School Shootings

School Shootings

The Reasons Behind the Tragedies

By Dr. David R. Reagan

Living with an Eternal Perspective

[read in Lamplighter (pdf)]

After the recent school shooting tragedy in Connecticut, I noticed that the TV news programs focused on interviewing psychologists and psychiatrists as they sought an explanation for the senseless rampage. And most of what I heard in response to their questions was what I would call “psychobabble.”

But their questions got me to thinking. It occurred to me that during the time I was in the public school system, from the first grade in 1945 to my senior year in high school in 1956, there were no such massacres. And that caused me to wonder, “What has changed?”

The Reinterpretation of the First Amendment

The first thing that came to mind was the way in which our legal system has distorted the First Amendment of our Constitution from stating there must be a separation of church and state to meaning there must be separation of religion and state. It is true that the words, “separation of church and state,” do not appear in the First Amendment, but that was clearly the meaning of the statement:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

In short, the First Amendment prohibited the government from establishing an official state church, while it guaranteed the free exercise of religion. Nothing more. But since the 1960’s secular judges have changed the interpretation of the First Amendment to mean that the state must be divorced from religion.

That was never the intention of our Founding Fathers. In fact, they emphasized in their writings that a representative form of government could continue to exist only if it were based upon religious morality. Consider the following statements by our first two presidents.

George Washington (1732-1799) —
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports… in vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens…1
John Adams (1735-1826) —
We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.2

In 1962 the Supreme Court ruled prayer in the public schools to be unconstitutional, and the assault began to remove all vestiges of religion from the public arena. The next year, the Court advanced its secular agenda by ruling that Bible reading in schools and other school-sponsored religious activities is also prohibited. The movement climaxed in 1980 when the Supreme Court ruled that a Kentucky statute requiring the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments on the wall of each public classroom in the State, was unconstitutional. Overnight, the Court forced our schools to throw out the foundation of American law and morality! Incredibly, the Court justified its decision with these words:

If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments. However desirable this might be as a matter of private devotion, it is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.3

Read those words again. The Court is saying that the Ten Commandments cannot be posted in our schools because the children might be motivated to obey them! So we would prefer to have our children kill each other as opposed to having them live in a civilized manner?

To sum it up, in very short order we kicked God out of our schools and declared His basic law to be illegal. The result has been a very quick and total transformation of our public school system.

Only a person my age (74) can realize how drastic the transformation of our schools has been. For example, when I was in the public schools, we prayed daily and read a devotional passage from the Bible. We had Christmas plays and Easter pageants. Our English readers were filled with stories from the Bible that were used to teach a moral lesson.

In 1956, when I graduated from high school, there would be 100 or more pickup trucks parked in the school parking lot each day. Almost every one of those trucks had a gun rack, and most held a 22 rifle, a shotgun, and a deer rifle. Many had pistols in the glove compartments.

Yet, no one lived in fear of their lives. The idea that someone might shoot up the school was unthinkable. We were civilized people who had been imbued with Christian morality.

School Shootings

The Closing of the Evolution Debate

The second change factor I would point to is the purging of our schools of any consideration of alternatives to Evolution.

When the 20th Century began, the teaching of Evolution was not a part of any standard curriculum in our public schools. But that was not to last long. The turning point came in 1925 with the Scopes Trial in Tennessee. It became a media circus, and it propelled the issue onto the national scene.

At first, the Evolutionists simply demanded “equal time” with any presentation of special creation as the answer to the origin of the universe and life. But as the years passed, they began to argue that Evolution was the only scientifically valid version of origins, and that all other versions should be banned.

The Supreme Court began to endorse this exclusionary thinking in a series of opinions leading up to a case in 1987 in which it outlawed the teaching of Creationism as an alternative to Evolution.4

Today, the teaching of origins is a matter of Evolutionary propaganda and not true education where all theories are examined.

In the words of the book of Romans, our society has “suppressed the truth in unrighteousness,” for we have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” (Romans 1:18,25). We are teaching our children that they are nothing more than an animal that has evolved from scum and that they should worship the creation rather than the Creator.

Why, therefore, should we be surprised when they conduct themselves like animals? Why should we be shocked when they shoot each other over a pair of tennis shoes?

The Transformation of the Entertainment Industry

The third thing I would point to that has changed since my public school days is the nature of American entertainment.

In 1939, The epic movie, Gone With The Wind, ran into trouble with the censors because it ended with Clark Gable saying, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” One month before the film’s scheduled release, the Motion Picture Association had to amend the code it had adopted in 1930 to allow the use of the word, damn.5

The Motion Picture Code lasted until the cultural revolution of the 1960’s. First it was radically amended to give producers much more freedom, and then it was replaced by the film rating system which basically allows a film to contain anything, as long as it is rated properly.6 This change opened the flood gates of filth, and we began to export the filth all over the world, becoming the moral polluter of planet earth.

Likewise, when television began to spread nationwide in the 1950’s (I saw my first TV set in 1952) there were strict codes of conduct for the producers of television programs. Over the years since that time, those codes have eroded to the point that almost anything is allowed on TV today.

The contrast is stunning. When I was growing up, we watched wholesome programs like “The Life of Riley,” “I Love Lucy,” and “Father Knows Best.” All these programs taught basic Judeo-Christian moral values.

Today the channels are flooded with morally depraved reality shows like “The Bachelorette,” with sex-laden situation comedies like “Two and a Half Men,” with demented dramatic series like “Revenge,” with brutally lurid shows like “Criminal Minds,” and with programs that are constantly pushing the homosexual agenda.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the stark contrast between the early years of TV and today is to compare two programs about families, the Nelson Family (Ozzie & Harriet) which blessed American TV from 1952 to 1966 and the Osbourne Family (Ozzy & Sharon) which polluted the airways from 2002 to 2005. One featured a family (the Nelsons) who were loving and supportive of each other. The other (the Osbournes) focused on a totally dysfunctional family led by a man-child who lived in a drug haze while the rest of the members of the family were at each other’s throats, constantly fighting and cursing. The Nelson family showcased moral values. The Osbournes never heard of morality.

And then there is the music industry with its hard rock beats designed to appeal to the flesh and rap music that glorifies crime.

The Computer Revolution

A fourth major change in my lifetime has been the revolution in society that the computer has produced.

The first desktop computers hit the market in the late 1970’s. At first they were used primarily for tasks like word processing and accounting. But by the mid-1980’s most of the software being sold consisted of computer games which rapidly began to focus on violence and the occult.

Also, in the mid-1990’s the Internet was made accessible for public use, making pornography easily available to people of all ages in the privacy of their homes.

My wife was a first grade teacher for 30 years. I vividly remember her coming home one day very agitated. When I asked what was wrong, she explained that she and her class had been exposed to pornography during their computer lab time! She said each child had selected an animal to write an essay about. When the children got seated at their computers, she asked them to type the name of their animal into a search engine. One boy had selected the cheetah as his animal. When he typed that word in, the first thing that popped up was a photo of a nude dancer whose stage name was Cheetah. It was just that easy for a 6 year old boy to be introduced to the lurid world of porn.

The Evolution of the Church

The last change factor that I think has been crucial relates to the Church.

When I was a kid, the Church was a central part of my life and the lives of the kids I played with. My family went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, and to several Gospel meetings each year. Additionally, I attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I was taught to revere God, His Word, and His moral code.

Sundays and Wednesday evenings were sacred. No school events or sporting events were ever scheduled on these days. And on Sunday, all the commercial enterprises were closed. It was truly a day of rest — time to spend with the family.

Today, Sunday and Wednesday are just like any other day of the week. They are filled with diversions, and one of the consequences is that it is hard to find a church that meets more than once a week on Sunday morning. And many, if not most, churches have adopted the seeker-friendly mentality that sugarcoats the Gospel and seeks primarily to entertain. Youth programs focus on pizza parties rather than Bible study. It is no wonder that 70% of kids from Christian families end up revoking their faith and embracing the world.

How can we expect any child to learn morality one hour a week in Sunday School when they are assaulted the rest of the week with the pagan values of our schools, movies and television programs? It is completely understandable that we have an entire generation growing up among us who believe that life is all about sex, violence and money.

And if every problem in TV programs, movies and computer games is solved with violence, why should we be surprised when our children resort to violence to solve their problems?


The Bible says that in the end times, society will become as violent and immoral as it was in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37).

We have arrived.

Let’s end with the question we began with: “Why is there so much violence in our schools and society?” The answer is that we have put guns in the hands of moral pygmies.


1) The Great Books Foundation, The Will of the People: Readings in American Democracy (Chicago: Great Books Foundation, 2001), page 38.

2) John Adams, “Letter to Zabdiel Adams, Philadelphia, 21 June 1776,” in The Works of John Adams — Second President of the United States, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1854), vol. 9, p. 401.

3) Wikipedia, “Stone v. Graham (1980),”

4) Wikipedia, “Edwards v. Aguillard (1987),”

5) Wikipedia, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,”’t_give_a_damn.

6) Tom Herd, “Indecency and the FCC: A Short History,”

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