The stories and scenes from Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, have become tragically familiar. Once again, a calm and peaceful setting is disrupted by violent gunfire, a massacre wrought by an individual targeting people of the Christian faith.
From Columbine High School and New Life Church here in Colorado, to churches in Charleston, South Carolina, and Fort Worth, Texas, and now, a school in Roseburg, Oregon, a chilling pattern has emerged. Innocent and unassuming people, many of them young students for whom their love of God frames everything else in life, are increasingly becoming the casualties of a red-hot abhorrence of Christianity.
This devastating reality begs the questions:
Why is this happening and what can be done about it?
Tragedies of this sort are usually the result of multiple concurring factors, of course. From moral depravity and racial prejudice to mental illness and family dysfunction, shooters, sadly, come in all shapes and sizes. Law enforcement officials and psychologists spend years and millions of dollars analyzing and attempting to identify the warning signs. That they fail to identify killers before they kill is not ultimately a sign of professional failure but rather a symptom of a sin-filled world that fails to recognize the sacred value of human life.
Likewise, the growing intolerance of Christianity over the last half-century emanates from a host of cultural developments, from lawsuits to court rulings and the emergence and explosion of an increasingly secular culture.
For years now, we’ve been told that it’s secularism, a freedom from that “old-time religion,” that will truly liberate us. And so from the courthouse to the schoolhouse, all vestiges of Christianity are to be erased. Then – and only then – will we be fully evolved and free from the shackles and burdens of organized religion.
The reality, I believe, is quite the opposite. True freedom is not found in the absence of all restraints but instead by living within the parameters of the natural law. For me, as a follower of Jesus Christ, this means embracing and adhering to the precepts of the Bible.
To be sure, the United States is a pluralistic nation. Our first freedom is the freedom of conscience and religion, a right protected and enshrined by the Constitution. Our Founding Fathers wanted no state religion and no spiritual litmus test, but they also didn’t want government to be hostile towards people of faith.
Sadly, what they didn’t want has come true.
The truth of the matter is this: the more authentic Christianity there is throughout the world, the less violence and evil there will be. Given the state of this country and the world, we need more than ever to encourage Christian people to be more open about their faith and to live it out in practical ways.
As the president of one of the world’s largest family-help organizations, we hear every single day from parents desperately seeking advice on how to raise their children and how keep them safe in an increasingly unsafe and unpredictable world. Our response to the present-day darkness is to encourage young and old alike to transform the culture by shining the light of their faith in the world.
This is why for the second straight year, Focus on the Family is hosting “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” this Thursday, Oct. 8. We believe that students shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of—or forced to hide—their biblical beliefs when they walk in the school door. The right to freely acknowledge and practice one’s faith was a cherished freedom our Founding Fathers were willing to risk their lives to protect. Some schools have attempted to put a stop to the practice, even going so far as to ban the reading of the Bible during free time. Yet even the ACLU has acknowledged that our Constitution protects a student’s right to bring his or her Bible to school.
The Bible is not just another book. We believe it’s a sacred text with a powerful message of hope and love for humanity. It’s something that should be celebrated and encouraged, not banned. In dark times, from Columbine to Umpqua Community College and every school in between, it’s the Bible that will shine the brightest light and serve as the greatest source of comfort.