Everyone knew he was a problem—students even predicted that if there were a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Nikolas Cruz would likely be behind it. But no one really knew what to do—not even his mother, who would call the police to the house in desperation, hoping against hope that they could talk some sense into him. The signs were everywhere, and everyone was looking for someone else to solve the problem of a boy spiraling out of control. And Thursday we saw, once again, the lethal results of kicking the can of America’s violence epidemic down the road.
Out of respect for the victims and their families—and those to come if nothing is done, it’s time for action.
Instead of assessing blame, it would be far more productive for all of us on both sides of the great political and social divide in our country to start taking responsibility for reducing these increasing acts of violence.
I realize something in the following paragraphs will cause everyone to bristle, but that’s fine because the status quo (which President Ronald Reagan often defined as Latin for “the mess we’re in”) is clearly not working. It is going to take a coalition of all ideologies to solve the problem of escalating violence in our country. As David French noted, “It is the responsibility of a free people to be aware, to have courage, and to care for one another.”
First, those of us who are identified as religious conservatives need to start speaking out against the celebration of violence in our culture as vehemently as we condemn abortion, sexual immorality, and other practices that we believe violate biblical standards. Most parents would never dream of allowing their children to view a pornographic movie yet think nothing of allowing them to watch gruesome acts of torture and murder on television or even be an active participant in those violent acts through video games.
When I was a child, my father used to take me to the movies every Saturday to see a Western which always included its fair share of death. But those killings were as antiseptic as the love scenes between Doris Day and Rock Hudson during the same era.
Today’s movie and video game mayhem is filled with explicit gore that has made violence the new pornography of our age.
Those of us who have platforms need to remind our audience that God detests violence. The Creator’s stated reason for destroying the world with a flood was not because of the rampant sexual immorality in the world, but because “the earth is filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11).
Next, Libertarians in our country are also going to have to acknowledge that while the Constitution provides very real freedoms for every American, none of those freedoms is absolute.
The Supreme Court has recognized that the First Amendment right to free speech does not allow someone to shout “Fire” in a crowded theatre, nor does that right give license to child pornography. It’s time to have a serious discussion about the merits of limiting or banning the production of violent movies and video games.
Likewise, the right to privacy that is implied in the Ninth Amendment needs to be interpreted in light of these violent attacks. Pastor Rick Warren, whose son suffered from mental illness and committed suicide, has expressed frustration in the past over privacy laws regarding medical records that hinder families from adequately caring for their loved ones.
The right to bear arms that is guaranteed by the Second Amendment must be protected at all costs but should never be used as an excuse against reasonable background checks for domestic violence, mental illness, and substance abused that might serve as a partial deterrent to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
Finally, secularists must acknowledge that there is a spiritual dimension of human beings that needs cultivating. Secularists’ unrelenting attempt over the last 60 years to rid the public square of any acknowledgment of God and His laws has not served the public interest. It is no accident that the oft-cited decrease in personal faith in God over the last several decades parallels the increase in violence and immorality that has infected our country. As one of my professors used to say, “When God dies, man dies.”
With battles over immigration looming over the next few weeks, there will be plenty of opportunities for rank partisanship. But all of us need to own the responsibility for working together to lessen violence against our fellow human beings.
Dr. Robert Jeffress is a best-selling author of 24 books, and the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, one of the largest and most influential churches in America. Pathway to Victory, Dr. Jeffress’ radio ministry, airs daily nationwide on more than 900 radio stations and via television on TBN and Daystar. Together, these broadcasts bring bold, biblical and refreshingly practical teaching to 195 countries. His newest book, A Place Called Heaven: 10 Surprising Truths About Your Eternal Home, is available wherever books are sold. Dr. Jeffress serves on President Trump’s Faith Advisory Council.