This weeks column in Christian Today – here
“I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes and make it go away”
(Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2)
U2 sang this in the US a day after the Enniskillen bombing in Northern Ireland. It was a performance captured in their rockumentary film, Rattle ‘n’ Hum. A performance whose rawness, emotion and anger was matched only by its desperate pointing to Christ as the only solution.
I was reminded of it as I heard the news of yet another mass shooting in the US. Only, for me, this one was different. This was in a school and church I had been to – The Covenant School and Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville.
I didn’t know any of the victims – Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all aged nine, headteacher Katherine Koonce, 60, substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, and school custodian Mike Hill, 61 – but as a Presbyterian minister myself and the father of two girls, I found it all too easy to imagine the pain and suffering of the parents, and especially the pastor Chad Scruggs, who has had to lead his church and family through the pain and suffering of losing his daughter as well as the others in the church family.
It’s not easy to reflect on this but we have to. How do you comment? Should you? How do you make sense of it? How do you not get angry? I tried to think through this here and as I did so, it came to me that the shootings at a Christian school in Nashville are a window into the soul of modern America – and thus into much of the rest of the Western world.
Firstly, this shooting illustrates the depth of evil, darkness and sorrow in the world, although evil is almost too inadequate a word.
Secondly, this shooting shows that transgenderism has become a divisive and dangerous ideology. The shooter identified as trans – although we don’t yet know the reasons or impact this had upon her motivations. We need to recognise that there are transgender people who need help and support and this woman was certainly one of them. Just 0.1% of people are believed to have genuine GID (Gender Identity Disorder), but trans ideology has spread way beyond that group – and indeed is in danger of harming that group.
The perpetrator of this atrocity (and you will forgive me for not mentioning her name – the former NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was surely right not to name the Christchurch shooter and I agree that denying potential shooters the oxygen of publicity may help hinder future shootings), was a woman who identified as a man, was being medically treated, and clearly had a significant number of mental health issues.
There is a level of violence associated with the transgender movement which is quite chilling. For example, the transgender resistance movement tweeted out hate has consequences and complained about the misgendering of the shooter. What other movement would get away with having a ‘transgender day of vengeance’? What do you think happens to young minds, whose bodies and minds are already harmed, when you tell them that they are victims of a genocide, and that trans people are routinely being murdered every day in our countries? Or when people like Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks tell trans people, “If anyone should get guns it should be trans Americans.”
And what do you think happens when you tell people that those who oppose transgender ideology are literally Nazis? Such hateful language has consequences (as indeed language which would seek to blame all trans people does). For example, when Dan Andrews, the premier of Victoria, labelled Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull and the feminists demonstrating for women’s rights as Nazis/fascists/Far Right, he gave a green light to the mobs in Hobart and New Zealand to violently attack them.
Professor Steven Shaviro, of Wayne State University in the US, was suspended last month after writing in a Facebook post, “I think it is far more admirable to kill a racist, homophobic or transphobic speaker than to shout them down.”
This is another incredibly emotive subject. In the US there have been an average of 1.5 mass shootings per day this year. There are 350 million firearms in a nation of 335 million people. The Nashville shooter had five legal weapons including two assault rifles. I know that it’s not as simple as banning all guns – I suspect you would have a civil war if you tried to do that in the US. But surely there has to be a tightening of gun laws and far more restrictions? Why does anyone need one assault rifle, never mind two?
This is the first mass shooting I have witnessed where some of the mainstream media and some online have come very close to calling the shooter a victim. Some certainly expressed more concern about how trans people might be affected than they did about the deaths of the children and teachers. For example, within hours of the shooting, a US TV station went to a local church to praise its open policies for LGBT people. The implication was clear: if only the Presbyterian church had been more ‘inclusive’, this would not have happened. Victim shaming was on full display. The ideological drivenness of some of the media is distorting truth and denying compassion.
It’s not easy being a policeman. Watching the police at work in Nashville was highly impressive. Their speed and bravery was commendable and surely saved many lives. But sometimes the police stand by. In New Zealand, the police let Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull be mobbed. Why? Recent stories from Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand have shown a worrying politicisation of the police. This will not end well.
Politicians have to be very careful about dog whistles – the practice of saying things knowing that they will be seen as a sign to more extremist groups. Premier Dan Andrews of Victoria was quick to associate Keen-Minshull with Nazis. In Australia the Green Senator, Lidia Thorpe called Keen-Minshull “that thing”. In the US, there was the bizarre scene of TV stations cutting to President Joe Biden who was due to make a comment on the shootings, only to have him joking about chocolate chip ice cream. And why have politicians been so reluctant to call this a hate crime? Surely the deliberate targeting of children in a school because of their faith is about as hateful as it can get.
Again, the Nashville shooting highlights the increasing danger to children and women in our cultures. It’s not just that children are sometimes the victims of such horrific violence, but also that some of the ideologies that are now being pushed as State doctrines cause so much damage to impressionable minds. Schools like Covenant Christian are needed more than ever.
It was beyond surreal when a week after Keen-Minshull’s attempted rallies for women’s rights in New Zealand that the prime minister of that country found himself unable to say what a woman is. When asked “what is a woman?” he replied: “I wasn’t expecting that question, so it wasn’t something I pre-formulated an answer on.” The next question should have been, “Prime minister, have you reflected on whether the earth is flat?”
Hatred, guns, violence, confusion, dark ideologies, lies, evil doctrines, mentally ill teenagers, children who need anti-shooter safety lessons; women who are abused and vilified for standing up for women’s rights; political leaders who discriminate and show hatred for groups they don’t like; anger; pain … oh, the darkness!
But, I finish where we came in. With U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday.
“And the battle’s just begun
There’s many lost but tell me who has won?
The trenches dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart …”
“… The real battle’s just begun, to claim the victory Jesus won”
Jesus defeated death, hatred, violence and evil. We must seek to be salt in a decaying world, and light in a dark one.
Easter Sunday is the answer to Bloody Sunday. The Resurrection is the answer to the hopelessness of the Nashville shooting. Preach Him!