February 22, 2018
While Americans try to cope with the losses in Florida, they're saying goodbye to someone else: America's pastor, Billy Graham. Never has our nation so desperately needed to hear the message of hope and healing that the 99-year-old spent his life sharing. So surely, it's no earthly coincidence that even in Reverend Graham's death, he's forcing us to look in the one place where the answers to this heartbreak lie: up.
Torn apart by grief and rage, Americans are frantic to know why our nation is unraveling in one act of violence after another. "We're done with thoughts and prayers!" an angry man shouted at a Colorado townhall, when Rep. Mike Coffman (R) asked for a moment of silence for Parkland. But isn't that the problem? Too many schools and colleges are done with prayer. They've been so busy kicking God out (and his standards) that they haven't noticed what's coming in. Every moral vacuum is filled with something. And maybe it's time we stepped back as a nation and take a long hard look at what those things are and how they're impacting our culture. Violence, relativism, promiscuity, and suicide didn't get their start when God was expelled from school. But they've certainly been given a culture in which to thrive now that we've removed the Judeo-Christian foundation that anchored the country.
Donald Trump's opponents are scratching their heads over these shootings, saying, "We've got to control the instruments of the violence." No, what we have to do is impact the hearts and minds of children and let them know their lives have meaning. "It had to have broken Billy Graham's heart," Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) told me on radio yesterday, "to see our nation get to the point where we refuse to teach morality, we refuse to teach right or wrong. The two-parent home has come under attack and been destroyed. And really, I've given this a lot of thought. When you get rid of teaching morality, when you destroy the foundational home that's been the foundation for every civilization, then if you want to stay safe, you're gonna have to give up all of your constitutional rights -- at least most of them."
Even now, I don't think our country has come to a point of serious reflection on the violence that's snuffing out these innocent lives. Sure, we can talk about limiting access to guns, but if we're truly concerned about violence, let's also talk about expanding access to God. Until we're willing to address both -- the instrument and the motivation -- this discussion won't change anything. There has to be a moral component. Gun control, knife control, truck rental control, pressure cooker control -- they're never going to stop evil. Only a repentant and restored people, with hearts turned toward what's right, can do that.
Do I think there are steps we can take to make the nation safer? Absolutely. I think President Trump has a pragmatic approach to filling some holes in our system. More comprehensive background checks, an emphasis on mental health, or banning bump stocks could all help. I think many parents, like myself, empathize with the moms and dads across this nation who've lost their children to senseless acts of violence. We're ready to have a conversation about strengthening America's gun laws -- but not in the absence of a discussion about the moral and spiritual void that's been created by policies that try to appease a few while putting all children at risk.
"The real work of reducing violent crime is the work of rebuilding the family," Dr. Pat Fagan has said. Americans need to carefully consider how an agenda of religious hostility detracts from that. And what about the years of liberal policies pushing America away from the natural family? Or the fact that we've gotten to a point in our "civil" society where people no longer value humans created in the image of God? A God, I might add, that some Americans are punished for even invoking.
Faith has become such an anathema after eight years of Barack Obama that people are furious at the mere expression of it. Just this week, Congressman Mike Bost (R-Ill.) posted a picture on social media with Donald Trump holding a bag of prayer cards he'd collected last year from constituents in his district. "Sickening," followers posted. "What a disgusting stunt." In a torrent of profanity and contempt, others insisted, "F--- your thoughts and prayers. Your children are dying..."
If Congress wants to stop these tragedies, then it has to start by encouraging the two things -- faith and family -- that can address the real problem: the human heart. "'This government,' John Adams said," and Louie Gohmert reminded us, "'was only intended to govern a moral and religious people. It's not fit to govern any other.'"
We can't use laws to do what only God can. We have to get back to a basic understanding of right and wrong. Until then, we're only treating the symptoms.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.