The Problem with Immediate Blame

Yesterday another school shooting happened. A monstrous human being used a gun to murder and terrorize innocent young men and women in Florida. This has happened before. As a nation, we collectively mourn and look for ways to direct our anger at making sure this never happens again. It is right and just to seek answers to why this tragedy happened, and look for solutions to make this incident the very last time. Further restricting the rights of good people will not stop evil from happening again.

Well-meaning people from all walks of life, faith and political identity once again look for answers and solutions. This is natural. As humans, we have a need to understand why bad things happen and to find solutions to keep them from happening again. We are short-sighted as a species. Our solutions address symptoms, but rarely the cause.

The problem is that there is unspeakable evil in the world. It is the same spirit of evil that sacrificed children to the idol of Moloch in the ancient world. It is the same spirit of evil that drove Hitler and Stalin in the 20th century. It is the same evil that drove Ted Bundy. These problems were not political. Attempts at political solutions failed to stop them.

My social media feeds this morning have been full of original comments and shares of content demanding more stringent gun control. Some of these pleas have been respectful, reasonable reactions from good people who, like me, want the bloodletting to stop. Some of the content is purposely divisive, making use of a crisis to exploit a policy agenda. That kind of content has become typical and expected.

We have a culture of blaming everyone, except the person responsible. We blame soda makers for obesity, rather than asking what people are doing to monitor their caloric intake. In Britain, polling suggests that one-third of people blame female rape victims for the epidemic of sexual assault. In tribute to more absurdity, Maryland insurance laws make any traffic accident partially your fault because you made the decision to drive. We are hard-wired to blame something or someone, but lack the courage to blame individuals, except for those in the political realm.

Blaming a person leaves questions. The Las Vegas gunman took his reasons to the grave. So we look to place blame on the Casino, the Route 91 country concert organizers, the firearm manufacturer. Eric Harris and Dillon Klebold took their reasons to the grave as well. So we blamed Columbine’s security procedures and the parents of Harris and Klebold. The young man who murdered 17 students in Florida yesterday will likely have no understandable reason for his evil. We rush to blame guns and the NRA. Under that principle, every manufacturer in history is guilty of murder in some way. It is easy to blame an entity or a group of people. Making law-abiding gun owners a target of anger only adds to the national resentment. That response does not feed into a solution. It is culturally hard to blame an individual for acting out. But we must.

Tribal instinct is in play. People are running to their corners and blaming their neighbors for the actions of one person. We have got to break the pattern of using tragedies to divide the nation.

Well-meaning people of all beliefs want to make schools safer. The problem is that a litany of laws, policies and security measures failed to do just that. For every procedure established, evil finds a way around it.

Efforts to further restrict life in the greatest nation on Earth will not solve the problem of evil in the world. That is a matter of the heart and solidly in the spiritual realm. That is the battleground where this fight must happen.

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