I am filled with sorrow for the loved ones of those lost at Mother Emanuel in Charleston; they are in my prayers and my thoughts.
We must also think about the deadly culture we have created in this country, a culture that creates mass murderers at a rate seen in no other developed country on the planet. And those mass murderers are always white men and white boys.
Many people have cried out over the rhetoric about this tragedy that has spoken of the shooter as mentally ill - stating that these deaths are about guns and hatred, not about mental illness, and that is true in its way. Rarely do organic mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder result in any kind of violent behavior; most are not a valid risk factor for perpetrating violence. Those who struggle with mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims of crime that perpetrators of it.
That said, I think it is an illness that creates these shooters and I do think they are ill. It is not an organic illness, but an illness that we, as a society, have created with our toxic, sinful culture. We, as white people in America, need to address the culture that sickens and creates these murderers. It starts so early. We prop our babies up in carriers, leave them to cry alone at night to "train" them, and surround them with a culture that glorifies objects over relationships and that considers women and workers just more objects to use. We teach them that men take what they want and that those who are not "us" are a threat to us if they do not give us what we want. That there will never be enough to go around and that others will get what should be theirs. We throw a hefty dose of gun idolatry in the mix. All of this makes our male children ill; so ill. They are lonely and afraid and entitled. They are angry that they are not the kings our culture says they should be.
Many boys and men overcome the culture either because they are just extraordinarily good or because their parents speak out against it often enough, but some cannot overcome it and most do not have parents who speak out against it strongly enough. Or wives who do, or daughters or sisters or friends who do. Far too often, when their football player son has raped a girl, white parents defend him, feeding the illness and making the monster. When their CEO husband enacts policies that result in the pollution of the water that thousands depend upon to drink for his own and his shareholders' profit, white wives are proud of his business acumen, feeding the illness and making the monster. When he uses racial slurs, white friends laugh. When he uses his position in law enforcement to abuse little girls at pool parties, white commentators all over the internet defend him. It is easy to point to the mass murderer as deranged, but he is just an extreme variation. The violence of the white male supremacy culture that flares into mass murderers at regular intervals is constantly churning out date rapists and batterers and corporate pirates and hazers and racists and gun violence.
We have created this madness and we can stop it. We must. We all are responsible.
Hold your babies and love them and spend time with them. Let them know they are never alone but that they are responsible for and to others. Let the boys and men in your life know they are entitled to nothing more than anyone else in this world is entitled to and that people are not things and cannot be used and that people are more important than objects or success. Make sure they know lots of different kinds of people and that they are exposed to different cultures and different ways of thinking. Resist "us" and "them" thinking - let your boys know that we are all one.
We must pray in these times of tragedy but we must also act to prevent future tragedy.