It was predictable that in the wake of the Aurora, CO shooting that tweets, blogs, and news columns focusing on the issues of gun control would start to proliferate. The logic, it seems, is that if we had laws to make it harder for disturbed people like James Holmes to acquire firearms, we will not have tragedies like the one he caused. Surely, I am not alone in being suspicious of such logic.
James Holmes was armed to the hilt and it might be wise to question whether guns like the AR15 should be legal. For the purposes of full disclosure, I am neither a gun rights or gun control advocate. If I had my preference, I would probably tighten the gun laws as opposed to lessening them.
However, I just think it is naive to pretend that if the AR15 had been illegal this tragedy would not have happened. That is very shallow analysis of what lies behind our culture of violence. I suspect, however, it is far easier to talk about than what really ails us.
Someone recently approached me with the irony of living in a society that emphasizes choice while imbibing naturalistic philosophy (the view that there is nothing in the universe beyond nature/matter), which necessarily denies the possibility of choice. If you believe that we are nothing more than complicated matter, then the concept of choice is actually an illusion. Your “choices” are a result of your DNA and environment. There can be no spiritual nature or what we call “will.” Will implies we can choose something beyond what our DNA and environment dictate, which is impossible in a naturalistic worldview. Virtues like goodness, courage, integrity are also illusions, as are their antitheses like evil, cowardice, and dishonesty.
In fact, most people do believe in God and that we are more than just matter. Therefore, they believe in virtue and vice. People generally believe that choice is real and not simply an illusion. However, belief in God has been pushed further and further back into the realm of personal belief and private values. Therefore, theism is not shaping us on a societal level and in that vacuum naturalism necessarily dominates.
This is resulting in a society that is drunk with the insistence on personal choice, but has rejected the fundamental necessity for the basis of our choices, namely the existence of God. This means people want choice, but have little use for the responsibility or accountability for those choices.
It is not the lack of proper gun control laws that produces the James Holmes of the world. A society defined by choice without the counterbalance of responsibility will continue to produce many more like him. In a society where personal choice is god and personal accountability, shall we say, is the devil, then violence and death are the results. We begin to objectify other people and value them only for how they serve our personal choices. Read here for Matt Dabb’s post on how objectifying others leads to violence: http://wp.me/p2zPa-1UV.
We have seen this most obviously with abortion. In order to eliminate life it must first be objectified. We literally changed the meaning of what it means to be a person. The life to be eliminated is now only a fetus, tissue that can be removed without moral consequence. Where choice reigns life cannot abide. We have created a culture of death through our choices and then we act shocked when James Holmes brings our society to its logical conclusion.
This is what we don’t want to talk about. Let’s make it about gun control instead. To be sure, guns contribute to a culture of death too. And when gun owners enthrone personal choice above the interest of life, they, too, contribute to the demise of our society.
In his book, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, Pope Benedict the XVI wrote the following: “First, there are no ‘small murders.’ The respect of every human life is an essential condition if a societal life worthy of the name is to be possible. Secondly, when a man’s consciousness loses respect for life as something sacred, he inevitably ends by losing his own identity” (60).
We have lost our identity, because we have lost the sacredness of life. We have long since stopped respecting every human life and our society is no longer worth bearing the name of “societal life.” Getting God back into our public conscience will be no small endeavor, but it is the only way we will again grasp the sacredness of life. We should probably begin my waking up and realizing that we our living in a society of our own choosing.
You may choose to believe that James Holmes was just some random wacko and has no connection to our societal ills in general. Okay, but I can’t help but notice that more and more wackos seem to be emerging these days. You can tell yourself that’s because there are more guns on the street, but I think it might just have something to do with a society that has lost its place for God and consequently forgot that we are all made in the image of God. If we all really believed that, we wouldn’t need gun control.