Americans have always had constitutional rights that allow them to exercise certain freedoms. But do we still have the moral ability to maintain those rights?
Mass shootings are now, tragically, a regular feature of our news cycle. Each new attack on innocent children, students, church members, or concertgoers hits us it seems before we’ve recovered from the last one. I hope and pray we never become numb to the horror of these crimes.
In fact, after the recent shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a shooting that left 17 dead, the fury and passion to do something seems to have reached a critical point. Certainly, those who wish to restrict guns in America are louder than ever.
Now, in full disclosure, I’m a Second Amendment guy. I own guns: I support the right to bear arms. But I’m also a student of history and worldview. Rights always come with responsibility. And people who are incapable of enjoying freedoms inevitably lose them.
I know I’m going to get angry emails about this, so let me be as clear as possible. I’m not saying here what should happen. I’m not saying that America should ban guns. What I’m saying is what always happens when a culture morally breaks down. Chuck Colson used to say that if a people will not be governed by the conscience, they will be governed by the constable. The loss of conscience always leads to the loss of freedom.
John Adams, our second president, said that our Constitution is meant only for a “moral and religious people,” and “is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” That would include the Second Amendment.
Increasingly, Americans display a shocking lack of conscience. I’m not just talking about mass-shootings by lonely, isolated, disturbed young men. I’m talking about historic levels of suicide, the epidemic of opioid overdoses that have more than doubled since 2010, and the poison we pump into the minds and hearts of our children in the name of entertainment. If we’re not killing each other in this country, we’re killing ourselves! Folks, something is deeply wrong. America is deeply sick.
Liberals who want to ban guns often say we’ve evolved beyond our Constitution. Evolved? No, we’ve devolved below it. We’re no longer a people moral or religious enough to sustain the freedoms of self-government.
Alexis de Tocqueville famously wrote on his visit to America that religion and local voluntary associations serve as glue to hold our democracy together. Almost 200 years later, that’s simply not true about us anymore. We’re now a society of isolated individualists—where drug addicts, the suicidal, and yes, the lonely, disturbed young men—easily slip through the cracks.
Political conservatives, hear me on this: It seems obvious at this point that government and police officials failed the students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And they should be held accountable.
But the deeper sickness eating this country alive will lead to more and more demands for gun control. Freedom is unsustainable without virtue.
Political liberals, hear me on this: The problem isn’t guns. Ban them, without addressing the real problems of our society, and we’ll find the next high school killer using a car or some other weapon of mass destruction. And the rest of us will be unarmed and unable to defend ourselves.
America is in a dark, deeply divided place—a place Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn accurately described in a 1978 speech at Harvard as a place with “little defense against the abyss of human decadence…such as the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror.” Even strict laws, Solzhenitsyn said, are powerless to defend a people against such moral corrosion.
If the devolution of our collective conscience continues, the replacement of constitutional rights with constables might be inevitable. But even constables won’t be able to govern, or protect, a people without a conscience.
— by John Stonestreet
Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2018 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.