SBC leaders lament ‘moral meltdown’ of families, media’s

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Heartbreak over the “moral meltdown” of America and its families and over the media’s “barbaric glorification” of violence has been voiced by two key Southern Baptist leaders in the wake of the melee at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., that left 15 people dead April 20.

Reactions to the tragedy were issued April 22 by Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, and April 21 by Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Chapman focused primarily on how the Littleton tragedy is “wake-up” call regarding the nation’s family life.

Land focused primarily on the media, saying it is “well past time” that it be “held accountable for the severe emotional child abuse they have perpetuated upon our nation's children.”

Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson was out of the country.

David Bunch, executive director of the Colorado Baptist General Convention, meanwhile voiced appreciation to Southern Baptists April 22 “for their overwhelming prayer support and concern” for the state’s Baptists as they minister in the tragedy’s aftermath.

In an influx of telephone calls and messages sent via e-mail, Bunch said Baptists across the country have offered “to assist in any way possible.” They obviously feel “a little bit at a loss on ‘What can I do?’ yet [they promise,] ‘What I can do, I will,’” Bunch said.

The full statement by Morris Chapman of the SBC Executive Committee follows:

“The tragedy in Littleton, Colo., is yet another confirmation of the spiritual and moral vacuum in America. Obviously, a number of contributing factors will be cited, and the causes will be vigorously debated. Even an attempt to enact new laws will gain momentum, but a vast segment of our society is prone to overlook the principle problem and its solution. We are facing a moral meltdown and an emotional emptiness that have been created by an unprecedented disregard for the consequences of sin.

“The devil is the great deceiver and a predator preying upon the hearts and minds of our young people and adults alike. This nation is in jeopardy and facing the prospective peril of being destroyed from the inside out. In the aftermath of the senseless killing of America’s young people by their peers, we should look with laser-like focus at the emptiness of the human heart. The solution to the problem will not be discovered until we recognize the answer cannot be found in the adoption of more laws, in the establishment of new congressional committees, or in ever-increasing numbers of professionals in law enforcement and psychology.

“The only answer is a close, personal relationship with God that recognizes his sovereignty, experiences salvation through Jesus Christ, and results in obedience to his Word.

“The increased violence in this country ought to be a wake-up call to every Christian of every church and every decent-hearted American,” Chapman said. ”We are doomed unless we become desperately concerned about the kind of movies, video games, music and [Internet] websites seen and heard by our children.

“The very foundation of our nation will crumble should we fail to show our children the way they should go and the principles they should follow.

“How can we expect our children to value life when our society permits, even promotes, abortion and euthanasia? We must find the time and energy to be engaged parents and grandparents. We must understand no lasting changes will ever occur and the heart of this nation will never be transformed until her people place total trust in Christ. “His blood was shed for the sins of the world. In light of Christ’s death on the cross, it makes no sense for the blood of our loved ones to redden the halls of our schools, the sidewalks of our neighborhoods and the streets of our cities. Either a spiritual hunger shall begin to gnaw at our very souls, turning us from sin and indifference to pleading with God to send a genuine, heaven-sent revival or we are destined to lose our way. “Sooner or later, we shall recognize Christ as the Lord of the universe. For the sake of this nation, we must hope and pray it is sooner than later, for later will be too late for too many,” Chapman said.

The full statement by Richard Land of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission follows:

“The problem exposed by this terrible tragedy in Colorado is not guns. We've had guns readily available in our culture for generations and we did not have this kind of insane mayhem and grotesque violence.

“We must ask ourselves what is different today than a generation ago, not what's the same. The things that are different are a lack of parental involvement and supervision, an absence of adult and societal boundary-setting and the barbaric glorification of violence on the Internet, in video games and the entertainment industry generally,” Land said.

“You can only imprint so many obscenities on a person before they begin to malfunction.

“Just like any other exposure to toxic waste, the younger the person exposed the greater the potential for serious damage. These two boys [accused killers in Littleton, Eric Harris, 18, and Kylan Klebold, 17, who committed suicide after killing 13 and wounding more than 20 others in a siege of the school with guns and homemade bombs] were obsessed with extremely violent video games provided by an entertainment industry with its eye on the bottom line, willing to pimp for violence and to become pushers of mayhem in order to line their own pockets.

“The connection between the glorification of violence against human beings in the entertainment industry and the increasingly violent activities by children and young people can be convincingly made by anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear,” Land said.

“Increasingly children like these two youngsters grow up in relative material affluence but emotionally malnourished and spiritually deprived. They get little, if any, involvement from their parents and little, if any, discipline, structure or boundary-setting by society. A generation ago, any students who showed up at a public school dressed in black trench coats and knee-high black leather boots sporting swatiskas, mirroring the grotesque appearance of Marilyn Manson, would have been severely disciplined and sent home, if not expelled. Their parents would have been called in to explain why they allowed such a thing to happen in their home.

Obviously, this school, like most other schools, did not exercise such wise oversight,” Land said. “How many episodes like this must we endure before we realize how grievously we have failed our children as parents, as adults and as a society? And how many more children have to die before we understand that the pimps and panderers of media violence either will not or cannot regulate themselves? The people's elected representatives must intervene to insist that this emotional toxic waste be kept out of the hands of children and adolescents.

“The parents of children killed in a similar incident in Paducah, Ky., have filed suit against a major media conglomerate and against the providers of several pornographic websites which they have reason to believe contributed to the massacre perpetuated upon their children,” Land noted, concluding,” It is well past time for the media to be held accountable for the severe emotional child abuse they have perpetuated upon our nation's children.

In other reports:

-- A Southern Baptist pastor who ministered on the Columbine High School campus April 20 in the midst of the crisis, E. Michael “Butch” Caner, recounted of the media reporting: “… every time a family member arrived to find a child and we tried to pair them up with their children, a TV camera was shoved in their face, multiplying their grief.” A hotline offering spiritual help through the Denver Association of Southern Baptist Churches had received 80 calls by 5:30 p.m. April 21, reported Caner, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Aurora.

-- Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, in a statement about the Littleton tragedy, said, "We in Arkansas are all too familiar with the horrors that are happening in the Denver area [five students were killed in Jonesboro in a shooting spree by two students in May 1998], and our prayers go out to the victims and their families.

“Such an event makes many lose confidence in our schools,” Huckabee said, “but we have to keep perspective that while something like this happens and captures all our attention, there are hundreds of thousands of students who will come home safely from school. May God help those who would do such a vicious and cowardly act as to attack innocent kids in a setting we presume to be safe -- our schools." Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor and president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, is the author of a 1998 book on the subject of contemporary violence, “Kids Who Kill,” published by Broadman & Holman of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Dwayne Hastings contributed to this article.

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