The saddest thing about writing about the most recent demonstration of evil in our country is that it is not going to be the last example of it. It was Texas and Ohio this past week. It could very well be Los Angeles next time. So I do not run the risk of writing something with an expired shelf life.

The time it takes for a stupendously awful evil act to be transformed into political fodder by political alchemists takes about the same amount of time for a quark to travel within a proton, which is about 99.995 percent of the speed of light. I looked it up.

Maybe something will be done in a politically bipartisan manner, maybe it won’t. What is sure, regardless of any laws that are passed, or constitutional amendments amended or even done away with in toto, is that it will happen again. The reason I can be so sure it will happen again is because the problem, at its very foundations, seems to be spiritual in nature.

That came through loud and clear on Facebook in the immediate aftermath of the twin mass shootings. I saw a meme on this social media megalith with a line drawn through the words “thoughts and prayers.” 

I’ve heard that sentiment before in the aftermath of other mass shootings. On one level I can understand people feeling that it represents “cheap” grace, and an easy out for those who just don’t want to consider more concrete, politically volatile responses to this crisis.

Sorry to disappoint, but I have no solution to this crisis either. Maybe tighter controls on guns will help. All rights, even the right to keep and bear arms, are never without some form of regulation and constriction. 

Guns are certainly a problem now, but they can’t be the only problem. In the 1950s, high school students in ROTC programs were required to bring their guns to school. Into the 1970s, nearly 100 high schools in New York State still had gun clubs.         

It’s not that guns are not a problem, but that they represent one of a lot of problems that result in the growing list of mass shootings. It’s not one thing. It’s a lot of things. 

One of those that no one wants to talk too much about, at least in mainstream media or outside pro-life circles, is the role abortion plays in this. How are they connected? Broken down to its bare-knuckled essence, abortion is using violence to solve a problem.

The internet is also a major player in this crisis. In the “good” old days, if you wanted to access pornography you had to go to a bookstore that sold pornographic magazines, or you had to go to a movie theater that featured pornographic movies. 

You might be seen by a friend or neighbor, and it probably kept more than a few people away from pornography. Not the most modern or enlightened social-control mechanism, but it worked.

The same was true for rabid political movements. If someone was harboring racial animus, the problem of going to a public Klan rally or Neo-Nazi parade was that they were “public.” I think this also explains why the opposite side of the same hatred coin, the “antifa” movement, has almost all of its marchers hiding being bandanas or ski masks. It makes people a lot braver.

Today, people access all the pornography and all the racial hatred their brains can absorb while they sit in the dark recesses of their rooms, as computer monitors flicker away with bad images and bad ideas that take hold, take root, and bear bitter fruit.

But the main puzzle piece, and this is where the people who are unjustifiably offended by sentiments about thoughts and prayers comes in, is that we have a spiritual problem. And it’s not just the growing number of “nones” — those with no religious affiliation. 

A lot of church-going people have managed to compartmentalize their public and private lives and turned religious practice into an a la carte menu, where they pick and choose what they like and pass over what is difficult or out of vogue in the popular culture.

One of the founding fathers, a group of religious guys who knew how to use guns, said the only way the American experiment works is if we had the most secular government as possible and the most religiously devout people as possible. 

We have the secular government part down pat. But we’ve removed the religiously devout part of the equation, and that resulting imbalance has created a harvest of destruction — and only prayer and spiritually minded hearts can restore the equilibrium.

 

Robert Brennan is a weekly columnist for Angelus online and in print. His column Ad Rem won second place in the “Best regular column: Arts, leisure, culture, and food” category at the Catholic Press Awards in 2019. He has written for many Catholic publications, including National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor. He spent 25 years as a television writer, and is currently the Director of Communications for the Salvation Army California South Division.

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