How many nightmarish scenes of youth violence must America witness before we realize that this is the harvest of a generation which has turned its back on God? We have banned prayer from the public schools and God from public life. What happened on April 20th at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado was not the result of political or economic problems, but spiritual breakdown. What is even more disturbing is that things are likely to get much worse unless Americans turn our hearts to God in spiritual and moral renewal.
As part of that renewal, the hostility toward people of faith, particularly Christians, must end. That hostility has never been more clearly evidenced than in the killing of one young girl who was shot after she confessed to believing in God.
The young triggermen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were consumed with thoughts of suicide, hatred and violence. They hated people of color, athletes and people of faith. Why? The messages in popular music, on television and in the movies ridicule faith and glorify violence. Moral relativism has undermined notions of absolute truth. Truth is simply a matter of personal opinion and morality a matter of mere personal taste. People who have profound faith are often characterized in the media as stupid, uneducated, easily-lead and fundamentalists. In this spiritual climate, why would these troubled teens place any value on their lives or their victims? It is, after all, just a matter of opinion and personal taste.
Perhaps an incident like this will make us rethink the 1963 Supreme Court decision banning prayer in public schools. It may even cause families to return to churches and synagogues, if only temporarily. Maybe. But in the aftermath of what is the most diabolical act of terrorism ever seen in an American school, we are all seeking the answer to one question: why?
The answer is never as simple as any of us would like. However, it is clear from what we now know that Harris and Klebold were outcasts, rejected by most of their peers. A death toll of fifteen at Columbine High attests that these young men gave up ever being accepted. On April 20th, their demons of personal rejection won the spiritual battle for control of their lives. Neither of them was equipped for spiritual battle, and apparently no one else realized the kind of help they needed.
Even those close to Harris and Klebold were oblivious of their spiritual struggle. We Americans just don't think in those terms. One commentator said that we need not use this as an opportunity to get into "religious crap." When teenagers are fascinated with Nazism, sadistic video games, the satanic music of Marilyn Manson, guns, homemade bombs and death, the best antidote is to confront them with the reality of God - and through him, our historic understanding of decency, goodness and morality. The prophet Micah says, "He has shown thee O man what is good, and what does the Lord require of thee but to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with thy God."
Instead, these young killers, like many other American teens, were nurtured on a steady diet of hatred and violence rooted in fantasy and reality. It is no longer politically correct to provide the spiritual and moral underpinnings which could at least counter the cumulative effect of the self-destructive diet served up by popular culture.
If we plumb the depths of the American soul, we must realize that we are in a spiritual crisis. Our youth are the first casualties in this struggle between good and evil, God and Satan, because we are not equipping them for the fight of their young lives. It is a legal question to what extent we will have prayer in our schools. However, there is no constitutional proscription to prayer in our homes. No one can question the legality of acknowledging God as our benefactor instead of worshipping at the altar of materialism and political power. It is time to blow the dust off those Bibles and take - not send - our children to Sunday School and church. It is time to go back to thanking God before our meals and saying our prayers before we go to bed at night.
There is a line in the Lord's Prayer which seems painfully appropriate at this time: "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." If that prayer, instead of the songs of Marilyn Manson and the thoughts of Adolph Hitler, had been on the minds and hearts of Harris and Klebold, we would probably not be mourning today.
It is not too late to sow the seeds of a new harvest of faith instead of fear, love instead of hate, peace instead of violence and life instead of death.
(Bishop Earl W. Jackson is a member of the African-American leadership
network Project 21 and the national president of The Samaritan Project in
Chesapeake, Virginia. He can be reached at [email protected].)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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