Hollow Soul Bullets

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The aftermath of the most recent school shooting in Florida is playing out very much like the aftermath of many of the previous school shootings. Some urge us to a period of respectful silence, saying that debating gun control issues is not fitting while the grief is still a hot ache. Others say that if we don’t debate it when the issue is staring us in the face, when will we debate it? But whether debating an issue like that in the aftermath of a tragedy is largely beside the point—because we are not really debating, unless you call yelling debating.

So my point here is not really to enter into a debate, or do any yelling myself, but rather simply to register some foundational concerns that would have to be addressed if there ever were to be a debate. I doubt that there will be, because a precondition of a true public debate (conducted with civility and respect) would be massive cultural repentance—and if we really had massive cultural repentance, it would address things like the school shootings themselves, and not just the debates over school shootings. If God restores us, He will restore the disintegrating culture—He will not give us the dubious gift of being able to debate a disintegrating culture like gentlemen.

So in preparation for that day, here would be an outline of thoughts, suggesting what I believe to be a truly biblical response.

We should distinguish tactical solutions from strategic solutions. What you would want if you were in the midst of such an event is very different from what you might want from the other side of the country a week after such an event. If you are in the middle of it, what you would want is a gun of your own. If you are contemplating the appalling nature of these recurrent tragedies, with some kind of objective distance, you would be looking for systemic solutions. Tactical solutions are not systemic solutions—a tactical solution is a safe room that locks on the inside, a gun of your own, or an escape route. Now I don’t want a pretended systemic solution that outlaws prudent tactical solutions, but with that said, the two are still not the same.

Second, if we are asking for a diagnosis of what truly ails us, if we are looking for systemic solutions, we really need to look past the surface. This is not about guns at all. I live in a part of the country where it is not unusual for any number of pick-up trucks to house firearms out in the school parking lot, particularly during hunting season. And a generation ago, it was not unusual to have those rifles openly displayed in the gun rack in the rear view mirror. Where I live, in my state, in my town, and in my house, gun ownership is as common and as uncontroversial as microwave ownership.

And during that earlier era, when there were fifteen rifles visible in the school parking lot, school shootings were not anything like they are today. So if you want to analyze a changing culture in a thoughtful way, you should look at the variables, not at the constants. So what has changed? When it comes to comparing the days when school shootings were uncommon to our time when they are common, the availability of guns is not what has changed.

So do you want real systemic analysis? Do you really? We don’t need to do anything about the guns. But we do need to do something about all the fatherless boys who are loaded up on psychotropic drugs, administered by the school nurse, and educated by a school system that is prohibited by law from telling anybody what the meaning of life is. That is your toxic mix, and if you don’t want to do anything about it, then you need to stop pretending that you want a systemic solution.We do need to do something about all the fatherless boys who are loaded up on psychotropic drugs, administered by the school nurse, and educated by a school system that is prohibited by law from telling anybody what the meaning of life is.

First we took away God the Father. You, the student body, are nothing more than meat, bones, and protoplasm, the end result of so many millions of years of blind and idiotic forces imposing their deterministic and grinding fate on matter and energy. What is the mass murderer, at the end of the day? Mostly water—just the same as the valedictorian. Perhaps we should start making the shooters into honorary valedictorians, seeing that they are among those who actually follow the argument, and exhibit all the implications.

Having taken away God the Father, we have substituted the state—a ramshackle federal father, if ever there was one. So not only are we idolaters, we are clumsy idolaters, proving it by making a clumsy god in our own image. And we cry out to this idol we have fashioned, and it answers us the way all idols do, with silence. Whenever a shooting reveals inept legislation, we call out—we think, naturally enough—for more inept legislation.

As a consequence of this culture-wide theological revolution, we decided to wink at the sexual revolution that made it easy for families to crack up, with the loss of the father being the usual result. And then, when the inevitable problems begin to manifest themselves, we try to shackle all our newly formed Legions with chemical manacles. When they occasionally break those manacles, they find a gun, left around from simpler times, and do their bloody work.

Our proposed solution is to ban all reminders of those simpler times.

The words of C.S. Lewis on our grotesque dilemma are words that are truly evergreen:

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”[1]


[1] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man or Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools (HarperOne, 2001), 26.