The role that culture plays in the horrific shootings that headline newspapers and dishearten us all is being underplayed, writes Franciscan University of Steubenville professor Stephen M. Krason. He writes in Crisis Magazine that our country may perhaps be wrongly focusing solely on gun control to the exclusion of confronting what he calls the “deep-seated moral decay” of our culture.
Was the fact that he was from a broken family, with his parents having been divorced, a significant factor in aggravating his mental condition? Would he have gone over the cliff if he had not grown up in a secular, amoral or immoral culture? Would he have engaged in brutal violence if he had not been influenced by nihilistic, violent, destructive elements in popular culture through his absorption in playing violent video games?
Is it unreasonable to think that the above cultural developments and the personal insecurity and social dislocations resulting from them might be factors in triggering mental illness in some cases?
As mentioned, the tendency nowadays is to look for a policy response. Maybe this reaction is another aspect of the beliefs that: institutions and their accoutrements instead of the condition of the human soul are what determine good or evil, and that government can be the solver of all problems. What the secular left needs to do—along with the secular right (it exists) and the masses of people simply caught up in our secular, consumerist, amoral, me-centered culture—is to put ideology and conventional ways of thinking aside for a moment and consider seriously and objectively if, just possibly, the above cultural developments—or certain of them—might not have something to do with tragedies like the one in Connecticut. They might want to ask themselves if, say, the “non-judgmentalism” and moral pluralism in education and other contexts that they have long championed may not have been part of the problem. That takes humility, to be sure, but don’t such events as these necessitate that?
While deep-seated cultural decay, of course, is not easily or quickly addressed (even when there is a broad agreement about its causes), I do not want to imply that legal and public policy changes should not be part of the equation. While governmental action alone cannot change culture, let’s remember the important role that Aristotle, Aquinas and other thinkers said that law can play in helping to rightly form individuals and culture.
You can read Krason’s entire piece at Crisis Magazine.
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