“It can happen anywhere,” says Vice President Al Gore in his homiletic and halting manner. He is sitting on a panel across from Larry King and next to a psychologist and the Reverend Robert Schuller. Their topic is the murders in Littleton, Colorado. Candidate Gore is clearly taking advantage of this opportunity to promote a liberal agenda before a captive, national audience. But his is an audience with itching ears. Americans—in chorus with the cover of Newsweek—continue to ask, “Why?” The question may reveal more than the answer.
“Why did these two boy’s commit such cowardly acts of violence?” “Bullying is a national crisis,” the psychologist responds. Taunting and bullying by peers provided die motive for the murders. We have motive, and according to Mr. Gore, we have opportunity. Easy access to guns is not only a condition of, but a catalyst for, violence.
Guns and taunts created the problem; thus, we must eliminate weapons and acrimony. “We need love, love, love,” says the Rev. Schuller. “But aren’t men of the cloth guilty of adding to the shame felt by young boys such as these?” King asks, and—of course—the Reverend agrees. Still, there is cause for hope, according to Schuller, “since love and acceptance serve as foundations for Jews, Christians, and Moslems.”
“We can do something about this,” Gore says. His words reveal a frightening, almost Orwellian scenario. In 1984, the principal method of inspiring mindnumbing loyalty and obedience was to present the citizens of Oceania with a vision of reality that made annihilation seem imminent without the constant intervention of Big Brother. But unlike the proles of Oceania, Americans seem to relish the arrangement. Big Brothers Gore and Schuller strike a chord because they tell us “why”; they soothe something within us, making it easier for us to ignore the fact that we already know why and are unwilling to admit it.
The motivation for the Columbine killings was sin. We are born with an evil will that seeks to please itself rather than God or our fellow man. Our problem is not low self-esteem, but high self-esteem. Culture can either serve to restrain the evil within us or help it to increase. The flourishing of evil depends largely upon the fertility of the ground into which its seeds are sown. Our lives can either be immersed in a sea of temptation or guarded by the bulwarks of family, neighborhood, city, and state.
Christians can confidently speak of the reality of original sin because, according to St. Paid, nature confirms in our hearts the existence of God and our need to obey him. Of course, a cacophony of concupiscence helps to drown out the witness of the heavens which “declare the glory of God.” While a culture that upholds a sense of justice, honor, respect, and compassion sings in harmony with the music of the spheres, post-Christian cultures such as ours—which constantly encourage people to indulge their every desire—can only mask the voice of God crying out against the source of the barbarism exhibited in the Littieton slayings.
“Certain new theologians,” wrote G.K. Chesterton, “dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.” “Firstperson killing” in video games, glorified Hollywood violence—these may serve to enhance the evil already present within human hearts. But when they are blamed for crimes committed by men, a greater evil is born—one that denies nature itself. When the Vice President and the Reverend Schuller look your children in the face and tell them that guns and video games caused this violence, the) are lying. But they are lying to a receptive audience that does not want to hear that living in a culture of lust, violence, and abortion-on-demand has its consequences. Their expert opinions are the backdrop of white noise which helps us fall asleep, only to be awakened again by the sound of gunshots.
We cannot deny the truth and expect its consequence to disappear. We should not pretend (as did the Gnostics) that matter is evil. We are evil, and we must be restrained. If we do not want to live with the consequence of unrestrained, rampant evildoers, we must create a culture that reflects a belief in original sin. Until then, let us at least admit that we know the answer to America’s question.