Bahai News - What, if anything, can be done to prevent school shootings? Saturday, March 10, 2001

What, if anything, can be done to prevent school shootings?


SENIOR PASTOR CHUCK SMITH JR.
Capo Beach Calvary
Our educational system needs to find ways to empower the socially and academically disenfranchised students so that they do not feel the desperation that causes them to empower themselves through weapons, vandalism or other criminal acts. As it is, the system is oriented to the good students and well-adjusted kids, and everyone else is treated as a "problem" that teachers and educators really aren't equipped to handle.

PASTOR PRESTON PRICE
Garden Grove United Methodist Church
First, it's important not to blame an entire community for the act of one individual. Second, we should encourage the media not to give guaranteed notoriety to the accused. One reason many folks act in this way is to be noticed. The victims and those who helped should get the attention. The name and picture of the accused should be given much less space, thus taking away one of the prime motivations for these outbursts of violence.

RABBI MICHAEL MAYERSOHN
Temple Beth David, Westminster
School shootings are little different from the rest of violence in our society. All that can diminish the killing is the nurturing of meaningful and lasting relationships--between parents and children, between children and adults and among children themselves. When we know each other and care for each other we will intervene and heal those who are hurting. To Cain we say, "Yes, we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers."

PASTOR CURT WEBSTER
St. Mark Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach
Religious communities must speak out with their prophetic voices against a popular culture which exhorts youth to violent reprisals. Religious communities must speak out against the idolatry of weaponry. Religious communities must proclaim a faith which affirms the dignity of every human being and has the will to protect that dignity. The police tell us that Andy Williams was a tortured adolescent who hit his limit with peer group abuse and snapped, that two innocent children are dead and 13 others are wounded, none of whom appear to have been among Andy's tormentors. If the church is truly the last refuge for tortured souls, then we have failed Andy, the victims and their families.

PASTOR ERIC HEARD
Mariners Church, Irvine
There is an old saying: "Hurting people hurt others." Until we truly address the issues that are hurting our youth--absent parents, emotional and physical abuse, spiritual bankruptcy--the shootings will continue. Until we as a nation show the value for human life at every stage--unborn, innocent and elderly--and quit glorifying violence in the media, we will be stunned by these seemingly senseless crimes against humanity.

PASTOR STEVE PETTY
St. Andrew's By-the-Sea United Methodist Church, San Clemente
Jesus teaches us a most radical teaching in Matthew 5:44: "But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.' " But every message in society is contrary to this. The message that youth hear from parents, media, sports and their peers is: "Hate your enemies and get even with those who persecute you." Is it any wonder that some youth take the latter message to heart? How do we prosecute Andrew Williams as an adult when he gets the message wrong? When will we understand that we are sending seriously mixed messages to our young people about how to respond to anger and insults?

THE REV. KAREN STOYANOFF
Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church, Costa Mesa
I don't think that there is an easy answer to what can be done to stop school shootings. However, I also don't believe that excuses us from doingi what we can. First and foremost, we need tighter gun control laws. And we need to do something to reach the teens who are so angry and dysfunctional that they end up wreaking violence on their peers and the adults in their schools. This will need to involve a broad-based effort, including parenting classes, assistance to families in trouble and early intervention with the teens themselves.

SENIOR PASTOR DAVID J. MITCHELL
Calvary Church of Santa Ana
A short answer is found in Psalm 127: "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain." Not to be overly simplistic, but I have seen those families that faithfully and accurately apply the spiritual lessons of the Bible to rear their children learn a fiber of faith and a clear standard of right and wrong which comes from their heart, not from a forced obedience. Each child like that is a miracle and a blessing which comes from the Lord's strength. This truth is both taught and modeled by parents in personal relationships with their children.

SUZY ELGHANAYAN
Baha'i Leader
Let's begin by beginning to set better examples of purity for our children. If at first it's not as sincere as we wish it to be, it's OK--allow for time to guide us into its natural state. Families need to make an effort now to create a strong, communicative, respectful, loving, safe, accepting family life. This is the key for children to have the inner strength to carry on and not crumble in the sight of adversity.

PASTOR MIKE FOELL
Community Bible Church
Not only do we need to train our parents to spot some warning signs that may identify troubled youth, we must encourage our students to both confront and communicate their concerns to appropriate school and law enforcement personnel. Further, we must take threats of violence seriously. A lack of history of violence does not preclude adolescents from acting out, especially if they do not feel as if they are being heard or helped with their issues, problems and interpersonal needs.

EVANGELIST
GRAYLON A. FREEMAN
Church of Christ, Cypress
Youth need direction and guidance. They need instruction and patience from adults who themselves understand the complexities of life. We are in the world that we have made without the Lord, and we are suffering the tragic repercussions of that choice. We have to make consistent room for the Lord in every aspect of our lives if there is ever to be a change for the better.

* * *

If you have an issue you'd like Questions of Faith to explore or would like to participate, please fax us at (714) 966-7711 or e-mail us at ocreligion@latimes.com.


©Copyright 2001, Los Angeles Times

Top 19 Baha'i Sites Page last updated/revised 031001
Return to the Bahá'í Association's Main Web Page