  • Stephen

    The thing that really puzzles me is how, in situations like this and virtually every situation regarding firearms, the people talking about how everyone needs more guns to protect themselves from criminals (yes, that’s hyperbole) are those who are, putatively, the Christian representatives – the servants of the Prince of Peace are the ones promoting weapon proliferation. The mind, it boggles.

  • Jason Lewis

    He was a white male… with an underlying mental illness. Also, the virgina tech shooter was Korean and the beltway sniper was black. Don’t simplify when you criticize others for simplfying. It’s often our greatest critques of others that we so easily ignore in ourself.

    • Carson T. Clark

      “To the best of my knowledge, dating back to Columbine almost all of the shooters have been middle-class, white males.” Repeat: To the best of my knowledge. I appreciate the correction, though.

  • Evelyn

    Inspired by Steven PInker, I’d like to add the following to the complex multi-causal brew:

    Firstly, from his ‘How the Mind Works': Superficially, what happened looks a lot like running amok (I say superficially because obviously I know next to nothing about the specifics of this case). This happens in all cultures, social classes and ages. The name is malay, it’s been documented everywhere from Dunblane to Papua New Guinea. The chilling logic is like this: the one thing I have that makes my life worthy is my dignity. Now I have lost my dignity, so my life is worth nothing. I will take your life / lives in exchange for mine, and if I lose my life in the process, it doesn’t matter, because my life is nothing. But at least I’ve shown you all I do have power – and dignity. This raises the question for me of what the church can or should be doing (if anything) to work with socially isolated individuals.

    The second point concerns the whole gun control argument. Again, inspired by Pinker (The Better Angels of our Nature this time), it might be worth reflecting on where America has come from, how that influences thinking, and how that thinking might be changed. As a nation, there is a frontier society history you have to deal with. Both a significant proportion of your immigrants came from frontier societies and your own country had that kind of society. Those societies of necessity take the law into their own hands, have honor cultures and will end up a century later typically being against gun control – without necessarily understanding where those beliefs come from. The argument may not be so much about gun control vs not control, as about what kind of nation you want to be now: a frontier society, or one with rule of law. I think the fact that the USA lives in the tension of trying to be both, or hasn’t resolved which force will be dominant, is part of the problem.

    I’m not explaining myself very well, but the kids are calling!

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