Violence and the Single Factor
- Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Gun violence is tormenting America.
And most of the shooters are single men.
Consider the horror in Newtown, Connecticut, when a young single man killed 27 people, including his own mother.
This past Christmas Eve day, in suburban Rochester, New York, a middle-aged single man killed two firefighters and his own sister, while seven homes burned.
Also on Christmas Eve day, but in suburban Houston, Texas, a young single man killed a police officer and a bystander after he crashed his vehicle while being chased.
Then there’s the guy who shot Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords along with 18 other people, six of whom died, in 2011. Yup, he’s single.
And the guy who burst into the Colorado movie theater last summer, killing 12 people and injuring 59 others? Single.
Scary coincidence, or ominous statistic? Does gender combined with marital status have any role to play in such tragic violence? These are questions we don’t spend much time pondering, because for the most part, being male and single comprise two relatively generic characteristics of these shooters.
Indeed, many people more quickly point to the fact that all of these guys used guns to kill their victims. It’s been the impetus behind renewed calls for more gun control legislation. But no matter what you personally think about guns and gun control, might that debate really be a smokescreen keeping us from seeing the extent to which our sin nature corrupts our society?
What pushes people to kill, regardless of what they use as a weapon? Although it makes us uncomfortable to talk about, how much responsibility do all of us in our society have when it comes to factors that precipitate events like Newtown?
Particularly those of us who likely have more points of contact with singles in our communities?
Some Cultural Norms are Better Than Others
Yes, each of these gunmen is ultimately responsible for their decisions and actions. And mass murderers don’t have to be unmarried males. Yet as we look for answers in these shootings, and seek to prevent violence and preserve human life, are the rest of us ignoring opportunities to model Christ’s love, patience, and peace to people who may not fit our targeted social groups?
Besides their gender and marital status, most of these shooters display another similar characteristic: social disengagement. They were either ostracized from conventional groups, developmentally disabled, intellectually brilliant yet socially inept, or, at least in the Texas tragedy, fathering children out of wedlock. Not exactly guys most church singles groups would welcome with open arms.
As believers in Christ, and churchgoers, perhaps we’re more accustomed than most people in our society to gathering together with other like-minded people on a regular basis. We have been socialized into a “Christianized” culture. And yes, at its best, America’s church culture can provide society with intangible benefits through our patterns of behaviors and expectations. When Paul admonishes us to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together” he had plenty of good reasons for doing so. And basic, everyday accountability is one of those reasons.
It would be sloppy science to run data on each of these shooters and peg their church attendance – or lack of it – to their crimes. But here’s the point: the more interconnected we are, the more we tend to value our fellow humanity. Even if we’d like to throttle some of them by the neck sometimes, we’d never consider murder!
Granted, church isn’t the only socialization mechanism at our disposal. But as people of faith, we understand that the power of God is available in unique ways, and for divine purposes, within our faith communities. And we’re also held to a higher standard for helping others in our fellowship get involved in serving God.
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