Online Christian MartyrsRoundup
tags: religion, Christianity, school shootings, evangelicals, COVID-19, Martyrdom
Peter Manseau (@plmanseau(Opens in a new tab)) is the author of numerous books, including the forthcoming novel The Maiden of All Our Desires.
THOSE INCLINED TO SEARCH even the darkest of clouds for a grim silver lining may find one in a startling statistic: in the first year of the pandemic, as Covid-19’s death toll moved steadily upward, the total number of school shootings dropped by more than half.
While 2018 and 2019 each had twenty-four known incidents of gun attacks on students that resulted in injury or death, 2020 saw just ten. What had happened was as obvious as it was bleak: as schools transitioned to remote learning and many parents and politicians raged about the damage this would do to children, those same children suddenly had fewer opportunities to kill each other. With classes more widely back in session in 2021, the number of school shootings rose to thirty-four. On this front at least, the question of when we can “get back to normal” has sadly been answered.
School shootings and the pandemic are entwined in other ways as well—not least of all because one element of our response to each has been so similar: once we decided unimaginable loss was a price worth paying for an imagined ideal of freedom, the number of deaths ceased to matter.
Some will take issue with the use of “we” here, not wanting to be counted among those with such callous disregard for life. Activists and survivors have been fighting for years for increased gun control and other policy solutions that might prevent school shootings, and most states have taken public health precautions seriously for the past twenty-some months. But the big picture of our collective resignation in the face of ongoing tragedy tells a different story. With both guns and Covid, many of our fellow citizens would trade a million lives for their need to do exactly what they want.
One might expect those willing to make this trade-off would find it acceptable only when the price of freedom is other people’s suffering. Yet there has emerged in some of the rhetoric surrounding Covid an eerie resonance with school shootings, the shared expression of a uniquely American death wish.
For nearly a quarter century—since the modern mass shooting era began with the Columbine High School attack in April 1999—religious interpretations of gun violence have had an enduring impact, which now can be seen reaching well beyond their origins.
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