May 22nd, 2018

By Bishop Paul

As many know by now, another school shooting took place at Santa Fe High School in Texas last week, during which 10 people were killed.  The student who committed this act had a shotgun and a handgun that he had hidden under his trench coat.  I issued a statement several months ago on the Florida high school shooting.  While I still stand by that statement, I realize it is an imperfect solution to a very complex issue.

In the next few months, I would like to take the time to share some thoughts on the Church’s teaching on the Sanctity of Life.  As a reference, please read the Holy Synod’s Encyclical on the Marriage, Family, and Sanctity of Life.

There are a number of themes I would like to address in the coming weeks/months, including

  • the question of whether some lives are more sacred than others.
  • the Church’s teaching that all life is sacred, from conception to the grave.
  • the idea that “it’s my body, so it’s my choice.”
  • the question of whether, as Orthodox Christians, we can exercise a voice in the political process without it becoming ideological.
  • the question if there are times in which we need to realize that certain issues cannot be resolved by legislation.

I will be calling upon others who are better suited than I to speak on some of these issues to share their thoughts.

A blessed Pentecost Feast to all of you.

2 Comments on “May 22nd, 2018”

  1. It is indeed a complex issue. I speak from the perspective of a parent with teens, raising them in a faith based, two parent home. We try to parent with love and support, but also a balance of healthy limits and moderation. I am grieved when I read others’ perspectives that these tragedies could be avoided with just proper parenting, strong church involvement, and mental health resources. Sadly I have learned that you can be a model parent, and tap every resource available, and the possibility of such a tragedy still exist. I believe a newer landscape of external factors are contributing to this, and parents and researchers are not yet equipped to understand and navigate it. Mental illness has always existed…so has poor parenting. This alone is not creating the new trend we are seeing. This young man’s family was rooted in the Orthodox Church. Can we really say it is a lack of Christ centered focus, when these mass shootings do not occur at these rates in non-Christian countries?

    In my humble opinion, it is a combination of multiple newer factors coming on the scene in recent years, that has contributed to this “mass shooting” phenomenon reaching unprecedented levels of occurrence in just the past decade alone.

    I know current video gaming research does not reliably correlate violent gaming with real life violence. But I see how engaging in a virtual world can minimize the realization of real world consequences for some young minds…especially those who struggle with emotional issues. I assume the majority of individuals can separate the two, given the research. But not all minds are built the same.

    What about those who struggle with underlying emotional issues (depression, bullying, anger, etc)? We discovered early on that one of our teens is wired differently than the other. Despite us introducing many healthy outlets to channel his emotions, professionals have actually sanctioned gaming as a healthy outlet in moderation, and it is his preferred channel. But even in moderation, we have noticed that his mind gravitates to the virtual experience and he melds his experience with reality, talking about the game throughout the day, despite limited game time.

    Unfortunately, the violent first-person shooter games are widely accepted in households of his peers, who are typically good, studious kids. He began playing them with friends, and within a few months, he was talking about these games 24/7 and we saw the red flags of how impactful they are on him and these games are blocked now.

    I believe first-person shooter games are dangerous to the minds of those struggling with emotional issues, and who may be more susceptible to blurred lines of virtual violence and real life consequences. We realize that other teens may not have the same issues that make gaming problematic, as supported by the research. But I believe some are highly susceptible to blurring the lines, and there is not a definitive understanding of how this may be a factor in today’s new trend.

    Then, there is the notoriety to these mass shootings that seems to be attractive. We are not gun-owners, but noticed our son light up when he received the requested air-soft gun he asked for a gift. He spent hours in the backyard with it, and I asked him what he loves so much about it. He said it makes him feel significant and powerful. It was eye-opening and I was able to see how such tragic mass shootings can serve to make someone feel significant and powerful, especially if out of touch with real life consequences.

    But these are not the only contributors, because other countries have these factors, and don’t have the incidence we have with this phenomenon in America. I believe another factor, is a culture in America where guns are glorified and revered for their power, and mass produced for easy access. We fear someone with a gun. As a Christian, I think it goes against the very nature of the faith, that we look to guns to protect us from our brothers and sisters instead of looking to Christ to protect us. Are we to look to the ways of the world for our protection, or in Christ? A previous commenter, Ron, was correct in his statement “So, the valuable lesson here is to avoid thinking we are self-sufficient and to fully rely on God at every moment.” These are my thoughts, and I hope to offend anyone who may have a differing opinion.

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