MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, August 6th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. WORLD’s editor in chief Marvin Olasky has some thoughts now on the outrageous and tragic mass shootings over the weekend.
MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Pundits on the left and right rushed to judgment about last weekend’s shootings. But nothing they say will bring back the 31 people who died. Words won’t repair the spirit of those who loved them, or heal the bodies of the many who were injured. But for the rest of us, before the blame game goes into extra innings—let’s take a deep breath.
Leo Tolstoy opened Anna Karenina with this now-famous line: “Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” That’s true about eras in American history as well.
The 1960s featured assassinations, and race riots in more than 100 cities. The toll was enormous. In 1965 Los Angeles, 34 dead, more than 1,000 injured. In 1967 Detroit, 43 dead, more than 1,000 injured, and 14-hundred buildings burned.
One book of the Bible has the name Lamentations, and the two mass shootings are certainly an occasion for lament. But no book of the Bible has a title, The-Sky-Is-Falling. That’s because God holds up the sky—so this is neither a time for panic, nor a time to say America is in worse shape than ever before.
National Brotherhood Week became an American institution in 1936. President Franklin D. Roosevelt served as first honorary chairman. The theme of brotherhood became even more significant during World War II, when Roosevelt took pains to lay out the difference between Americans and Nazis: “We are fighting for the right of men to live together as members of one family rather than as masters and slaves.”
That was the aspiration. In 1946 Frank Sinatra won an honorary Academy Award for a short film in which he broke up a gang doing religious/ethnic bullying. He sang “The House I Live In,” a hit song that asked, “What is America to me?” He offered an answer: “The children in the playground/ the faces that I see/ all races and religions/ that’s America to me.”
Over the years the Week idea weakened. Presidents stopped proclaiming it. Maybe President Donald Trump should Make National Brotherhood Week Great Again. But he’s added to the problem by his use of dehumanizing language.Yes, his political opponents bear some responsibility, but the President has the “bully pulpit.” He has a special calling.
What to do now? Here are four thoughts.
First, let’s have no more chants of “send her back” or “jail to the chief.” When tempted, we should read chapter three of James, where the apostle explains, “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness … a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Second, let’s not say the Bible tells us exactly what to do about weapons and government. The one verse I know about sword control is in I Samuel: “there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, ‘Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.’” That’s descriptive rather than prescriptive, and not much to hang a policy on.
Third, let’s remember the Bible’s view of human nature and the historical record. Both show we are sinful people who misuse weapons. We also have sinful governments that slide into dictatorships. It will require wisdom to protect against both gun misuse and government abuse.
Fourth, the Constitution does include a right to keep and bear arms precisely because the Founders feared tyranny, so any ban on all weapons should require a Constitutional amendment, not just legislative or judicial finagling. But did the Founders envision AK-47s?
James 3:8 summarizes the deeper problem: “No human being can tame the tongue.” We by nature are haters. Tongues sooner or later express what we think and feel.
Happily, only a few turn murderous thoughts into murderous actions. For them and all of us, the only lasting remedy is a heart change. Only God’s grace, because of Christ’s sacrifice, will bring that about.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.