A law enforcement officer interviewed on a Chicago news station was commenting on the most recent, tragic shooting, this one in the Windy City’s northern suburb town of Highland Park. He began talking about root causes of these shootings, comparing these shooters to weeds that pop up various places. In the midst of this, he made an incredible statement: “Let’s go back to church.”
I got to thinking about what, if any, connection these shooters had with organized religion. Is there a trend? In 2018, John Lott, President of Crime Prevention Research Center, wrote, “What is most shocking is how few of these killers appear to be religious, let alone Christian. Just 16 percent have any type of religious affiliation at the time of their attacks, with a slight majority of those being Muslims” (https://dailycaller.com/2018/05/26/religion-of-mass-public-shooters/). His criteria was a mass public shooting in which at least four people were killed. He counted 69 killers in 66 shootings from 1998-2018. Just four of these identified themselves as Christians and just three were “clearly regular church goers” (ibid.).
On the other side of the coin, The New York Times shared the results of a study done by the University of Kentucky of 3000 participants in 13 countries. The lead paragraph by writer Benedict Carey states, “Most people around the world, whether religious or not, presume that serial killers are more likely to be atheists than believers in any god, suggests a new study, which counters the common assumption that increasingly secular societies are equally tolerant of nonbelievers. Avowed atheists exhibited the same bias in judging sadistic criminals, the study found” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/07/health/atheists-religion-study.html).
But, truly this is not about finger-pointing. For those with a biblical worldview, we can see a connection between society’s that violate God’s will and a great many consequences (Prov. 14:34). That is perhaps a needed point for a different article. Instead, consider something about the wisdom of God in how He intended the church to function and behave. From the very beginning, the church was established to be a place of community and fellowship (Acts 2:42). It was also designed to be a place of internal accountability (1 Cor. 5; Gal. 6:1-2; Jas. 5:19-20). In Christ, the individual is given a better, more positive view of self (1 Pet. 2:5,9; 1 John 3:1-3), of fellow-believers (John 13:34-35), and even those who are different than them and even persecutors of them (Mat. 5:38-48).
I would argue that there are so many more reasons why one should consider attending church. There is an eternal gain that makes anything which happens in this life bearable (Rev. 2:10). There are spiritual blessings in such abundance that it’s hard to count them all (Eph. 1:3ff). There I a joy in serving with others and in the serving of others (Gal. 5:13; John 13:12-17). Yet, there is also an antidote to isolation and the frightening results of the echo chamber that occurs in the absence of others to help balance and challenge us to be better and live better. Isolation and loneliness seem to be occurring in epidemic proportions. This certainly is a scourge on mental health, but it also has social, emotional, spiritual, and even physical consequences. Perhaps that law enforcement expert is right. Maybe the answer is as simple as, “Let’s go back to church.”
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:23-25).