To prevent violence, break the cultural cycle

To prevent violence, break the cultural cycle

Noah Hausmann

Returning from church on Sunday, I set down my Bible and scrolled through social media. I saw the tragic headline: yet another mass shooting, this time in Sutherland Springs, Texas with 26 church-goers killed and others critically injured.

I knew there’d be more debates on gun control, along with reporters clamoring to answer the impossible question of why anyone would do something so horrible.

It’s even more horrible that atrocities like this seem ubiquitous now, this massacre just after the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1 that killed 58 and wounded 489—and those are just the stories that get national coverage. In Chicago, 3,189 people have been shot this year, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.

Violence is committed somewhere every day.

In the Sutherland Springs shooting, officials said the apparent motive of the suspect, Devin Kelley, was a domestic dispute between him and his in-laws, who were church members. Many news reports say that Kelley’s aggressive mental health could be a factor. But regardless of his motive, it appears that Kelley decided to unleash his attack not only on his intended targets but to spray bullets at the whole congregation. The oldest victim was 77 years old; the youngest victim was only 18 months old.

If we’re serious about protecting lives, then reevaluating and reforming gun regulations is a worthy measure. However, as other attacks show, killers can use anything as an assault weapon. In New York City, eight were killed and a dozen were injured on Oct. 31 when a truck driver steered into a crowd of pedestrians. We talk about banning guns, but we’ll never ban our cars.

The cliche counter slogan that “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people” is true. Weapons make killing faster, but it is still a person that chooses to threaten the life of another. While trying to regulate weapons, we can’t forget the bigger issue of regulating ourselves.

In human history, violence is nothing new. Evil does exist. Deep down, we know that, and when we see atrocities like this, it’s obvious.

These massacres are the systematic disregard for human life, and they are a symptom in society of a malignant cultural disease: self-centeredness, and we’re all guilty of it. Too often we see people not as individuals but as what they can do for us. It’s noticeable in everything from rude interactions toward waiters to pornography. Others service our wants, and in the process, we treat them as less than human, as tools and commodities, turning a blind eye to their intrinsic value. We forget that they are people with their own lives, loved ones and a right to exist.

We may campaign for world peace and equal rights, but when it comes to entertainment, we hypocritically enjoy the glorified violence and the objectified sexuality of movies and other media. It pollutes our thinking and desensitizes us to carnage. We weep more when a dog character dies than when a human does.

Aggression and exploitation run rampant in our culture, and when we support that culture, we perpetuate a system that teaches us to devalue and dehumanize others. The wave of sexual harassment accusations in Hollywood should not surprise us. Society is a reflection of culture, and culture reflects society in a vicious cycle.

Furthermore, we cannot legislate morality: No matter how many laws governments pass, our actions and attitudes are always a moral choice that we each must make. Change must start with us. If we want a society that protects life, then we must respect and nurture people and help to create a culture that reinforces these morals.

Jesus said in Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” I think most of us can agree that that’s the kind thing to do, so why haven’t we tried it? Until we do, expect more of the same carelessness.