Violence in America

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Violence in America!
From a quite different perspective. . . .

Violence in America

Thurston High       The news comes to you once again, whether from the evening newscast or the morning paper, to a friend who asks, “Did you hear...?” Another act of random, vicious violence has taken place, and this act was again committed by a teenager or child.

       And once again the amazement overwhelms you....

       Two boys in Arkansas, ages twelve and fourteen, initiate a flawlessly executed and planned military style ambush that would impress any Marine Corps infantry platoon commander, by activating a fire alarm at their school and then opening fire on their evacuating classmates with stolen high caliber weapons. Cunningly placing themselves on a ridge that overlooked the schoolyard, they kill four classmates and one teacher, and wound ten others.

       The shock numbs your mind....

Lincoln High       A fifteen year old boy attacks his school cafeteria with a .22 caliber rifle and two handguns, and kills two, while wounding twenty more, before being tackled when the ammunition runs out. He was expelled the day before for bringing a firearm on campus. Police investigators later find the dead bodies of his parents at the family home. The community is shocked because of how involved the parents were in the children’s lives, always being the model parents, and “very involved” with their kids.

       The incomprehensible brutality of the incident inundates your understanding....

       In a Chicago housing project, two boys, ages ten and eleven, drop a five year old boy to his death from the fourteenth floor of the building. He had refused to steal something for them.

Columbine High       In Littleton, Colorado, two young men in fatigues and black trench coats opened fire with heavy caliber weapons and homemade explosives at a suburban Denver high school in what police called a suicide mission, and at last count, fifteen have been killed. Two of the suspects were found dead in the library, after the area SWAT teams had tediously swept and cleared the beseiged building.

       And the list goes on and on, growing with every passing day.

Heath High       We are shocked and at a loss for answers and reasons as to why such macabre and violent actions can be perpetrated by such young, and what we perceive to be, naive and innocent children. What’s going on in American society? We can barely fathom the day to day violence that takes place on our streets by the adult population, but how can mere children commit such horrific crimes?

       Secular social pundits and psychologists are all ready to put forth their own particular thesis for the violent phenomenon, with well worded justifications that are simply inadequate in their reasoning, yet gobbled up by a confused and alarmed readership. Most come from the Jungian/Freud philosophy that man is nothing more than an animal, nothing more than an organism that is a product of his environment and upbringing, and easily "fixed" by a little skillful "social engineering." Statements such as they “were influenced by the Hollywood glorification of violence” and that “television has a great hand in presenting unrealistic realistic situations, of war being a romp in the park and you don’t get as dirty, with notable characters being the villain one time, the hero the next, and occasionally dead, only to reappear in the next blockbuster show.” Then there is the blame put on violent video games, and the ever popular “lack of parenting,” or the always faithful panacea of gun control, that “there are too many guns in society.”

Cho Seung-Hui, the 23-year-old senior gunman suspected of carrying out the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead.       Of course the offender’s attorneys put forth the standard defense, saying, “My client is not mentally competent and does not understand the nature of these proceedings” and “this was just a childish prank that went horribly wrong.”

       Horribly wrong indeed.

       These events are so outrageous, the reasons put forth so absolutely trivial and frivolous, they in no way even scratch the surface of the true impetus behind these tragic events. How many of us as children ever watched a violent movie and had not been incited to then go out and mimic the activity? How many of us were raised in less then perfect childhood homes, yet grew up into responsible adults with not even a traffic ticket to our record? More and more as the days go by and the morning news brings another shocking account of random, senseless violence; the New Age belief that man is “on the edge of a quantum leap into the next stage of his evolution” demonstrates itself as the ludicrous theory it really is. So, let’s venture below the shallow and superficial discourse put forth by the secular, and even the religious world, for these events and explore some other alternatives. Things from the Word of God.

       I remember one time in the past when I wrote Mr. Conner, a respected personal spiritual advisor and Bible researcher, and asked him if he had seen the 1992 Los Angeles riots on television. He said,

       “Yes, I did see the riots, but the spiritual energy level of the people in Los Angeles caused it. When people allow a vacuum of God's Power, then guess who takes over? You know, of course. But they never learn and especially the younger generation who haven't been taught Christian Principles.”

       So who’s fault is that? Jesus said in the Bible:

       “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Matthew 5:13

       From the earliest of times, salt has been used as a preservative, before the modern conveniences of refrigeration, and before that, commercial production of ice. It was applied to meat as a way to retard the natural decay that took place and was an easy to understand comparison in the minds of the people present when Jesus spoke it. Jesus in this verse is making the comparison between salt as a preservative, and as is inferred, His followers, the Born Again, Spirit-filled Christian, as the preservative in the society around them.

       A good modern day comparison would be the way a lot of people react when a uniformed police officer comes on the scene. Whether you are a law-abiding citizen or a criminal, a certain tension and unease is suddenly evident, as what the individual police officer represents is symbolized in their wearing of that badge. The law, the standard, the representative and enforcer of the law of the land. How about when you are driving down the freeway and you inadvertantly look up in the rearview mirror to see a black and white patrol car coming up behind you? The deterrant influence of the presense of that patrol unit usually compels you to quickly check your speedometer.

       Even so, when an individual Christian comes on the scene, if the people in the area recognize them as so, and even if they don’t, the same tension is evident if they are unbelievers. This person is a representative of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and symbolizes the Law of God. The Holy Spirit present in them is a light in the darkness, as Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14), and that light is evident if they are truly walking in the Power of God. Most people with any sense of respect for the things of God will modify their behavior when a true Christian is present. It might be good, it might be bad, it might be no outward response at all – but there is a response none the less.

       Now for the rest of what Jesus said in this verse, “. . .but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” When the retarding and preservative influence of that “salt” has degraded, it’s effectiveness begins to wane, and thus follows the inevitable result. Things start to rot!

       But wait! How can this be in America? We are a “Christian nation”! We have churches on every corner in every town and city in the nation, religious programming on television to no end, and access to spiritually related resources incomparable in human history. Christianity in America should be impacting, not only the nation, but the whole world in the most phenomenal way. Yet now, even our kids are butchering each other out on the streets. Gosh, it sure can’t be our fault! Or can it?

       I’ve been a Christian for almost twenty years now, yet even after that time I don’t feel myself to be any type of scholar or more insightful than the next guy. But elementary observation is an ability available to even the most simplest among us. Having observed pretty much every type church service, studied every sort and stripe of particular theological position, and heard sermons from across the whole spectrum of Christendom in America, I have noticed quite a few ongoing blunders in our tactics, how we conduct our public affairs, how we present the Gospel to the community.

       How about the “Saturday/Sunday Night Revival Service”? We have all been to one of those. Where the minister gets up, after a lot of loud and energetic praise music, and through a very blustery sermon almost devoid of the Word of God, seeks to whip up the congregation into an emotional frenzy, and then after a lot of strange and bizarre behavior on the part of a few, the event is hailed as a success and a witness that the "Holy Spirit is indeed falling from the heavens." Yet the “good feelings” from the previous night, as if revival was anything about man’s subjective feelings, quickly evaporate under the fiery and crushing pressures of the following Monday as the congregate stumbles spiritually feeble through another week.

       Or how about the “holy laughter” phenomenon that seems to have swept the Church? You know, where in the midst of an otherwise orderly service (“Let all things be done decently and in order....” I Corinthians 14:40), a member of the congregation will get “zapped” (in the vernacular of one participant I interviewed) and start to laugh out loud and chortle and then others join in. The world is looking for stability, strength, and soundness in the Church, so I’m sure this will be really effective in impacting them. The minister will dutifully stop, as he has heard previously this is another sign of the “revival” that is taking place, and “a moving of God and the Holy Spirit.” Of course, his being a student of the current “church growth” marketing strategies, he has to give his “customers” what they want or risk losing them. Meanwhile the calm, systematic, professional teaching of the Word of God has been disrupted and put on hold.

       Or how about the “Conservative Movement” that is taking place, which in a nutshell, seeks to influence the nation and world through secular means, that is, man’s government and institutions. Even though the things of the spiritual realm are dealt with in a spiritual manner, the belief we can change and modify behavior through the legislative process, whether conservative or liberal, never seems to lose it’s appeal. “Forget about converting people to Christ! We’ll FORCE them to comply with our particular brand of acceptable behavior!” Yet this particular tactic forgets the basis of a lot of societal problems, the unregenerate heart of man, and in so doing, "puts the cart before the horse" in seeking to regenerate man and society's behavior.

       An associate of mine, Tom Pardue Sr. once said this,

       "The American culture is obsessed with salvation by politics. We as a corporate body cannot comprehend any other way of changing the culture. They do not understand that God changes cultures by the preaching of the Word. Nineveh's culture was not changed by Jonah getting elected king or arguing that Nineveh stop socialism or stop stealing from her citizens. It was changed when God ordered him to preach."

       What about prayer, repentance, the Word of God, and an unleashed Holy Spirit revival? Yet we continue to insist on doing it "our way." We continue to insist on "doing something."

       So the Church, detoured from her True Power Source and distracted by so many things, starts losing ground. And the frustration, corruption and despair spirals ever upward as violence, the final product, sweeps the land, even affecting the very young. Galations 5: 16-21 says, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."

       The Holy Spirit working through the freely wielded Word of God is our only effective "sin deterrent" in American society, the only "violence suppressant." The Born Again Church, in seeking to be a credible and effective counter-force to this madness and leaning on anything else, is pure folly! Yet, in our not complying with these basic principles of warfare, we see the Holy Spirit’s influence through the Church is weakened and dulled, as the forces of darkness continue to gain ground in our society. Because the control dimension is the spiritual dimension. And we know all this.

       So now what?

       “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” I Corinthians 11:31

       Let’s judge ourselves by the Standard of the Word of God. The American Christian, by and large, has become pre-occupied with many things in her quest to serve the Lord with effectiveness. We could probably list quite a few more trends, but these few things we mentioned are the most outrageous. The freedom we live with in this nation makes it easy to get lazy and careless in our daily walk with Him. The thing is, a lot of people are beginning to realize a lot of this behavior we listed is not in line with the Word of God and are starting to wake up.

       Most people are steeped in religious systems which emanate from wrong doctrine, at least to some degree, and even trying to learn anything new is often a threat to them or their belief system. They simply prefer their system to the acknowledgment of the truths of the Word of God. That is good in one way, in that it protects them from wrong doctrine, but it also shields them from learning more. Still, people are starting to “judge” themselves and their lives in the light of His Word, and are once again learning to walk in true faith in His limitless capabilities.

       The Christian leadership of all types are starting to “judge” themselves; what they are teaching and the way they conduct their services. They are reevaluating their priorities and judging themselves against the standards and directions laid out for them as they minister to the flock from the Word of God and realizing how close they have come to “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” (II Timothy 3:5)

       As I was writing this piece, one of Mr. Conner’s statements came to mind,

       "Consider any nation today and scrutinize their prosperity level. Most have sick economies and governments due to no other reason than the lack of Power from the Word of God! In every nation, there is a "core" of people who store divine energy from God's Word. Beyond this "core" of keepers of the Sacred Trust are other, weaker Christians who have some respect for God's Word, but also love the things of this world. Together, these Christians are responsible for the whole nation's prosperity and freedom from natural disaster, war, internal turmoil, plagues and so on. If not for these, the nation would soon collapse, because the spiritual realm controls the physical...."

       I agree. And in light of the turmoil and violence that has plagued this nation recently, and in light of the conduct of the Church in recent years, it is clear that the “power vacuum” left by the absence of God’s Word having precedence in the Church mentioned at the beginning is by and large one group of peoples’ fault. The Born-again Churches’ fault. Our fault.

       “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” I Peter 4:17

       So where do we go from here? First, reevaluating our priorities, all of us need to make our relationship with God in Heaven a top priority above everything else, whether family, social, business, or governmental. Everything in our lives revolves around that. Individual spiritual self development and Bible study. Individual pursuit towards spiritual excellence and understanding of the inherent Power in the Revealed Word of God. Our weaknesses are always, without exception, due to departing from the plain teaching of the Word of God. The Bible is so easy and simple if wholly believed, but sometimes, that is the most difficult thing in the world to do. The Church’s preserving influence on society is strengthened by exercise in the Word of God, prayer, good deeds and Christian service.

       Pastors and Ministers, most definitely, need to abandon the secular influences that are polluting the ministry and commit their ministries, and yes, their very callings, back into the hands of the living God, trusting wholly in Him to provide for His Church. Their followers are not “customers” that are to be “targeted” in some marketing strategy like some demographic group. They are the children of God and looking for courageous and strong leadership, centered in the Bible and nothing else, against the hostile spiritual forces that are attacking us all. Make pursuit of excellence in all things spiritual and Godly a primary theme as you lead them along the way. A minister, bending to the will of his denomination or the influential in his particular flock instead of the revealed Will of God will find some momentary relief, but inevitably stand before the Throne of the Great Shepherd as he answers for his lack of spiritual backbone in denying the Mystery of Christ,

       “. . .The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.“ Ephesians 1:18-22

       In summary, we find that some basic detours to being effective within our sphere of influence, trying to do things ourselves instead of allowing the Word of God free reign, are:

       1. We don't understand or believe God's Word has the power to do it.
       2. We think our modern methods can do it better. (The Conservative Movement)
       3. We don't understand the spiritual realms and their power.
       4. We fail to acknowledge the Mystery of Christ.
       5. We simply reject the Word of God.

       In closing, I hope I did not come off sounding too critical concerning the Church and her actions in this world, but the current trends sweeping the Church are wrong and the short and long term repercussions quite serious. People are dying, both physically and spiritually, and this is due to the forces of darkness that have had their way, unopposed, in American life. Yet trying to combat them outside of the forum of the spiritual realm, first of all, is futile and a great waste of time and resources. Until the Church, corporately and, more importantly, as individuals, realign themselves back with the Word of God and give Him preeminence in all things, the current spiritual crisis in American life will continue.

       This is unfortunate because there is quite a hunger and thirst for knowledge as people are seeking the Truth after being through the spiritual wilderness of the last thirty and forty years. Bookstores are being flooded with manuscripts of every sort to cater to this new trend and demand. Will it be a good trend?

       Today there are many opportunities and an open door to reach people with the Truth of the Gospel. God help us to fall in line and not lose it, especially to the enemy!

       Until then, keep praying....

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"Violence in America" Copyright © 1998 Michael A. Baker
My thanks and acknowledgements to R. David Conner for
his invaluable insight in the crafting of this article!