That’s the number of mass shootings that have taken place on American soil this year.
Which means the slaughter in San Bernardino by a husband and wife terrorist team was the 355th time multiple lives have been taken in an act of gun violence.
“Just another day in the United States of America,” said the BBC’s James Cook. “Another day of gunfire, panic and fear.”
Beyond the all too familiar shock and sadness, there were two very understandable and immediate reactions: prayer and calls for gun control.
And that seemed to form two camps: those who wanted to meet the tragedy with prayer, and those who wanted to meet the tragedy with legislation. And those who wanted legislation weren’t very happy with those who only offered prayer.
As one newspaper provocatively posted on its front page, in titling the story of the San Bernardino shootings, “God Isn’t Fixing This.” The story was taking to task the tweets from those in political office, or running for one, who have not acted as some would like regarding increased levels of gun control.
“As the latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood,” the cover reads, “cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”
My intent is not to weigh in on the political back-and-forth on whether our current gun control laws are sufficient.
My intent is not to weigh in on whether the “thoughts” and “prayers” were truly “meaningless platitudes” from those who offered them, devoid of any desire to address root causes.
My intent is to weigh in that neither a tweeted condolence, or any type of gun control, is the problem, much less the answer.
Because it isn’t.
The problem is evil and the human heart. Except for cases of mental illness, these acts of violence are perpetrated by evildoers. The acts themselves are evil, and the people doing them are pursuing evil.
The truth about American culture is less that there is a proliferation of guns and more about a proliferation of violence unchecked by spirit or character.
You see, it’s not just the 355 acts of gun violence.
It’s the hundreds of thousands of acts of road rage, bullying, trolls on the internet, rape, sexual harassment, child abuse, spousal abuse and schoolyard beatings.
And while a culture of violence may be most evident in the United States, it is far from unique in our world. One need only look at the rampant violence related to drugs in Mexico or the brutal conflict in Syria. So many more countries – from Afghanistan to Somalia – could be named.
So yes, we should offer our prayers.
And perhaps there are some needed and important steps to be taken to address dangerous loopholes or weaknesses regarding the purchase of guns while still upholding our Second Amendment.
But the heart of the matter is precisely what the BBC reporter said. It’s that this was “just another day in the United States.” A United States that increasingly looks to violence to solve almost all of its relational and emotional frustration and despair.
So let’s not declare “God Isn’t Fixing This.”
God is fixing “this” wherever He is invited.
But let’s define the “this” that is broken:
James Emery White
“California Shooting: ‘Another day of gunfire, panic and fear,’” BBC News, December 3, 2015, read online.
Jessica Durando, “‘Daily News’ provokes with cover on Calif. shooting: ‘God isn’t fixing this,’” USA Today, December 3, 2015, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.