This morning I woke up thinking a lot about my unborn son and the chaotic world we live in. The massacre of God’s children in His house in Charleston, SC was all I could hear about on my radio dial as I drove to work. After I parked my car in the garage, I teared up thinking about all that’s going on in the world-a world devoid of Truth, love and charity.
We live in a world that exalts individualism, moral relativism and nihilism over love and community. We live in a world so wrapped up in the idea that each of us can create our own reality that we don’t even recognize signs of distress and danger in our loved ones, our friends and our neighbors, and even if we do, we often struggle with whether or not we should sound an alarm, for fear we might “offend” somebody. Perish the thought!
I don’t know many facts about Dylann Roof, other than that he left evidence of his sick and twisted mind in plain view before he shed innocent blood in the presence of God on Wednesday evening. Innocent blood that was following God’s call to welcome all to the Good News. Among the dead are a recent college graduate, a librarian, a speech therapist, pastors, and a state senator. This evil act should cause us all to pause and ask ourselves, “How do individuals become so detached from society and community, so far gone from reality and God’s love that they commit such atrocious acts against their fellow man that cry out to God for vengeance?”
What compels me to write this morning was the revelation that this lost soul-Dylann Roof-lived with a roommate WHO KNEW something was coming, that Dylann was dangerous, that he had fantastical Charles Manson-like ideas of starting a race war….AND SAID NOTHING! How did we as a society become so plagued by depraved indifference—as Glenn Beck put it this morning—that it becomes an option for us to stay silent in the face of evil? We have all become the neighbors of Kitty Genovese; a nation of people who stay silent while evil occurs because we don’t want to get “in the middle of it.” It comes down to what Pope Benedict XVI called a “dictatorship of relativism” and what Pope Francis calls our “throwaway culture.”
How will this roommate live with the fact that he said nothing? Imagine a friend or loved one, deeply depressed and in a state of mental anguish, told us, “I’m going to end it this week; I can’t do it anymore.” Would we stay silent and not bring them, if we could, to a hospital? Would we not call a suicide prevention hotline? Would we just keep our feelings to ourselves because we want to avoid “rocking the boat” or avoid the possibility of sounding a false alarm?
My parents are 63—they grew up in the 1950s and 1960s in a small, idyllic suburb of Boston. They often tell stories of their childhood and how different “their time” was from ours. The 1950s and 1960s surely had their evils, and we are better today for working to eradicate them, but these “golden decades” for America were wonderful in the sense that in most of America, we looked out for each other. Communities, neighborhoods and churches rallied to help those in need. Neighbors kept a watchful eye as dozens of kids played in the streets. If a father abandoned his family, he was publicly shamed and ridiculed, even if it was in hushed tones. If you did something bad, you could be assured your mother would have been informed by Mrs. Smith down the block before you made it home.
The kids of my parents’ generation didn’t use foul language, certainly not in front of adults. There was a universal moral standard that some things—porn, adultery, promiscuity, dishonesty, lack of respect for others, taking advantage of the vulnerable, foul language—was unacceptable. If a kid was into dangerous things, someone took notice and called it out.
To illustrate the point-where are the memories of Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Charleston from our parents’ generation? Where are the news stories about 40, 50, 80+ people becoming victims of gang violence in Chicago over the course of a weekend from that era? Where are the stories of celebrated illegitimacy, adultery, violence, deceit, absentee parenthood and assault of teachers by students from that era?
Walter Williams drove the point home in a column entitled “Culture and social pathology” yesterday, writing,
Foul language is spoken by children in front of and sometimes to teachers and other adults. When I was a youngster, it was unthinkable to use foul language to any adult. It would have meant risking a smack across the face. But years ago, parents and teachers didn’t have “experts” on child rearing to tell them that corporal punishment was wrong and ineffective and “timeouts” would be a superior form of discipline. One result of our tolerance for aberrant behavior was that, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2011-12 academic year, 209,000 primary- and secondary-school teachers were physically assaulted and 353,000 were threatened with injury. As a result of this and other forms of school violence, many school districts employ hundreds of police officers.”
Think about that for a minute. We’ve allowed our society to succumb to depraved indifference, such that having full-time police officers at school is something that we accept as a necessary part of life in our modern age! Does anyone ever stop to think about the insanity of accepting that we need to staff our schools with cops because “it’s a fact of life” that some students are so out of control that assaulting teachers (almost 600,000 of them!) or shooting up a school is commonplace in modern America? Or that many parents expect teachers to also serve as mother, father, therapist and disciplinarian for their children?
Consider this-a friend of mine who is a teacher once recounted a story from my high school where the parent of a student who verbally assaulted a teacher told the principle that their child was “having a bad week.” Oh, really? I should have known. Let me ask the secretary to bring in the chaise lounge, play-doh and bubbles, and we’ll talk it out. Try that in a school 40 years ago; the principle would’ve smacked the parent. On second thought, no parent would have even thought of saying that in defense of a disrespectful and insubordinate kid 40 years ago.
We hear after every tragedy that nobody was paying attention to the mental instability of the shooter, or if they were aware of red flags, they were ignored, and that largely seems to be the case. But instead of looking at our permissive culture, we say guns are the issue. Perhaps in a lot of these massacre scenarios, sufficient measures were not in place to prevent seriously deranged kids from getting their hands on firearms that may be in the family home, as was the case with Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter. However, guns were not absent in our parents’ generation. If anything, access was easier! So where is the mental illness coming from?
If you ask me, it is our culture of depraved indifference that sees technology and electronics as a substitute for good parenting. It is a culture wherein, as Walter Williams writes, “Our youth have been counseled that there are no moral absolutes. Instead, what’s moral or immoral is a matter of personal opinion.”
It is our culture that has willful cognitive dissonance, allowing the government to spend billions promoting fatherhood and marriage, while also saying those things aren’t really important, because other arrangements are just as valid. It is a culture that shirks away from teaching our kids the values that served our parents well, because those values are now passé and “oppressive,” and heaven help us if anyone is made to feel bad about their choices in life.
We can blame it on the economy, the changing times and culture, guns, bullying and all manner of other things. Or we can have honest discussions.
How about an honest discussion about our depraved indifference that accepts broken homes, broken communities, and broken souls?
How about a discussion about how parents have shirked their responsibility for the moral upbringing of their children and blame teachers for their children’s failures and transgressions?
How about an honest discussion about how a shared morality is essential to a flourishing society?
How about an honest discussion about how 50% of American children growing up without both parents in the home IS a major social problem?
How about a discussion about how we have banned any mentions of God and the teaching of common morals from schools but encourage it in prison, where it is too late?
How about a discussion about how pointing out wrongs in a loving way to our friends and neighbors is an act of love and an act of charity, rather than an assault on freedom?
How about a discussion about how we’ve created what Pope Francis’s new encyclical terms a culture of consumerism that gets us so wrapped up in working to acquire “things” for our children instead of being physically and emotionally present parents for our children?
Our nation has a choice to make. We can finally have difficult conversations and implement “politically incorrect” solutions that involve us as a community taking responsibility instead of looking to a dysfunctional Washington, or we can forget about our social ills until the next atrocity happens, going about “minding our own business” and avoiding controversy.
What’s it going to be, folks?
As for me, I plan on seeking to discuss these issues so that my son may know a world that values life and community, and shuns a society of depraved indifference.