Raising Cain, Society Struggles with how to Respond to Yet Another School Shooting
Jaylen Fryberg, Adam Lanza, T.J. Lane, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and now we add to the list Nikolas Cruz. Each of them rampage killers who entered a school and opened fire on defenseless students and teachers. Last week, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida became the latest scene of terror over which we grieve. As most of us watch through a television screen we cannot help but wonder where it will happen next? How close to home?
We all remember the fire drill and the tornado drill at school. Add to those the “shooter drill.” Drills are safe reminders of dangerous possibilities.
As we seek ways to recover from and respond to the rampage killers there is one more name that we should add to the list. His is not the next one. His is the first one. Cain.
It didn’t happen on a day at school. He didn’t carry a gun. But it was a senseless slaughter. The world’s first murder victim was his brother, Abel. As we watch what is happening in Parkland and try to digest what this means for us there is protest, outrage, and political debate. From political pundits to high schoolers planning to march on D.C.; we are experiencing a rising tide of anger. But are we just making a bunch of noise and all the while still raising Cain?
As society calls for control I think it is important that we examine the killers themselves and the environments from which they emerge. In examining the first one it will help us not only understand the last ones but the next ones. What’s most interesting about Cain is that he not only damages his family but as the postlude to his story documents in the Bible, he establishes a society.
By revisiting the story of the first rampage killer in Genesis 4 we see not only the profile of a murderer, but the symptoms of a society he creates. It is then that we realize that we the people are not solving the problem, we are simply a society raising Cain. What are the symptoms of a society raising Cain?
Favor With Bad Behavior
What shocks us most about Parkland is not how it happened, but where it happened. While our inner-cities have become cesspools of homicide we sleep soundly because the dangerous places are easy to avoid. In 2016 there were 4,349 shootings in Chicago with 771 homicides. In inner-city Chicago; Parkland (17 deaths) happened 45x.
School shootings seem to awaken areas of affluence. In 2017 Parkland, Florida was named the state’s safest city. It is a suburb of Miami that boasts a park-like atmosphere of high property values and is an average family income of $137,000. (https://datausa.io/profile/geo/parkland-fl/).
Cain is a kid born with favor. No longer in Eden, but perhaps still living in the garden district, Cain is thought to be a significant son. In Genesis 3 God promises that there will be a saving son born of the woman who will crush the curse that Satan has brought upon the world (Gen. 3:15).
Genesis 4 opens with praise as Eve births a son and says, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” Perhaps Cain, the world’s first son is God’s promised son. All is well. Then another child is born. The Bible gives us only the information but lacks the voice of celebration that came with Cain, “And again, she bore his brother Abel (Gen. 3:2).”
Wow, here is Cain.
Oh yeah, he has a brother named Abel.
The Bible says nothing about the way Cain was raised, but one would assume from the text that favor factored into the formation of his life. We see the scenario play out several times in Genesis and it never goes well for the favored son. Cain will be a murderer. Esau will be an irresponsible reprobate. Joseph was the delight of his father’s eye, but he is a naive tattler who becomes the object of his brother’s scorn.
However Cain was raised, God reminds him that he knows the difference between “doing well” and not doing “well” (Gen. 4:7). Cain ignores the counsel of God and does not do well. Shocking, a kid with favor chooses bad behavior.
Undue favor seems to brew a toxic soup of dysfunction for those who are raised with it. Unrealistic expectations, entitlement, irresponsibility, self-centeredness, a dire lack of coping skills – all of which are terms used to describe the Millenials and beyond. Many debate whether or not we are giving them a fair shake, but one thing is clear, it seems as if when you give a kid the world there comes a day when he realizes that you lied. He can’t have the world his way – so he destroys it.
Kids need favor. They need to be encouraged. Parents need to fan the flames of their potential, but the world cannot be the first voice that tells them “No.” If a child is not lovingly and righteously disciplined by his parents, he will encounter society with hate. When he is drunk with anger it is too late to start talking about the difference in “doing well” and “not doing well.”
If we do not want to raise Cain we must stop pointing fingers at the President. We must stop pointing fingers at organizations. We must stop pointing fingers at political parties and we need to start paying attention to how our kids are being raised at home. The greatest control a society has is to raise its children with the expectation to do well. Doing well is not an entitlement it is a responsibility.
The most recent rash of school shooters seem to be children from favor. Nikolas Cruz seems to come from the other extreme as a child who is forgotten. Either way, we seem to be turning out a generation of kids who cannot cope. We are raising Cain and it is not going well.
Heartless About Human Life
Most disturbing about school shootings is the apparent callousness we see on the security footage. A rampage killer walks the hallways, picking off victims as if they have no conscience, no remorse, no feeling. Jaylen Fryberg texted his friends at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Maryland and asked them to meet him for lunch. He baited them to sit together at the same table. He then walked in and shot them, killing four of his friends before he killed himself.
The Bible’s language in recalling the scene of Abel’s murder reflects the horror we feel as we watch a callous killer act without conscience. “Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him (Gen. 4:8).”
When Cain is questioned he is equally as calloused. “Am I my brother’s keeper (Gen. 4:9)” No sir, but you are your brother’s killer. As if the murder was not disturbing enough; this is a man who doesn’t care.
Through the eyes of evolution, we are animals. In the argument of sexual identity, we are just choices. In pornography, we are merely bodies. In the womb, we are just tissue. In movies, television, and video games we kill for entertainment. Read Romans 1:18-32, we have followed the prescription for moral poison. In a society that raises Cain, killing your brother just happens in the course of conversation.
As we argue and debate over what to control there needs to be a conversation about what we produce. If gun control is a valid option for securing sick societies, how about censorship? If we are going to talk about what is dangerous, can we also have a conversation about what is beautiful and excellent? They call it art, but is art the excellent depiction of life or the ugly desecration of it?
The call for control should apply to every influence in society, not just the gun owners. But if we are not willing to consider it all, are we not just raising Cain?
Religious Relativity and Rebellion
At the heart of the issue for Cain was that he brought a sacrifice that God did not regard. “So Cain was angry and his face fell (Gen. 4:5).” Later in the episode, Cain will protest his punishment (Gen. 4:13).” Life is never fair for those who raise Cain. Cain will only have it one way; his way.
In the Bible sacrifice is required, it is not optional. It is prescriptive. It is not open to interpretation. It is for God, from us. It is not for us. God has the final word. It is His, not yours. God does not COEXIST. He is who He is, as He is, alone.
We live in a society that values tolerance but does not tolerate Biblical Christian values. Muslim values are protected while Judeo/Christian teaching and practiced is forbidden. You have the right to be an atheist, but there is no room to be Christian. If the state rules that you cannot pray that is constitutional. Yet if a chaplain prays at a football game that is coercion.
It is ironic that it was Cain who was careless with the sacrifice, but it was Abel who paid the price for his mistake. In a society that raises Cain certain ones will have “god” their way or no way while the ones who truly love him will pay.
In schools where there is no prayer, there will be a need for heightened security. When a society has no absolute value outside of itself, there will be a greater need for legal restraint.
When people die we will blame but not break. We will not repent, but we will rebel. We can organize a protest at school, but we cannot pray. If this is all we do, we will only be raising Cain.
Cain takes no responsibility for his brother’s death. He only protests his punishment. Off he goes into the land of Nod; east of Eden. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden. The relocation of Cain represents a further step of humanity out of innocence and into depravity. Man is moving far from the garden district (Gen. 4:13-16).
There is a note added by scholars in reference Bible’s that tells us that the name Nod means wondering. And it is there in the land of wondering that Cain will go, content with who he is and will conceive a child with his wife. While Eve’s son Abel is dead, Cain’s son Enoch is born. By the 23rd verse of the chapter, a son of Cain kills yet another man. The next verse is chilling. “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold (v. 24).” As the seed of Cain multiplies they propagate his values. In the land of wondering they become a society of people raising Cain.
The good news is that back in the garden district Adam and Eve give birth to another son, Seth. God is good. Eve praises the Lord despite the sadness of losing not just one son, but both of them. Abel is dead. Cain has fallen into wondering. To Seth, Enosh is born and the chapter ends on a high note, “At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD (Gen. 5:26).”
We can debate, but we should pray. We may need tighter restrictions, but we need repentance. Who’s to blame when it is all of us who are broken?
Will we call upon the Lord or will we just raise Cain?
The response to rampage killing seems to always go first into a debate about gun control. What are some of the other societal issues that you think need to become a part of the greater conversation? Please share.
Have you read my book #TheWalk? Answering one question a day brings about a new pace in life that will help you accomplish your greatest goals. Get your signed copy today.