School shootings seem to follow me around the country. I used to live just a few miles from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Four teenagers from my parish were senselessly murdered there.
A few years ago, I moved back to my home state of Pennsylvania, and I now live amid the Amish farms of rural Lancaster County. The one-room schoolhouse where the recent atrocities took place is not far from my home.
I shop at the Amish hardware store where the shooter purchased the wire, bolts and other “supplies” he brought with him to the scene. My boys are in the same soccer league as the shooter’s children. For all I know, I may have seen the would-be murderer among the other dads at recent soccer games.
Suffice it to say that it’s not merely a figure of speech when I say this hits close to home.
Why? Why? Everyone is asking what would lead a human being to do such a horrid thing. It’s a good question, but I don’t think our country is ready for the real answer.
Of course, I don’t claim to know the precise reason behind Charles Carl Roberts’ heinous crime. But this I do know: Acts like this are a logical part of the fallout of a culture of death. And our culture of death is the logical fallout of a deep-seated distortion of human sexuality.
I won’t list the sordid details of what it seems Roberts intended to do with those young Amish girls before he killed them. But, as the world now knows, Roberts was plagued by memories of molesting two young female relatives when he himself was just a boy, and he was tormented by dreams of doing it again.
That’s what it seems he was prepared to do — violently molest several innocent Amish girls and end it all in a blood bath.
As the late Father Paul Quay observed in his book The Christian Meaning of Human Sexuality, “[T]here is a relation between sexual sin and death that human beings have known for long generations. As we can see as far back as the epic poetry of Ugarit 4,000 years ago, in the plays of Euripides 2,400 years ago, in the gladiator shows of ancient Rome 1,800 years ago, and in countless other cases, deviated sexual lust becomes blood lust; frustration of the life-instincts begets the death instinct.”
Take a look at the video covers displayed at your local Blockbuster. In aisle after aisle, you will find scantily clad men and women wielding guns, knives, and chain saws; sex and murder, sex and death … It’s the same phenomenon we’ve seen from the story of David and Bathsheba to the story of JonBenet Ramsey.
But if human beings have known of the connection between sexual sin and death for “long generations,” it seems the modern world has a very convenient case of amnesia. Is anyone in the media even willing to admit the connection between sexual lust and blood lust? Is anyone even talking about this as the root of the problem?
All I’ve heard from the likes of Dr. Phil and countless school officials is that we need to beef up security at our schools, as if lack of security were the problem. It’s as if we would rather become a police-state than examine our consciences.
Sure, go ahead, beef up security.
It may help to prevent crime in some cases, but it will never solve the problem within us. We are desperately in need of sexual salvation. As John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), “It is an illusion to think we can build a true culture of human life if we do not ... accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and their close inter-connection.”
We don’t want the death, but we do want the lust. We can’t have it both ways. It’s not possible. The so-called “sexual revolution” promised us happiness. Have we had enough yet? Are we ready and willing to wake up to what this revolution has wrought?
Until we are, expect more heinous crimes like the one near my home coming soon to a neighborhood near you.
Christopher West is a faculty member and research fellow of the Theology of the Body Institute in West Chester, Pa. For more information, visit theologyofthebody.com or tobinstitute.org.