God Preserve Our Children by Saving Our Homes

God Preserve Our Children bySaving Our Homes

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you."
Proverbs 3:1, ESV


The horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has caused our nation, and the world, to convulse, yet again, with wave upon wave of grief. There have been fourteen mass school shootings and 169 killed in the United States since the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School. Schools should be a place for the nurturing, and not destruction, of innocent young lives. The aftermath of this tragedy has caused confusion, anger, silence, assignment of blame for the cause of the disaster, and laser focus upon assault weapons.

No stone has been left unturned by the media; however, there has been little-to-none discussion of the background of the shooter and others like him in other mass-shooting events. I understand that shooters often desire notoriety for their heinous deeds, so publicity is cut off to deprive them of the infamy. It is also a fact that copy-cat violence may well follow the publicizing of the name(s) of the killers. Even so, there is a large body of literature that points directly to a breakdown in the home as a contributing cause to this type of violence. There are indications that something was not right in the home of the 18-year-old school dropout at the center of the shooting. Let's examine the moral influence of the home in mass shootings.
The Profile of a Mass Shooter
Research of mass shootings has enabled experts to construct a “consistent pathway” to violence. Shooters are overwhelmingly men or boys, with their average age being eighteen. Early childhood trauma lays the foundation. It may be violence in the home, sexual assault, parental suicides, and/or extreme bullying.

Hopelessness, despair, isolation, self-loathing and, oftentimes, rejection by one’s peers, builds upon the foundation. This pattern leads to an identifiable crisis point where the individual begins to act differently. Suicide attempts are often a part of this downward spiral to destructive behavior.

There is one significant difference: the shooter turns his inner self-hatred outward against a group. It may be a different race, or women, or a religious group, or even classmates. There is also a consistent effort to be famous and to gain notoriety. [1]
Family Dynamics are a Key Element in What Makes a Mass Shooter
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has assembled a report on school shooters. [2] It is of interest that family dynamics factor significantly into the profile of a person who may become a mass killer. Research has determined that a student’s “difficult or turbulent” relationship with his parents factors into the profile of a school shooter. Elements include: “recent or multiple moves, loss of a parent, [and/or] addition of a step parent [sic]. . .” The shooter expresses contempt for his parents and dismisses or rejects their role in his life. There often is evidence of violence occurring within the student’s home.

There are other warning signs. Parents of school shooters accept pathological behavior that most fathers and mothers would find disturbing or abnormal. [3] They seem unable to recognize or acknowledge problems in their children and respond defensively to any “real or perceived criticism of their child.”

We all will know by the nature of school shootings that shooters often have access to weapons inside the home. Guns, other weapons, and explosive materials are treated carelessly and without typical safety precautions.

There is a lack of genuine intimacy and closeness. Additionally, the student “rules the roost,” meaning there are few to no limits on the child’s conduct. There also is a lack of parental oversight and control of television watching and internet usage. The student is free to spend as much time as he wants watching violent or other inappropriate programming.
A Biblical Model for a Healthy Home-life
There are numerous examples in the Scriptures that demonstrate the value that God, and his people, place upon the lives of children. The Christian family relationship, for example, presents a unique picture of community that lives beneath the authority of Christ (Ephesians 5:21; 6:1-4). Both the parents and the children understand that their relationship with one another is mutually submissive to Christ. God must be obeyed.
Social distinctions in the Christian community are radically different than they are in the Greco-Roman world. Paul signals the significance of children when he directly addresses them in 6:1. There are social ramifications on this awareness, but the theological implications are significant. Children are a vital part of the church community. In fact, we should see that Paul addresses children first in this paragraph as he has done with women in the previous one and as he will do with slaves in the following verses (6:5-9).

Children are not to be ignored, exploited, or taken for granted; instead, they are to receive important moral instruction in the home which represents a microcosm of wider social relationships they encounter in culture. Christian families are not to contribute to the collapse of the wider social structure of society. The preservation of external relationships also begins inside the home. Children are to listen to advice given by their parents, which assumes a critical role that fathers, and mothers, contribute to the psycho-social-spiritual development of their little ones. Children have a duty to submit to parents as unto the lordship of Christ.

On the other hand, parents have a responsibility within the home. Paul presents a radical concept here by declaring the parental responsibility to take the feelings of their children into consideration. The father was absolute authority in that culture, so fathers were to avoid “goading” their children into a constant state of resentment (6:4; Cf. Ephesians 4:26). Instead, they are to provide for the physical growth and intellectual education of their children under the lordship of Christ. Therefore, dads have a special duty to create harmony within the home so that their children do not lose heart (Colossians 3:21).
A Way Forward for Christians [4]
Christian parents will actively choose to approach trauma in ways that provide their children with healthy coping skills. A child’s ability to handle crises like mass shootings is often tied to the way their parents cope with distress. Parents should take the lead in helping their children to learn healthy coping behaviors. This response to traumatic events will require parents, themselves, to learn how to handle crises.

Secondly, Christian parents will want to become equipped to recognize risk factors. Some children may be at greater risk of “more enduring psychological distress” following exposure to a traumatic event. Parents will know and respond appropriately to the four major risk factors: direct exposure to violence (e.g., being evacuated or observing the death of others), loss/grief (e.g., death or serious injury to a family member or friend), ongoing stress from the secondary effects of violence (e.g., temporarily living elsewhere or loss of friends), and previous exposure to violence and trauma.

Thirdly, Christian parents will know that a child’s reactions to trauma are influenced by the behavior, thoughts, and feelings of adults. Many adults are not aware of, nor are they comfortable with, expressing their own emotions. They do well to seek help for themselves, if necessary, to provide a safe and healthy environment for their children to express how they feel about crises.

Fourthly, Christian homes are to be fertile ground for meeting the spiritual needs of children. Children need to be able to ask questions and express their thoughts and feelings about faith. Take care to shape, but not scold, children as they ask their questions and/or express doubts. Fathers and mothers will remain alert to changes in the beliefs of their children. It will be important to remain patient with a child who struggles with faith when trauma occurs. A healthy way to weather a storm is to be prepared in advance to meet its challenges. The same holds true for spiritual tempests.

Fifthly, parents should comfort and reassure their children after traumatic events. Personal contact through hugs and touch is important to a child. Encourage the open expression of feelings and take extra time to discuss and pray with your children about what they have experienced.

Lastly, it is important to monitor and limit exposure to the media. Violent programming and games are not healthy for young children. If a child watches a news broadcast of a traumatic event, then the parents should be available to encourage communication and provide an explanation of what is being reported.


Public health rests on a foundation of family well-being. Many American homes too often are not healthy environments for raising children, which has the potential to impact society negatively. More attention needs to be directed toward equipping parents to nurture sound moral development in their lives and in the lives of their children. These precious individuals deserve to grow up in loving, secure homes with healthy boundaries to aid in the total development of body, mind, and soul. Solomon provides good life counsel for parents and their children: "My son, do not lose sight of these—keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck" (Proverbs 3:21-22, ESV).

Larry C. Ashlock
1. Melanie Warner, “Two Professors Found What Creates a Mass Shooter. Will Politicians Pay Attention?” in Politico, 27 May 2022; See also James Densley and Jillian Peterson, “What We Know about Mass School Shootings—and Shooters—in the U.S.” The Conversation US as it appears in Scientific American, May 25, 2022.

2. Mary Ellen O'Toole, Federal Bureau of Investigation (1999), "The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective."

3. Ibid., p. 27.

4. Wheaton College. Humanitarian Disaster Institute. See “Helping Children Cope with Traumatic Events.” I am indebted to the Institute for its helpful information on ways to address traumatic events like mass shootings. There are similar resources available elsewhere, but the Wheaton College site provides clear, accessible, and helpful information for Christians.