(And cure a host of other evils as well.)
“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” – G.K. Chesterton
Let’s start with a given: Everyone except for the very few dragons among us would like never again to hear the words, “Breaking news: There are reports of another mass shooting at ….”
The words Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas etc. have become synonymous with unspeakable tragedy: the wanton, senseless taking of innocent young lives – children and teenagers cut down in the bloom of youth, often along with their teachers and coaches. Add to this the sorrowful litany of the fairly recent phenomenon of massacres at houses of worship – the Sikh temple, Oak Creek, WI; Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC; First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, TX; L’Simcha Congregation, Pittsburgh, PA; Chabad of Poway, CA; several others – and the carnage of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. While overall homicides, thankfully, are down in the U.S., such large-casualty mass shootings, while still rare, are increasing.
There are approximately 1.2 million abortions each year in the U.S. This, despite the advances in medical technologies, especially ultrasounds that show with remarkable clarity the developing child in utero. Only the willfully ignorant can maintain the fiction that what is growing in the mother’s womb is a “mass of tissue” or mere “product of conception.” (Note: the word “fetus” means “unborn vertebrate;” “specifically, a developing human.”)
The U.S. porn industry rakes in approximately $11 billion annually. Much of it is child pornography; much of that involves sexual violence against the child(ren). All children used in such films are victims. Conservatively estimated, child pornography has become a $3 billion annual industry in America.
Human trafficking is a global scourge, with approximately 27 million slaves in the world today. According to some estimates, 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation; 19% labor exploitation. Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year. The average age a girl enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12-14 years. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children. Miami is the second most active hub for human trafficking in the U.S. (Houston is the first.)
Every few nights the news features video of another school brawl, often with two, three, four (or more) students attacking one helpless victim, lying on the ground trying to cover his/her head. We hear about young people cyber-bullied into depression, withdrawal, suicide or, most tragically of all, getting a gun, going after his tormentors and becoming the next school shooter. The internet, especially social media, attracts the vilest purveyors of verbal toxic waste, hiding behind the anonymity of their monitors. Politicians seem incapable of principled disagreement; they engage in increasingly petty, even juvenile, personal insults and name calling.
“OK, Kent, we get it. The world is terrible and getting worse. What’s your point?”
Actually, that’s not my point at all. I’m not saying things are awful and getting awful-er. We have always had hatred, prejudice, bullying, violence, wars, etc. What is new is the advent of technology that constantly beams this stuff into our televisions, monitors, tablets and phones. All of which, I believe, has led to a cheapening of the value of human life.
The antidote – Genesis 1:27:
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
This ancient truth from an ancient text – which happens to be the best-selling book of all time, the most influential, and the one the western world largely was built on – teaches clearly and unmistakably that we all, each and every one of us, are created in the image of God. We are his image-bearers.
That means whatever I do to you (or any other human being), I implicitly do to God himself. If I am kind, compassionate, respectful, etc. to you, I am all those things toward the One who made you. And if I am unkind, inconsiderate, disrespectful – let alone violent – toward you … you got it. I’m guilty of being all those things toward him.
If we could truly and effectively inculcate that value in each of us from the ground up – really instill in us that every single person we meet, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, etc. is made in the image of God Almighty, and that we will one day answer to him for how we treat one another – I submit that it would change the cultural fabric.
You don’t insult, disrespect, vilify, demonize, mistreat, bully, abuse, degrade, exploit, rape, enslave, buy/sell, murder or abort fellow image-bearers of God. You recognize their inherent, God-given value and dignity, even nobility, and treat them accordingly.
Of course, to truly imprint that belief, that value, we have to anchor it to something transcendent, something beyond politics, social media trends or public opinion polls. They are ephemeral at best. I submit that principle will have to come from that timeless best seller, the Bible, the book that created western civilization and made this country possible.
G.K. Chesterton was right. There will always be dragons. No amount of teaching, moralizing or legislating will eliminate them. But teaching our children, and ourselves, the simple truth of our real nature as image bearers of God would give us a firm place to stand and say, “These things are right; these things are wrong. Period. Now let’s work toward preventing creating more dragons – before the next one attacks.”
Adults know dragons exist, too. We know evil is real. We see it on the news, feel it when we send our kids to school. The gospel message is that it can be defeated, that in fact it already has been defeated – in the cross of Christ. When he died he slew that dragon and robbed it of its ultimate power, death. His sacrifice is more than enough to overcome the dragons; indeed, it is the only thing that can.
Human beings: created in God’s image, however twisted and distorted that image may be, of such value they have been redeemed by the death of God’s Son.
The question is: Do we still have the guts to take a stand for that truth?
Or do we prefer to continue to hear: “Breaking news: There are reports of another mass shooting at …”?