On Ottawa, Terrorism, and the Family

On the Ottawa Shootings and Our Response

Just four days ago I was emailing with author Shaunti Feldhahn and her assistant (Shaunti’s part of my new Christian marriage author Pinterest board). Shaunti was going to be in Ottawa on Friday (today), to present her findings from her book The Good News About Marriage. She had some free time in the afternoon, though, and I suggested we get together.

She’s staying at a downtown hotel, so I said, “as long as it’s not raining, let’s go for a walk! It’s beautiful downtown. I’ll take you by the Parliament buildings and the War Memorial, and then we can go to the Byward Market and get some Menchie’s frozen yogurt.”

I’m still meeting her this afternoon. I hope to lay flowers at the War Memorial to honour Cpl Nathan Cirillo.

Wednesday was a horrible day for my country.

When the news of the shootings hit, my youngest daughter and I were glued online to the news. I started texting the news to my older daughter, who was on lockdown at the University of Ottawa, where she had been at work in the Writing Centre. (The University is right around the corner from the Rideau Centre, the shopping mall that was in the news. They were on lockdown for 5 1/2 hours.) The twelve people stuck in the Writing Centre only had their phones, and it was easier for me to watch the news on my computer. So we texted back and forth. Her biggest problem was that she got hungry. Luckily someone had some cheese and oatmeal that they shared.

However, we have many good friends in the military, and it is they and the police who bore the brunt of the attack and are still bearing it. This was the second lone wolf attack on soldiers in uniform this week. And that is so heartbreaking and so infuriating. I was supposed to get together with several military friends in Ottawa this weekend; now I can’t, for various reasons which I won’t put here. Our military serve and sacrifice so much, and now they are being targeted here at home. I can’t quite get my head around that.

My favorite article about that morning is this one–about the bystanders who stopped to give CPR to Nathan Cirillo. So heartbreaking, but I’m glad they were with him when he died.

This week’s events, though, leave us with a question: what can we do to prevent similar attacks? The chatter on the news is on greater surveillance, and different gun laws, and powers for interrogation, and more.

That discussion is definitely needed, and I hope they figure something out.

Nevertheless, I believe our focus right now is inadequate.

We are looking for a military/police solution: a military solution overseas; a police solution here. I don’t think either will work, because at heart this is not a military problem. This is an ideological one. We are fighting against an enemy that shoots teenage girls who want to go to school; that kidnaps Christian girls to use them as prostitutes; that thinks nothing of gang raping and mutilating girls if it serves their purpose. We are fighting against an evil.

Ephesians 6:12-13 says:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

We are fighting against spiritual forces, and we are fighting an ideological battle.

Until we start fighting in the realm of ideas, we won’t win.

Until we start saying, some ideas are not acceptable, and until we get rid of moral relativism, we will not win. Until we start defending freedom and defending human rights, we will not win.

But there is something even more fundamental going on, at least in the West with these lone wolf homegrown attacks. In fact, you can see it with all the terrorist attacks and mass murders that have occurred in recent memory–even those that are not Islamic in nature.

Every single one of those mass murderers came from a broken family.

Every single one of them–with the exception of the Littleton killers whose parents weren’t divorced, but were preoccupied and neglectful.

Timothy McVeigh. Paul Bernardo. Adam Lanza. Marc Lepine (another Canadian shooter). And now Michael Zehaf Bibeau.

What makes people susceptible to the ISIS ideology? What turns a kid into a mass murderer? Many, many factors, often including some mental illness. But there is always a common thread–it starts with the family.

People who grow up with two loving parents do not, in general, grow up to hate.

People who grow up where they are not given the love and safety they need may gravitate towards evil.

This is not a commentary on all kids who grow up in divorced families; after all, I did! But my mother overcame her own issues and heartbreak to focus on me. She made sure I went to church. She made sure I had a good peer group. She made sure I saw my extended family. She made me her priority, and she kept our family together.

Most single parents do this, but not all.

One of my friends who divorced and remarried often posts family photos on Facebook that do not include her oldest children (the ones from the first marriage). I know another woman who used to attend my church who recently remarried–and did not bother to invite several of her kids to the wedding. Her new life has become more important than her oldest children.

That angers me. A person can be a single parent and also be an excellent parent. And this is the hard part–I think for a single parent to be an excellent parent they have to actually do a BETTER job than most married parents would do. They have a huge road in front of them. But the single parents I know who have raised great kids have all stressed God in their family, and have made their kids a major priority in their lives, even if they’ve remarried. They have been wonderful.

Unfortunately, many parents just don’t take their job seriously, and then the kids grow up in chaos, trying to figure out their place in the world. When they can’t figure one out, a very small but dangerous minority decides to make a name for themselves doing something awful.

We simply need to stress healthy families and healthy parenting if we are going to win the culture war at home.

Maybe it’s too late for our culture, but it is never too late for the small spheres of influence in which you live.

Let’s support our friends’ marriages. If we see a problem starting–someone texting an old flame, people belittling each other, someone using porn–get involved. Do an intervention. Let’s take care of the marriages around us before they start to disintegrate..

Let’s support kids who feel lost in the shuffle. I know several around me, one in particular that we practically adopted for a three year period, who are lost. You can never make up for two parents who love a kid, but you can still make a tremendous difference, and show a kid that they are loved. The world is not an evil place.

Let’s raise our kids to make better decisions about who they marry–and who they have children with. Let’s protect them from dating too much when they’re really young. Let’s raise them to respect themselves so that they won’t be attracted to those who treat them badly. If you know a girl in your social circle with really low self-esteem who is getting involved with losers, befriend her.Show her the difference between a dangerous guy and one who will treat her well. Show her that she has gifts and talents and she’s worth something outside of a relationship.

Let’s put pressure on absent parents to get involved in their kids’ lives. This most recent shooter had a mom who loved him–and a dad who wasn’t there. So did Marc Lepine. So did Adam Lanza. If you know someone in your extended circle who rarely sees their kids, encourage them to pick up the phone. Don’t let it be socially acceptable to ignore your kids.

Maybe if we all got just a little more involved with our neighbours, and especially with struggling kids and teenagers, we could prevent some of these horrific things. Perhaps I’m being naive, but as one person I can’t affect military policy or Canada’s security rules. But I can care about my kids, my nieces and nephews, my kids’ friends, and those marriages in my church. I can do that. What about you?

**********

And now, a thank you to Kevin Vickers, a real man, who shot the shooter on Parliament Hill before he could hurt anyone else. We should all raise our kids to be like him–and to be like Barbara Winters, who valiantly tried to save the life of a soldier.

Kevin Vickers

RIP Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent (who was killed earlier this week in another terrorist attack) . Your country appreciates your service.

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