“Kill her! Kill her!”
A dozen people chanted the refrain as a teenager with a knife chased a woman down the street in Oakland, California. Cheering, the crowd egged the teenager on.
Finally one of them tripped the frightened woman as she ran by-giving her assailant a chance to catch up with her and stab her to death.
It was one more grisly milestone on our way to complete social decay.
Only three decades ago sociologists were wringing their hands over widespread public apathy: Bystanders would look on passively as people were murdered on the streets. But today we’ve descended down yet another level: Bystanders are actually cheering the murderer, like spectators at a Roman coliseum eager for the excitement of the kill.
Crime has become a participatory sport.
Politicians are scrambling for a solution, and President Clinton and Senator Bob Dole have each introduced a crime plan to Congress. The president calls for putting more police officers on the streets. The senator calls for building more prisons.
Expect to see contentious debates over whose plan will work better. But the truth is that neither one will do much good-because both offer only external remedies. Crime is fundamentally an internal problem-rooted in attitudes and values. When communities no longer share a moral standard that condemns crime, all the police and prisons in the world cannot protect us.
And the fact is that our communities do not share a moral standard any longer. From public school classrooms to television talk shows, the message is that morality is whatever you choose. That society has no moral consensus. That no one has the right to prescribe any ethical standards.
Children who grow up hearing this message day in and day out draw a very natural conclusion: They feel society is granting them permission to follow their own impulses. Any impulses. Even criminal ones.
When we lock them up, they angrily feel society is not being consistent. And they’re right.
The great criminologist James Q. Wilson recently published a book entitled The Moral Sense, in which he says all his studies have lead to the same conclusion: Crime begins when children are not given adequate moral training. When parents and communities fail to hold kids to standards of behavior.
Young children do not come by morality naturally. They must be taught. But that won’t happen if adults feel that there’s no universal morality to be taught.
The solution to crime has to start with Christians who are willing to challenge the reigning philosophy of moral relativism. We need to make it clear that relativism simply puts morality up for grabs. And, given the pervasiveness of sin, that means each of us will adopt principles that merely support whatever we wanted to do anyway.
The disturbing results are already before our eyes: murder treated as entertainment; the crowd shouting, “Kill her! Kill her!”
When the streets of America begin to mirror the coliseums of Rome, no crime bill can save us. Unless we take seriously the task of moral training, our society will surely fall.
As surely as the Roman Empire fell.