Solitude can be a dangerous thing

Published 8:59 pm Friday, July 10, 2015

By Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

In the aftermath of the mass murder in Charleston, it was incredible how the conversation immediately started to shift to the Confederate flag.

This reminded me of the aftermath of the mass murder at the school in Newtown, Conn. After that tragedy, the conversation started to immediately shift to gun control.

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In both cases, something very obvious is being missed. New York Times columnist David Brooks calls it America’s “angry solitary young man problem.”

Brooks is absolutely right. Look at virtually every mass killing that has happened in America over the past few years, from Charleston to Newtown to the movie theater in Colorado to Virginia Tech to the shootings at UC-Santa Barbara: Those mass killings and others like them are being committed by isolated and angry young men.

(In the case of the shooting in Columbine, there were two shooters, but it is closely related, because those two young men had also withdrawn into a cocoon.)

What are some of the common denominators these young men share? In some cases, mental illness plays a part, to be sure. But mental illness alone does not account for their actions.

  • They are isolated and angry. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone.”

God was not simply referring to the fact that he was going to give Adam a wife. He was referring to fact that it is not good for any person to be isolated. We all need people in our lives that truly love us and care about us.

These “angry solitary young men” have withdrawn into their own worlds. Their hours are spent cruising the Internet, playing violent video games, and seething with rage.

Their parents are disconnected from their inner world, and they have no quality friends to talk with and help them process what is going on inside. All this makes for a toxic combination.

  • They are self-worshipping. These young men are narcissistic and into themselves. They are not looking up to God in faith or out to their neighbors in love. They have gone inward.

Their idol has become their own perceived need to get back at some group of people or people in general.

  • They believe violence is the means of conflict resolution. Ninety-five percent of all violent crimes in America are committed by men and boys — 95 percent!

What does this tell us? It tells us that many boys are growing up with a warped view of masculinity. They believe real men deal with anger through violence. They have been fed a steady diet of horribly violent and dehumanizing video games and sports stars who beat their wives and then sign fat contracts.

What do they need?

They need parents who are plugged into the interior world of their children. There is just no substitute for this. In particular, these young men need dads who model a healthy masculinity.

They need teachers, school officials, churches and neighbors that can spot the symptoms and reach out in love. These young men have become disconnected from their parents. They desperately need others to play a parental, loving, role in their lives.

They need each of us. How many people have turned in the right direction because someone genuinely cared for them? It is up to each of us to be our brother’s keeper.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.