It isn't surprising when people who have lived under the thumbs of dictators and repressive regimes rebel against society. We can understand that once they get a taste of power they would turn to controlling others and inflicting pain and destruction. What is hard to understand is how someone who has experienced freedom of speech, press and religion, like we have in this country, could turn to a faith and calling that oppresses these freedoms.
What is it that pulls our citizens into lives of crime against humanity? How can people who have had so much opportunity throw it all away? Is it the attraction of the religion? If so, why don't they join the groups of peace-loving Muslims across the world? Most people who are Muslim claim that Allah and Mohammad spoke of a religion that did not support violence.
Is it the offer of many virgins once they have sacrificed themselves for the cause? Have they asked themselves what good a thousand virgins would be once they have sacrificed their bodies for the spirit world? With no bodies, how can they enjoy those virgins?
Or, is it just our failure as parents, teachers and citizens to include all of our children in activities appropriate to their ages, skills and interests?
Perhaps our failures occur, in part, because of our predilection for honoring sports figures and people who excel in the performing arts. Maybe celebrity worship rather than the worship of God has pushed our teens and young adults off track. Maybe our problems with the economy have exacerbated the rift between us and some of our young people. If they can't even find jobs after school, at what can they succeed?
It is probably the same feelings of not belonging anywhere that creates both the religious extremists and the school shooters. People, young and old, need to feel warmth and acceptance somewhere. When they don't find it through usual channels, they strike out in defiance and violence. They are saying to their fellow Americans, so, now you will notice me. Take that and like or lump it.
People out there who teach or coach or lead church activities, reach out to all of our young people. Offer participation to the shy and quiet. Give love to the somewhat unlovable. What you do for these young people can evoke change in their performance, their skills and their personalities. Help them to relate. Eliminate their needs to act out by giving them a chance to perform in group activities. Think not we should win the game. Think not what will people think of me. Think what the child, the teen and the young adult needs to survive this world. Help them to become fulfilled citizens and perhaps they will quit searching for notoriety in inappropriate ways.