Last week, a young woman walked into a Nashville church school where she had once been a student and took six lives. Three were employees, including the head of school, and three were students just nine years of age. The victims’ names are Mike Hill, Katherine Koonce, Cynthia Peak, William Kinney, Evelyn Dieckhaus, and Hallie Scruggs. Were it not for the exemplary actions of the Metro police department, that list would have been longer.
Though school shootings are now a horrifyingly common aspect of American life, three details make this even more difficult to process. The killer was a woman, the target was a private Christian school, and the killer’s mental illness included identifying as a “he.” In light of these three factors, it seems plain enough that we’ve entered new territory in our cultural debate over transgenderism.
So far, the police have refrained from releasing the manifesto prepared by this young woman to explain her motives. Until they do, we cannot be certain what her goals may have been. It seems probable, even likely, that this place and these people were targeted because of their Christianity, corrupted by her own inner demons and perhaps the corrosive effects of transgender ideology. Even so, voices as diverse as the President’s Press Secretary, Madonna, and various media outlets have directed their sympathy toward the shooter and at least partial blame at her parents and the Christian community.
The attack is the most recent example in a growing body of evidence that suggests hostility toward Christianity is on the rise in the West. I learned of a poignant example recently by email. James Adamson has faithfully spent hours praying for women outside of abortion clinics, peacefully pleading with them to spare their children and choose life. Proabortion activists “doxed” him to his employer, Neiman Marcus. When higher-ups got involved, they insinuated that there was a moral problem with his church attendance and prolife activities, and then fired him on vague charges.
These stories point in part to the vacuum created by the retreat of religion in our society. In its place, political loyalties and social causes have emerged as pale imitations, promising meaning and significance they cannot deliver. Our collective “political illusion” create ever-increasing stakes.
Another part of these stories, one repeated over and again by progressive voices, is the claim that Christians are evil, dangerous, and may even want certain people dead. Fight now, or it will mean literal genocide later. This plays well in a culture captive to a critical theory mood in which moral status, both good and bad, has already been pre-assigned to certain groups. My colleague Shane Morris described this mood and how it has shaped reports on the Nashville shooting in a recent Twitter thread:
It isn’t necessarily that most journos hate white Christians (some do). It is that they identify white Christians as a powerful and historically privileged group who can take care of themselves, and whose collective complaints of persecution amount to “bourgeois tears.”
Transgender folks, on the other hand, are still seen as a beleaguered and persecuted minority, one that excites all the infantilizing, maternal instincts of those who consider themselves enlightened, urban guardians in an otherwise benighted nation of would-be Klansmen.
This is how you get the outrageous spectacle of mainstream journalists preemptively wringing their hands on behalf of “the trans community” when it was six Christians (not all white) who were actually gunned down by a murderous trans individual.
As sick & insane as it seems, you have to understand that these people still see themselves as speaking truth to power. This is why you get references to the Scopes Trial. They’re living in a different era, telling themselves a fiction in which they’re the heroes…
…and white Christians, those Good Old Boys with their strangling cultural hegemony, cannot really be the victims of persecution or hate crimes.
Our response as Christians, in all eras but especially when so much is changing so quickly for the worst, must be one of realistic hope. To be realistic, as the story of James Adamson reminds us, we’ll likely need a far more robust theology of getting fired than we currently have. We may even need in the days ahead, like Christians in other parts of the world have been forced to develop, a theology of getting fired upon. Lord, have mercy.
The Apostle Peter plainly instructed Christ-followers to expect trials, even fiery ones. To be clear, he warned them to not be in the position of suffering for actual wrongdoing, an incredibly important distinction. But we can have hope in the midst of pain because, he wrote, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
If the tragic events of last week do indeed mark a new chapter in our cultural moment, we’ll need to learn afresh what it means to live by hope, do good to those who persecute us, love our neighbors, and build a better future for the sake of Christ.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Dr. Timothy D. Padgett. To help us share Breakpoint with others, leave a review on your favorite podcast app. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to colsoncenter.org.
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