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Topics: Cultural Engagement, Current Events, Politics

What Does the Navy Yard Shooter Reveal About our Cultural Priorities?

September 18, 2013


By Jeremy Dys

By now, everyone not yet living on the south side of a north facing rock has heard there was yet another tragic shooting, this time on the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.  Of course, we as Americans tend skip over grieving, or at least speed through the steps of resolution, unless we are directly affected.  Instead, we – er, our 24-hour new media – have to figure out why this happened.  The answer reveals much about our humanity and cultural priorities.

Saying the obvious is not satiating because it reveals far too much about our human condition.  But, let me state the obvious.  The shooter in the Navy Yard, like the long, bloody trail of senseless shooters and murderers before him did what he did because he is evil.  Ok, maybe there were attendant circumstances that encouraged that resident evil, but the reality is that – like each of us at our birth – this shooter was possessed of all the bad that he would ever need to accomplish this grotesque and cowardly act.

Not only that, in his depravity, he suppressed the truth made visible to him by even the heavens above.  That is, he did not seek after God, but actively suppressed the only moral restraint that may have told him that it is wrong to destroy innocent human life.

That’s the obvious.  What I find culturally interesting about this event, and distinct from the previous iterations of general violence, is the locus of the shooting: a military installation.  Granted, the portion of the base that was infiltrated was staffed by civilians and military contractors, but it happened in an area of the world that ought to be rather secure or, at the least, focused upon security measures that would prevent breaches of security.

It’s an interesting cultural question because it reveals our priorities.  And, as for me, I think we may have our priorities a bit backwards.

Consider what has been the predominate debate in the military over the past several years?  We have focused more energy on the repeal of a policy that precludes you from acting upon same-sex urges than we have buttressing the security measures at military bases.  Debates have raged as to whether women can serve in combat, we have modified battle dress uniforms (BDU’s) to accommodate a pregnant woman’s form, and now are actively correcting religious expression among the corps in the name of esprit du corps!

And yet, a 34-year old “gamer” walks onto a base and shoots a dozen people.  Perhaps our attention should be less on waging wars of social revolution and more on securing our bases and caring for our troubled veterans.

What about the schools (another locus of tragedy and social revolution)?  Well, for decades we have had the debate about the mythical separation of church and state.  More recently, we have had rounds and rounds of debates and in-school-services about correcting bullying, most of which have been sponsored by same-sex activists and the likes of Planned Parenthood.  We now have curricula available now that encourages students to have a same-sex sexual experience and write about what it felt like and sex education curriculum for kindergarteners that comes complete with cartoonish drawings of naked people.

And yet, a troubled young adult can walk into a school and gun down children who are supposed to be learning their ABC’s and 123’s.  Perhaps our attention ought to be more on training in character and less focused on performing social experiments on our children.

While all of this is going on, there is a pretty vocal, and overly pious, number of Christians suggesting that Christians have no business being involved in the political dialog and that doing the same detracts from the mission of the church.  “Sue a public school for saying a candy cane is an overt Christian symbol?  No way!”, they say, “Don’t you know that Peter said we would be persecuted?!  Subject – er, submit – yourself to the government, regardless of how they treat you.  Don’t you know that Peter and Paul were writing to an audience that lived under the likes of Nero for a government?  Congress may be bad, but they’re not playing the fiddle while Rome burns around them, ya’ know.”

Here’s the reality, folks: the gunman in DC and those like him have a problem that requires our attention.  First and foremost, it is a problem tied directly back to Genesis 3 and the Serpent’s lie, “did God really say.”

It is a spiritual problem that needs to be confronted at all levels.  First, by the Great Commission that finds God’s people explaining the reality of our fallen, wicked heart of stone and then informing them of our great Savior that is expert at life-altering heart surgery that quickens the stoniest of hearts into the liveliest of lives!

But it goes beyond that.  It is a cultural dialog that requires our voice.  Yes, your Christian voice should be present in this dialog.  At the water cooler.  On the phone to your elected official.  At the town hall meeting.  In your ballot.  And even in the courtroom, in the legislature, or on the campaign trail.

You may not be called to directly confront the logic of Americans United for Separation of Church and State or the ACLU or the liberal politician du jour, but neither are you called to discourage those who are from articulating the Truth of the Gospel even as they rebut the illogic of liberalism.

You needn’t call politically active Christians “moralists” for failing to take politicians through the Romans Road when they call their lawmakers to ask them to support laws that will protect innocent human life because that is what Christianity teaches a just government will do.

There is no need to piously decry the creation of a civic religion when we reference our forebears that, though they have faults a plenty and many practiced a false Gospel, still had a moral restraint largely informed by a Judeo-Christian worldview.  No, we do not encourage the worship or deification of our Founding Fathers.  We simply acknowledge that they were pretty intelligent to base this country’s founding upon a moral recognition that the rights and privileges we possess as citizens did not come from government, but from Providence and Our Creator who had endowed us with “certain inalienable rights.”

Look, the reality here is that there is not a thing that happens in this world apart from God’s ordination and purposeful planning.  He has utter control and that does not demand our sitting on the sidelines and watching.  Rather, as in our participation in the Great Commission (over which God has preeminent control), so must our participation in the cultural/political dialog of the day be.

Though we will never overturn the effects of the Fall that, ultimately, motivate horrendous acts as we have witnessed again this week, we recognize the truth of Abraham Kuyper’s observation: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!'”

And, as ambassadors of that truth, we assert it in whatever context God, in his good kindness, has placed us.

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