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The Beliefs & Behavior of a Madman

If you pay any attention to the news, you know about the attempted murder last Saturday of Gabrielle Giffords, a congresswoman from Arizona.  Just in case you’re not up to speed on the details of the incident, I’ll give you a brief summary of what happened, and then a few of my own thoughts and observations that I haven’t seen expressed by anyone else.

The shooting took place in Tucson, Arizona, in front of a grocery store at a local shopping center where Giffords was greeting people.  For no apparent reason, a young man walked up to Giffords, pulled out a semi-automatic pistol, and shot her in the head.  He then proceeded to open fire on the crowd of people who were there to meet Giffords.  He was eventually tackled and restrained by two men, but only after he killed 6 people and injured 14 others.  Among the dead was a 9 year old Catholic girl, Christina Taylor Green.  Christina was in third grade and had recently been elected to her school council and was a fan of Congresswoman Giffords.  Also killed was a 63 year old Catholic federal judge, John Roll, who had stopped by to say hello to Giffords after attending Mass at a church in downtown Tucson, Arizona.

The young man who did the killing was identified as 22 year old Jared Lee Loughner.  It turns out that Loughner is a deranged individual who, over the past couple of years, completely alienated himself from his family and friends.  Last year he attended a local junior college and was suspended after campus police had to intervene on 5 separate occasions, because of his bizarre and threatening behavior.  At one point, one of his teachers was so concerned about being harmed by Loughner that she asked a police officer to remain in the classroom with her until class was over.  While personally hand delivering a notice of suspension from the school, the two police officers who delivered the notice made sure there were two additional officers available to back them up.

After the shooting and arrest of Loughner, investigating officers found a tent in the back yard of Loughner’s parents’ home (where Loughner lived).  Inside the tent was a “shrine” with a large skull (instead of a statue).  Investigators also found various documents written by Loughner in which he stated that he was an atheist.  There was also evidence that Loughner regularly smoked marijuana.

I have three observations I would like for you to consider:

OBSERVATION #1: All Behavior Originates And Proceeds From Beliefs

For the entire week after the shooting, the politicians and the talking heads in the media were arguing with each other about what caused Loughner to behave the way he did, and what “needs to be done” to stop future Loughner types from behaving in the same way.  Several politicians demanded a tightening of gun control laws and the curtailing of certain types of speech.  They also demanded a more “civil discourse” among the citizens of our country.

In case you haven’t noticed, I talk a lot about behavior in my weekly articles.  I routinely try to promote behavior that is in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church, such as faithful adherence to Church teachings on birth control and marriage, the frequent practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, attendance at Mass during the week, and daily recitation of the Rosary.  These all involve certain “behaviors” that are necessary ingredients for
a pure, holy, virtuous, and productive Christian life that ends with an entry into Heaven.

It is extremely difficult to modify or change human behavior, since all behavior originates and proceeds from beliefs.  The politicians think they can change peoples’ behavior by passing more restrictive laws.  They are wrong – and dangerous.  Human nature does not work that way.  Before a behavior can be changed, the core beliefs which make up the foundation for the behavior must be changed.

In Loughner, we had a man who did not (and does not) believe that there is a God.  It was God who, from the beginning of creation, imposed limits on our freedom to do anything we wanted to do.  Without a belief in God, there are no rules or limits that man must abide by.  Without a God, man eventually becomes his own god – a god who can behave in whatever way he sees fit.

So here’s what I think should be done: Instead of passing laws that impose additional restrictions on the ownership and use of guns by law abiding citizens, and laws that limit free speech between individuals, a handful of believing politicians need to propose a constitutional amendment that will allow prayer in the public schools, and the teaching of the ten commandments to all students – a practice that was “legal” until 1962 when the U.S. Supreme Court found the practice to be unconstitutional?

I’m serious about this.  If, at a young age, the children of this country were taught to believe in God and His commandments, later on in life their belief in God would be manifested in their behavior toward one another.  Do you think the people of this country behaved in a more civil manner prior to 1962?

Where are the real Christian leaders in this country – leaders who are willing to boldly and courageously stand up and say that we must seek to instill in all of our children a belief in God and His commandments?  Yes, they would be laughed at and ridiculed by the sophisticated elites who are in charge of higher education and the media, but so what.  Let me ask you this: As Christians, what is our battle plan?  Why do we continue to run backwards waiting for the enemies of God to kick us where it counts?  When are we going to start taking the offense?

I’m not saying that if Loughner would have been taught about God in the public schools that he would not have shot all of those people.  There were other factors that more than likely contributed to his behavior, such as his regular use of illegal drugs, the environment he grew up in (at home), and his mental condition.  (From the evidence, it appears as though he should have been institutionalized a long time ago, because he was a clear danger to others.)

Do I think my strategy would be successful?  No, it wouldn’t be successful, because it would cause a fierce and ruthless backlash from most of our lawmakers as well as the media.  We would be accused of attempting to impose our Christian beliefs on others (regardless of the fact that they have been imposing their beliefs about God, marriage, sex, birth control – you name it – on our children for over 40 years). 

So when they came back at us with their hostile and vitriolic attacks, we would simply propose an alternative law that would force the government to give parents a voucher with a cash value of what it would cost to educate a child in the public school system.   The parents would then be able to take the voucher and pay the school of their choice to educate their child.  The politicians could then send their children to the schools that exclude any discussion of God.  We could cash-in the voucher and educate our children at home, or use the voucher to pay for the cost of sending them to a Catholic school.  We wouldn’t get our way this year, but we would come back year after year and forcefully push for passage of a voucher law until we were successful.

We need to get to the root of the bad behavior of the ever growing number of our citizens (and non citizens).  The root starts with their beliefs.  Their behavior would be much different if they believed that there is a Supreme Being who created every person to know, love and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him in Heaven for all eternity.

Our politicians believe that all they need to do is pass more restrictive laws in order to force all of us to be more virtuous.  Unfortunately, without a solid moral code based upon a strong belief in God, there can be no real virtue.

I’ve run out of time, so I’ll cover my other 2 observations next week. 


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