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Betsy Kneepkens: How long will we tolerate these mass killings?

Thirty-one dead in 24 hours. Again and again, since the Columbine High School massacre, we have had to endure the mass killing of our citizens by fellow citizens, the latest tragedies being those in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

How much more are we willing to suffer? Sadly, as a country, both individually and collectively, I sense our toleration for this sort of devastation is exceptionally high, because nothing much has changed.

There is no simple solution to this disturbing societal suffering. However, I do not believe we are asking the right questions to expose the root of what motivates such evil acts.

I know there is a group that feels this killing is a mental health crisis. And I say, “how can it not be partly that?” Someone mentally well does not fantasize, plan out, and execute such wickedness. But scientists don’t understand the brain well enough to be sure this is the cause. Merely saying this problem is mental illness does not get at solving these heinous actions.

I know there is another group that feels that this is a gun issue. If we eliminate or reduce access to assault weapons, this problem will go away. Reducing someone’s ability to obtain guns will likely change the dynamics of this problem, but I am not entirely sure that we would remove these sorts of catastrophes. I know little about firearms. I know the historical importance of the right citizens have to own guns. I am, nonetheless, ignorant as to why certain weapons like assault-style are necessary when other less powerful but effective protective guns exist.

I am confident that the solution to mass killings will not be solved by identifying those who struggle with mental health issues or increasing the number of gun laws.

The question we are not spending time on is: Why do we have males in our society that have so little compassion they are willing to kill those who have not harmed them or others? How does this kind of evil take root in the soul of a human person? What sort of cultural inclinations perpetuate such hollowness that the dignity of the human person is ignored?

I need to reflect on these matters, because I am the mother of five young adult males. All my boys fall in the age category of the shooters that are responsible for these awful situations. The mere reflection is a painful examination.

All persons of faith know that humans were not created to be mindless destructive, aggressive killers. I can’t help but believe this killing enigma is a result of deficient and wounded hearts. I believe God bestowed onto our soul everything necessary to love rightly. Culturally, however, we have veiled the work of the Creator, so that lesser inclinations and pleasures have been elevated above the intentions God instilled correctly within us. This redirection of the heart, in particular, needs to be explored in young males, since they are the ones mainly committing these grave incidents.

First, we must get back to believing males and females are created differently, think differently, and react differently to almost every situation. Second, we must acknowledge males and females are mostly motivated to live and fulfill their purpose on earth in ways which align with thetendencies relevant to their gender. Neither gender is superior to the other; rather they are complementary and interdependent. Lastly, when we try to minimize, silence, or redirect those tendencies written on our hearts, we cause confusion, dissatisfaction, and potential numbness.

After mothering five boys to men, I feel strongly that males’ innate urges are to protect others, serve generously, act bravely, and lead sacrificially. These attributes are where males generally feel most comfortable, most satisfied. This provides the drive to cooperate within the human family.

For the past 50 years, I feel we have systematically minimized, distorted, redirected, and reproved these deeply held urges in males. In other words, we have told boys these sorts of desires are not necessary. Furthermore, society has labeled these preferences as insulting to women, because it makes women feel powerless or subservient. We have, in many ways, made our young males think they were lousy people for feeling these kinds of urges.

I know our society has had problems respecting both genders, but the way we have tried to correct the problem has created more difficulties.

For instance, when males do not learn to sacrifice for others, they do not learn compassion. When males are told their inclination to protect is not valued, they redirect that energy into causing harm. When males are told that the tendency to act bravely is an act of having power over another, they become cowards. When men have no one to lead sacrificially because we have robbed them of there desire to serve, they lose sight of the need to show dignity toward others.

This devastating problem of mass killings is a complicated mess. I am confident that our society is not willing to find a solution to this evil. If we wanted to get to the root of the problem, our culture would look at what progressive beliefs are pervasive. A thorough examination would find why we are producing young males who are capable of such malice.

It seems to me we are still willing to tolerate these mass killings. Not until we are ready to look at the truth of who we are created to be as male and female and live accordingly will we find an end to this devastation.

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.