There have been more mass shootings in the United States so far this year than days in the year. CBS News predicts the U.S. will end 2019 having averaged at least one mass shooting every single day.
It makes reporting fairly easy.Reporters can simply fill in the blanks: “Today in (name of city) a gunman opened fire in (name of church, store, mosque, or synagogue) with a (make or model of gun) killing (number dead), and injuring (number hospitalized) before being shot and killed by police.”
In the wake of the latest mass shooting — Which one? Does it matter?‚ the TV program “Fox and Friends” called in a pastor to explain what was going wrong with the nation.
Former police officer Tony Perkins, a Southern Baptist minister who heads an organization called the Family Research Council, blamed the rash of mass murders on the teaching of science — particularly evolution — in American schools.
He said, “We’ve taught our kids that they come about by chance through primordial slime and then we’re surprised that they treat their fellow Americans like dirt.”
Perkins’ argument was simple — “We have to instill in these children (the knowledge) that they’re created in the image of God, therefore they have inherent value.”
Perkins claimed it’s impossible to have morality without religion. Mass killings are a natural consequence of “driving religion and God out of the public square.”
The Huffington Post editorialized, “He did not offer any theories as to how nations with lower levels of religious adherence manage to avoid mass shootings.”
I wouldn’t be that kind. I consider his thesis total crap.
I see not one shred of evidence that any of the recent killers was motivated by science. Or evolution.
Not even by secular humanism.
They were angry men who felt that life — government, employers, or women — had treated them badly. And they were gonna make someone suffer for it.
It didn’t matter who.
Further, I would argue that Perkins’ brand of pseudo-Christianity was more likely to have encouraged them than to have offered a moral alternative.
Now, I have not seen a clear statement of his beliefs. But I’m guessing that he belongs to the branch of Christianity that adheres to five “fundamentals”:
1. The absolute authority of the Bible
2. The Virgin birth of Jesus
3. The Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus — by dying on the cross Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins, for all time
4. The bodily Resurrection of Jesus
5. The Miracles of Jesus.
The last four are, in fact, subordinate to the first. Without the Bible, the other four fundamentals would not exist.
But, I can’t see how any of these fundamentals would deter a potential mass killer. They are abstract statements of doctrine. How would belief in the Virgin Birth, for example, alter a killer’s intentions?
At the same time, though, fundamentalism of any kind — Christian, Muslim, or Hindu — contains some core convictions that are rarely acknowledged:
• Religion is about being right. If we’re right — and of course we are — then everyone else must be wrong. It’s exclusive.
• Religion is about influencing God. God can and does intervene in earthly events; praise and prayer are levers for persuading God that our will be done.
• Religion is about getting on the right side of God. God has favourites — us. The “others” who are not God’s favourites don’t deserve compassion.
• Religion is about judging. It uses rewards and punishments — ultimately, heaven for the good, hell for the bad — to maintain control. Because God judges, so must His servants. Sinners and non-believers deserve any punishment they get.
• Religion is about authority. There must always be an unimpeachable authority to resolve controversies. Anything that conflicts with a religion’s holy texts — in Christianity, the Bible — must be fought tooth and nail.
Am I being too harsh?
I don’t think so. Listen to televangelists on the tube. Listen to the political pronouncements of religious leaders. Underneath the words about love, mercy, forgiveness, and commitment, those five convictions will appear again and again.
And I’m pretty sure Jesus would reject every one of them.
I know, I know — I’m doing the same thing as Perkins, attacking an enemy who may exist only in my imagination.
But it’s not my imagination that religious fundamentalism is far more likely to encourage an angry gunman to start shooting than anything taught about evolution in any schools.
Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author and freelance journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org