Friday, December 07, 2007

Omaha Mall Shooting

I was in the Houston airport yesterday morning when I first heard the footage of the shooting at Westroads Mall in Omaha, NE. 20 year old Robert Hawkins used a high-powered rifle to terrorize mall shoppers, killing eight people before taking his own life.

Hawkins was a troubled young man who spent his adolescent years bouncing from foster home to foster home, never really being loved or accepted by any one person or one group of people. He had recently been fired from his job at McDonald's and that seemed to be what pushed him over the edge. Is his background to blame for his actions at the Westroads Mall?

I'm currently reading Walt Mueller's book "Youth Culture 101 (you can link to Walt's blog on the right). In his book Walt points to multiple reasons why today's teenagers are not considered to be morally, emotionally, or relationally healthy. He first points to the collapse of the American family. He says:

"Kids need a mother and father who love God, who love each other, and who love their kids. Anything less and the family fails to exist and function as it was meant to be."

So Mueller points to issues like the fluctuating divorce rate. He says today's divorce rate is lower than in the mid-80's which was when America's divorce rate was at its highest. While that sounds like encouraging news, it's really a result of fewer and fewer marriages. Instead of getting married people simply live together. This lack of commitment to a solid family structure is highly dangerous to an adolescent trying to manuever safely through her unsteady teenage years.

Mueller says "One third of all births in the United States are to unmarried women." Fatherlessness is a plague that is, to put it lightly, negatively influencing our culture and today's teenagers. Reinforcing this fact, Muller says:

"Kids who grow through the difficult, challenging, and formative years of adolescence without their dads have a greater risk of suffering from emotional and behavioral problems such as sexual promiscuity, premarital teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, depression, suicide, lower academic performance, dropping out of school, intimacy dysfunction, divorce and poverty. It's no surprise that 60 percent of America's rapists, 72 percent of adolescent murderers, and 70 percent of long-term prison inmates grew up without a dad."

These are some startling and scary figures.

The quesiton being asked about Robert Hawkins is "could we have stopped this?" People want to know if there's a way to reach young people before they commit acts of terrible violence. The answer is, "YES!!!" We can reach our children by being what God designed families to be - a safe haven of nurture, love and support.

The collapse of the American family is a symptom of what's wrong with our culture - we've succumbed to the idol of Self and have lost sight of the jealous God of grace.