This week, on May 24th, an 18-year-old shot and killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. This is unbearable grief for the victims' family members, even if they believe in a loving God.
Four days earlier, Kyhara Tay, 11, was shot and killed recklessly in New York City by a 15-year-old, leaving behind a grieving family. In the resulting somber press conference in NYC, Mayor Eric Adams and other political leaders of the city proclaimed how troubled they are by the violence. Mayor Adams wants to stop, what he emphatically described as, “kids killing kids.”
Adams, at the press conference, emphasized, “11, 15, 18,” several times, referring to the ages of children being killed as well as the ages of their killers.
Speaking of gun violence, he said: "It's the number one killer of our children. Every year, 18,000 children and teens are shot, killed, or wounded and approximately 3 million are exposed to gun violence."
And on May 14, an 18-year-old shot and killed 10 and injured three at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY.
The Associated Press reports on the challenges faced by school counselors, citing one middle school counselor in rural California as saying that after a suicide prevention seminar:
"This year I got 200 kids, which is a quarter of our student population," she said. "That is such a huge number. I can't see 200 kids every week. That is just impossible."
Do these grievous unsettling news items, one after the other, within days of each other, remind you of Paul’s warning below, and provide us with a context to interpret the above events?
"God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful" (Romans 1: 28-31).
Murderous intent is behind “kids killing kids”
Could city leaders and politicians really stop kids from killing other kids in New York and other cities? We know mayors and other city leaders cannot change a murderous child’s intent to kill. They also cannot stop a murderous intent taking residence in a child’s mind. To change the murderous intent of children, we must look elsewhere.
An abundance of data and reports show that fewer and fewer Americans have faith in God and have lost their affiliation with the Church, according to the Pew Research Center. Significant proportion of adult Americans have walked away from God, the Bible and the Church. These adult decisions are not without consequences for their children.
American children can be raised without the intent to kill others
My family and I have been continuously part of one church or another for 49 years while living in seven different cities in America. The churches we attended had memberships ranging from a few hundred to 1,500. Thankfully, I cannot recall a single incident in 49 years where one of the children attending these churches criminally used a gun to kill others or was a victim of one. In our church of almost 30 years in Alabama, there were many hunters who kept multiple guns in their homes. Yet, in our church, no church-going child was ever caught using guns illegally to kill other children. No one lived in fear of gun violence in the communities we lived in.
Was it a fluke that in 49 years no church-going child used guns illegally or was a victim of one? Or was it to be expected from churched children?
Erasing the intent to kill among NYC children
Did the New York city officials offer a solution at the press conference cited above? Notably, the mayor said, “When I speak to my faith-based leaders, I tell them, ‘I need you to come out with me in the streets and be the eyes and ears.’”
Further, Emily Ngo of Spectrum News NY1, wrote:
"In all, 16 children 16 years or younger have been shot in the Bronx so far this year; five of them were under 14, said Darcel Clark, the borough’s district attorney. In an anguished plea on Friday, she begged Bronx residents to help the police hold accountable those who perpetrate violence[emphasis added]."
The borough’s district attorney was right to “hold accountable those who perpetrate violence,” once violence is committed. This, however, cannot end the intent to kill among NYC children before they commit the crime.
To take away the intent, history says, give children a home that emphasizes:
- Faith in Jesus Christ
- The study of the Bible
- Church worship
- Stable families
However, these changes will take time to produce results.
The ongoing murders in NYC are a sad tragedy, but it is an opportunity for the Church to step in and minister to families to restore their affiliation with Jesus Christ. This is a long term process akin to the work in mission fields in faraway nations, where Christian American missionaries have toiled long and hard to introduce faith in God, change minds, change lives and change their eternal destiny.
Mayor Adams has inadvertently defined NYC as a mission field for our churches. It took a mayor to bring attention to a vast and growing mission field in our midst. Now, what are American churches waiting for?
Finally, parents also have a critical role to play. Pew Research Center reports, "To begin with, most U.S. teens (ages 13 to 17) share the religious affiliation of their parents or legal guardians." Therefore, adults, when you reject God, reject the Bible and reject the Church, it is not without dire consequences for your children; NYC is exhibit one.
Paul Swamidass, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. After three decades of teaching and publishing as a business management professor in different universities, he retired from Auburn University in 2016. Occasionally, he teaches Biblical Leadership for Kerusso Institute for Global Leadership. His newest book is Greater Things: The Qualifications of a Biblical Leader, Vide Press, 2020. He and his wife, Nimmi, worship at Redwood Chapel Community Church, Castro Valley, CA.