Multitudes of Americans are frantically (and understandably) looking for answers and a motive behind the Las Vegas shooter’s mass shooting just three days ago on October 1, 2017. Some blame guns, and some blame mental illness/psychopathy for Stephen Paddock’s shocking action, but what really was the motive of this man? From where did his motive spring?
Why does this matter? The problem with our search is that we are searching surface issues and not getting to the root of the issue. Getting to the root of the issue matters and is very much worth the time it takes to understand. Getting a firm grasp on this with deeper knowledge is crucial as it will eliminate the problem and bless our future generation, our children.
Allow me to explain.
Getting a grip on gun control and mental illness are both noble efforts and needless to say, very important endeavors; however, gun control and mental health are just the icing on the cake. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness; source noted), millions of Americans are affected by mental health conditions every year. NAMI estimates that about 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year. That computes to about 43.8 million people who suffer from a mental illness, and clearly, all those people are not committing violent crimes such as what we saw in Las Vegas last weekend. Furthermore, there are many moral and upright people who have mental illness, and many moral and upright people who own guns. There have always been guns, and there has always been mental illness…so why the increase in violent crime?
The logical question that arises is this:
Is it the brain that causes one to commit such a violent act? Is the root of the problem the brain or the heart of man? What really is the root of the violence in our modern culture? Why are these violent acts increasing at an exponential rate in both frequency and intensity?
Allow me to give you an example of a garden. As we tackle the ever increasing violence issue of our nation, this is similar to merely cutting a plant from its root. The entire plant must be uprooted or else the plant will grow again. One must get to the actual root or else the problem will return. Taking away a gun from a psychopath surely will help for a time; however, this action won’t succeed in getting to the very root. The person will find a way to get another weapon. Certain drugs are illegal, yet people find a way to attain them, don’t they? If a plant is cut down, the root is still there. It is only a matter of time before the plant will return.
The mass media and the heart
Many Americans want to have their cake and eat it to. What we sow into our own hearts and our children’s hearts and minds is precisely what we will reap. Many scratch their heads and wonder, “how could a man like Stephen Paddock do such a thing?”, yet we don’t even realize that we are poisoning ourselves from within! What else has increased exponentially in our culture in the past few decades? Violence on media, thanks to Hollywood. How could we ask such a question while allowing our kids to play gory video games and watch violent, rated R movies?
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7)
Irvin Baxter of Endtime Ministries (source noted) recently created a podcast about the Las Vegas shooting which explains that the mass media creates the culture that shapes hearts and minds. Americans need to get a grasp on what comes into our hearts, and especially the hearts of our children. He goes on to say, not in these exact words, that his research suggested that the typical American child watches 28 hours of TV per week, and by the time a child turns 18, they will have seen 200,000 acts of violence, and more than 16,000 violent murders on-screen.
Plain and simple, it’s time for Americans to wake up. Hollywood produces violent movies, and this industry has skyrocketed to a multi-billion dollar industry. Just in the past decade, we see that children are exposed to even more through smartphones. We sit and scratch our heads and wonder, “how could a man do such a thing?”. If Americans don’t address the root of the problem, it will only get worse.
Since the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s, the overwhelming belief system in America has been, “If it feels right, do it”. Where is the moral compass? This nation has a heart issue. So many Americans have the viewpoint that true freedom equates with being able to watch whatever TV shows they desire. True freedom is always found in the truth not compromise (it was actually Jesus who said, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” John 8:32).
It’s time for Americans to wake up from their slumber. We think it’s bad now, but what will happen when this generation of children, who are daily watching blood and gore on video games and TV – more than any previous generation – what will happen when this generation reaches adulthood? Hollywood is sowing violence into our culture like never before, and Americans are eating it up. The old saying, “we are what we eat”, is true. Americans must start getting to the root of the issue…the heart. What we sow is what we will reap. We must start protecting the hearts of our children with parenting controls and solid, Biblical teaching on morals. We must start modeling the Christian life ourselves and turn our eyes away from vile images generated by Hollywood and pornography. Call this judgmental, but one cannot love violence and be Christian. As Irvin Baxter further explained, the two do not compute (if you have time, view his outstanding one hour podcast cited below). Violence is diametrically opposed to the Christian life.
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (1 Corinthians 15:33)
I will set no wicked thing before my eyes. (Psalm 101:3)
Have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:11)
For from within out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, covetous, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. (Mark 7:22)
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
Las Vegas is my hometown. I have spent thirty-six years here, and to see the very place where I spent my childhood be the setting for America’s most deadly mass shooting is deeply disturbing. To see my friend limping and suffering from severe PTSD is surreal. Sure, Las Vegas is “Sin City”, there is certainly a lot of darkness here (as with all cities). Now more than ever, I see that Las Vegas is very much a city of grace. I have seen firsthand the amount of love and compassion this town has shown the victims and their families. Las Vegas has stepped up and is an amazing town. “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20).
One thing remains: the root of the issue, according to Jesus Christ, has always been the heart of man. If we can reach people with the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and its life-changing power, the heart and spirit of man can be made new. Only true repentance and a heart turned to the Lord will solve the violence problem at its very root in this country. The Gospel is and always will be the answer, for that alone will change the heart of man to the core.
And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself’. (Luke 10:27)
Sources and Related Content:
1. NAMI; https://www.nami.org
2. Endtime Ministries by Irvin Baxter (2017); https://www.endtime.com/podcast/las-vegas-shooting/; The author (Becky Savio) does not necessarily endorse this ministry nor its content in its entirety; the author does not endorse the hyper-pentecostal nor charismatic movements.