Summer in the communities of America has lost its innocence.
Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton are offramps – not destinations – and what happens in those communities and burgs are seldom in national headlines.
That was then; this is now. Towns with status that would never gain front-page prominence have, in this era, become notable because of tragedy initiated by “loners” whose path to infamy is paved with the remembrance stones that mark the graves of their victims.
A Garlic Festival in California; a Walmart in Texas; a cluster of restaurants and bars in Ohio: who would imagine those communities as killing fields to be avoided during America’s midsummer break?
As the live coverage of the panic-in-the-aftermath gives way to memorial services and grieving families, the Talking Heads will be called back from vacation breaks to give their opinions about underlying causes and missed cues that might have spotlighted murderers-in-the-making.
And, because we’re 15 months from a presidential election, pundits aplenty will be placing blame and proposing policies, propelled by the principle proposed by Rahm Emanuel: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste…” Expect current political leaders to be named as unindicted co-conspirators with last week’s shooters; expect all current candidates to have the ultimate solution in their teleprompter of talking points…
Had the mayhem not happened last week, the report from the market research group YouGov might have captured some attention. They found that social media-savvy millennials may make up the loneliest generation in America. After polling 1,254 adults, they found that 27% of millennials have no close friends, 25% have no “acquaintances” and 22% – or, 1 in 5 – have no buddies at all. This compares with only 9% of Baby Boomers and 15% of Gen Xers who reported having “zero chums.”
Whenever research is formalized, one crucial element is a “control group,” creating a baseline experience against which one may create comparison and draw conclusion. If researching the modern phenomenon of oncoming generations who lack social connection and the growing incidence of “loners” whose actions become inexplicable intrusions into the national sense of normalcy, where might you find a control group?
Here’s a thought: zero in on the approach to life for which Jesus prayed – and, sacrificed himself – for the people who would choose to identify with him in the generations that would come after he returned to Heaven. Listen in on the request he made of his Heavenly Father, the night before his appointment with destiny at Calvary: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23).
Jesus envisioned relational communities that would be interconnected through their common relationship with him, through their belief in him as Savior and Lord. The shared life that would flow from that foundational agreement would allow them to be living with attributes of physical, emotional and spiritual health that would make them the ideal against which all other societies would be measured.
Using the Scriptures as the lifestyle blueprint, the best life possible in a fallen world would emerge. Dismiss God’s revealed Truth as the model… and brace for Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton.