Paul Kengor: Parkland result of our loss of values
For the names of each dead teen in Parkland, Fla., we could name other infamous school shootings: Columbine, Sandy Hook, the Amish schoolhouse in central Pennsylvania, Virginia Tech. Where does this madness end? I fear it only gets worse. This is above all not a failure of gun laws or FBI checks or warning signs of mental illness. This is a descent from decency to the diabolical. And first and foremost, it’s a catastrophic loss of values in our culture.
Think about it: If this was merely a matter of guns, there would have been school shootings — and church and other mass shootings — for decades, if not centuries. This is new.
A 78-year-old told me what I already knew: When he was in school in the 1950s, he regularly walked in carrying his .22-caliber rifle, which he placed in his locker. Other boys did the same. After school, the gym teacher grabbed his shotgun and drove fields with them, shooting rabbits. No one thought of shooting a classmate.
My mom talks of her parents taking in hunters as “boarders” during deer season in Emporium, Pa. These were strangers, often steelworkers and coal miners coming from Pittsburgh to hunt in the mountains. Many were World War II vets, some surely plagued by what we’d call “PTSD.” They brought ammo into the house and cleaned their rifles in their bedrooms. My grandma woke them up at 5 a.m., made them breakfast, and off they went into the woods. And guess what? Not a single murder.
This, too, was during the 1950s, a decade that liberals ridicule for its homey and hokey values. But let’s leave the ’50s out of this. After all, this civil America existed virtually every decade until recent times.
When I was in high school in the early 1980s, we had a gun club. Remember those? They were everywhere. In 1984, New York state had 65 school-district rifle teams. Schools were not gun-free zones. And yet, no mass shootings.
I recall coming home from school in the 1980s, grabbing my shotgun and trekking across my suburban neighborhood to woods to hunt. No one blinked.
Liberals will scoff at this as simplistic, but it’s truly remarkable that the rise in gun violence in public schools follows removal of God from public schools. Sure, added factors are at play. Yet no way is it a mere coincidence that our government schools have experienced anarchy precisely as they’ve purged Judeo-Christian values. Bibles, prayer and any notion of instructing, let alone posting, the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the theological or cardinal virtues are verboten . Teacher friends of mine whisper fears of being disciplined as they struggle to carefully introduce any semblance of Christian moral ethics into their classrooms.
We strip all this, then expect public schools to be paragons of propriety. What we have is an implosion of basic morality that no gun restrictions will fix.
This nation’s culture of Christendom, its bedrock for over 200 years, has been shattered. We’re living with the results. Welcome to post-Christian America. Pretty ugly, isn’t it?
Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His books include “A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century.”