Closeup shot of prayer candles with dark background
Closeup shot of prayer candles with dark background

The Mass Shooting in Uvalde, Texas Calls Us to Spiritual And Moral Revival

Originally published at Townhall

After getting over the pain and grieving of the Uvalde, Texas school shooting, many people and so-called experts have weighed in—offering more of the same old responses that have followed other similar tragic incidents. Most predictable are the demands for more gun control, but there are also appeals to improve and reform police and law enforcement response practices, restrict entrances to schools, employ armed guards at schools or even train and arm teachers. 

Of course, everybody knows that it is not guns that commit murders of innocents, but rather estranged and deranged people who wield the firearms and pull the triggers. Even if it were possible to eliminate guns, mal-adjusted and hate-filled people will still find other ways of wreaking havoc and destruction on others.

The heart of today’s problem is less the physical threat posed by guns and more the spiritual and societal breakdown that drives much of today’s violence and malevolent behavior. And this is not limited to gun violence. Deranged, anti-social behavior was on display across the country only two years ago in May and June of 2020 with large numbers of people becoming unhinged, lawless, and violent—destroying property and peoples’ livelihoods, stealing and looting, setting police stations and churches on fire and toppling historic statues and monuments. The property destruction toll then was more than $2 billion—greater in that window of about 4 or 5 weeks in 2020 than in any other periods of unrest in prior U.S. history. 

If we asked statisticians to look at all the cultural factors and identify the ones that are either new, missing, or correlated with the dramatic rise in social violence compared with prior times, they would find several common denominators that don’t get much press. First, in the last generation or two there has been a marked decrease in religious belief and associated fear of God, particularly among the young in the United States. About ten years ago we even started hearing that America was a “post-Christian” nation. Second, the domain of broken homes, absentee parents and fatherless children that became common in urban minority communities by the 1970s have spread and proliferated across America and across demographics. 

A recent school shooter in Indianapolis did not have a father because in his early teens, his dad committed suicide. In another case in 2017, Stephen Paddock, who killed fifty-eight in a mass shooting in Las Vegas, experienced his father imprisoned and went lengthy periods of time without seeing him. Adam Lanza, who authorities say opened fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, rarely saw his father, who was divorced from his mother. The latest mass shooter at Uvalde Texas Robb Elementary School, Salvador Ramos—a deeply disturbed and estranged individual—also came from a broken home.

It goes without saying that high divorce rates, abortion and broken homes are correlated to the moral breakdown associated with sexual revolution of the latter 1960s. What also followed was a decline of discipline at home and in school. The moral relativism of “if it feels good, do it” that was popularized at that time became a cultural wrecking ball in subsequent years—destroying norms and boundaries everywhere, resulting in a rubble of moral decline, where we have ended up with Weinsteins, Epsteins, Bidens and Clintons being examples of “success.” 

We have also allowed leftists to pepper the educational establishment and poison students’ minds with distrust and hatred of their country. Little wonder that so many in the last two generations have hardened hearts and lack a sense of who they are and what they believe. For some, it is a short step from being self-loathing antagonists and detractors from what is good in America to taking it out on others in mass shootings and other destructive rampages. 

The decline of loyalty and commitments to lasting unions and the view that bringing the unborn into the world is more a burden than a miraculous gift, have also accompanied and contributed to our increased desensitization and self-absorption. We have allowed our youth to be robbed of precious innocence through public school sex education at ever earlier ages. And now some public schools have even chosen to introduce transgender pedagogy to early grade schoolers—confusing children about their biological gender identity. 

So it seems self-evident that we are at the point where we have to ask ourselves how much lower our culture can go before the nation falls intractably into a vortex of hedonism, depravity and ultraviolence, the images of which we already recognize because we have been seeing them spewing from Hollywood in the form of “entertainment” for some time.

We know that individual recovery from destructive behavior and harmful addictions often start when people “bottom out.” Now that we may be getting close to a cultural bottoming out, most Americans are more open than ever to dissolution of the current public education system as it now exists, just as they are open to supporting efforts to bring about cultural renaissance. 

But the most powerful force for positive transformation and cultivation of caring hearts comes from Judaism and Christianity. We know that it was the spread of Christianity that brought awakening and greater civility to many Mediterranean communities in the first few centuries A.D. Then several hundred years later, it was Christianity again that helped civilize and assimilate various tribal invaders, such as the Huns, Goths, and Vandals, who might have otherwise brought new forms of barbarism to the Roman Empire. History shows that so many levels of human advancement were made possible by the influence of Christianity. 

It was also the spiritual truths and practices of Christianity that came with the first settlers to America. About one hundred sixty-five years later, those same beliefs informed the Founders in their deliberations to form the Constitution, which enabled Americans to flourish and made the United States “the light of the world.” And while the country became divided and fought the Civil War over secession and slavery, it would be Christianity again that informed and motivated the Civil Rights movement in the mid-Twentieth Century that completed the vision of equality of all people expressed the Declaration of Independence. 

Many Americans are presently confused and discouraged by the rise of “the enemy within” and the concurrent failure of political leadership in the United States—causing our “light” to become dim. But that light has not gone out, the Constitution still stands, and those same spiritual truths and practices that enabled our early success can bring a course correction and generate renewal and efflorescence again if only “we the people” will wholeheartedly embrace them, get involved and take action.   

Scott S. Powell

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Scott Powell has enjoyed a career split between theory and practice with over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and rainmaker in several industries. He joins the Discovery Institute after having been a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for six years and serving as a managing partner at a consulting firm, RemingtonRand. His research and writing has resulted in over 250 published articles on economics, business and regulation. Scott Powell graduated from the University of Chicago with honors (B.A. and M.A.) and received his Ph.D. in political and economic theory from Boston University in 1987, writing his dissertation on the determinants of entrepreneurial activity and economic growth.