A self-fulfilling prophecy is when people blame a circumstance on a vague but seemingly objective evil in the world and use it to justify a narrative when the situation occurs (as was claimed or prophesied).
Example: in America, we don’t have a “gun” problem, we have a “sin” problem. When someone commits mass murder, and happens to use a gun to do so, the issue is never about his weapon of choice and access to it. It’s about his heart. Making the argument about sin, or the poor hearts of people in our country, positions the conversation away from gun control and into a state of learned helplessness where the rest of us are just supposed to accept the outcomes of these atrocities as normative.
And then we all sit back and watch as gun violence and mass shootings wreak havoc. And we watch everyone argue about what they think the problem is and their solutions that the prophets claim will never work. Meanwhile, nothing is done, and the condition persists. And the prophecy is fulfilled time and again while the prophets get to claim that they were right all along—that the evil in the world can’t be solved by laws or regulations, so why bother attempting to change anything? The true problem in America isn’t gun violence, it’s hearts without God, right?
Hearts without God has been the “end times” battle cry of many fundamentalists, and it’s becoming very costly. Not just relating to gun violence in America and the 30 thousand lives that guns claim annually, but even natural disasters and issues such as climate change have become conditions that can’t be properly addressed. We’ve become too preoccupied with whether the problem exists rather than working to prevent the damage that’s already happening.
Like most large, systemic issues, there is rarely a simplistic, singular answer to why bad things happen, particularly on mass scales. There are typically many factors to consider. But the easy solution for Christians has always been to blame the hearts of people and sin in various forms. This is part of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Referring to gun violence as a sin issue or a “heart” problem creates a premise that can be difficult to argue with sensibly. It removes any obligation to limit access to guns or even to study the epidemic properly to prevent future deaths. And when another shooting does occur the prophets get to reiterate and perpetuate their premise.
What’s worse are the end times edicts that are used to justify why God might allow these horrible things to happen. Pointing out the decline of conservative religiosity has been one general tactic. The rise of greater LGBTQ equality, including the legalizing of gay marriage, is another “sin” that gets blamed for atrocities. Also, more recently, commitments to nationalism, or lack thereof, was another item blamed for mass shootings, and our recent natural disasters have been referred to as God’s judgment upon America for our overall sin.
The end times narratives in and of themselves are another self-fulfilling prophecy. Belief in an “end time” and the eschatology behind it is why many Christians, particularly those that believe in the rapture, are disinterested in working toward solutions to problems like gun violence or climate change (assuming they even acknowledged these issues as existing).
The Bible tells us that the hearts of mankind would turn from God in the “end” and that violence and atrocities would take place. Those who take these verses as fact like to have incidents of mass shootings and hurricanes to point to because, in a way, they validate their belief. Even if there were solutions readily available, why bother acting on them when you believe the world is going to end soon?
So, hearts without God is made the issue but, it’s a cop-out. It doesn’t matter if a gunman mows down lives on the Vegas strip or inside of a school. It doesn’t matter if a hurricane displaces people in Texas or Puerto Rico—making the problem about spirituality instead of policy is the lazy thing to do. It’s the easier option if people were honest with themselves. Taking a tragedy and calling on God for solutions instead of policymakers might make some people feel warm and fuzzy, but it also encourages the zealous pursuit of religious nationalism.
The problems our country faces have little to do with the heart or spirit of a nation, at least not in the way it’s usually been insinuated. By all means, come up with a narrative that allows you to make sense of these atrocities, but also work toward limiting them. To paraphrase James, “faith without works is dead.” But because of one too many self-fulfilling, (false) prophets, too few people have enought faith to believe that changes can be made to limit gun violence and slow the effects of climate change. But if these things aren’t worth working toward, then I dare say that’s where the poor heart condition lies.
Photo via Unsplash.
About Alex Camire
Alex Camire is an ex-fundamentalist Christian who is passionate about his faith, minus the dogma. He has worked in behavioral health for several years and is working on obtaining his Masters in Social Work. He and his wife, Charline, live in Windsor, CT. And when he’s not working, in school, or binge-watching Netflix with his wife, he enjoys reading and writing about religion and the intersections of faith, science, law, and social justice. Follow him on WordPress or Facebook.