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For those who don’t know, I spend a lot of time researching, reading, trying to understand what ails the lost boys, what radicalizes them and leads them to commit senseless acts of violence. We had yet another tragic shooting in my neck of the woods, the mall shooting, five dead. A tragedy indeed, and far too close to home, but I am reminded once again that nearly 3000 murders have happened in Chicago alone, nearly all involving Lost Boys driven to violence, with little interest or concern shown by the media.

This kind of violence is predictable, familiar, the signs were all there. I think of social justice in terms of prevention, where can we invest ourselves financially, spiritually, emotionally, to reduce and prevent these tragedies. It’s a heart issue, a spiritual issue, you can’t just pass a law banning senseless violence. How do we prevent it, reduce it, intervene before it happens?

Faith plays a powerful role, young men need hope and vision. Within Christianity there have been codes of honor, a history of chivalry, a purpose and a calling, that have helped to define healthy masculinity. People don’t like to hear this, but Islam is simply different, different definitions of what it means to be men, different cultural values, different definitions of honor. Islam is not ruled by grace, the love of Christ is not known, they believe they must earn God’s favor, and much of that is entwined in hierarchies, in masculine perceptions of honor as offense, as violence and authoritarianism.

Pornography is also a huge influence, the blurred lines between sexuality and violence. That hits men on a biological level, it exploits sex drives and entwines them with power and violence. Combined with shame and repression, it becomes a potent cocktail that has a huge influence on behavior. In the US sex is in our culture 24/7 and we have a huge porn industry, but many people are unaware of the odd juxtaposition between the repression we see on the surface all over the Middle East, versus the rampant perversions that exist right beneath the surface, the obsessions with pornography, homosexuality, and child sexual abuse. Rape of children is not so much a crime as it is here in the West, as it is a weapon of war, an entitlement of masculine honor and victory.

There are of course other things that play a role too, addictions, mental illness, broken families, social rejection, an entire entertainment industry that glorifies violence, that blurs the lines between sexuality and power, that perverts the very definition of masculinity, no longer encasing those concepts in idealism and virtue. Life has a way of imitating our “art,” culture is often built upon our entertainment.

I’m going to point towards feminism too, some of the unintended consequences that have come from our attempts to redefine  gender, culture, faith, the foundation of the family. There have been some hopeful initiatives introduced and yet shot down, fatherhood initiatives, mentorships, gang violence, boys and men, strengthening families. For too many years the focus has been on empowering women and girls and while improving the lives of women and girls is an honorable thing, it’s not going to happen if we don’t also start addressing men and boys.

Four dead women and one man in an obscure mall in a tiny town in Washington testify to that truth.