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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Why?

We can't fix youth violence without fixing larger social problems as well

Pearl, Miss.; West Paducah, Ky.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Edinboro, Pa.; Springfield, Ore. It's hard to read the names of these communities without asking a haunting question: Why are average, middle-class, teenage boys from stable communities bringing guns to school and shooting their teachers and classmates?

And why is this happening when youth crime nationally seems to be decreasing?

"It's a wake-up call to America," says Barbara Varenhorst, counseling psychologist and interim president of the Vesper Society in Oakland, Calif., a Lutheran-founded organization that works on social issues. "Adolescence has always been a lonely time, but I see a deeper loneliness now."

The recent spate of shootings signals a crisis among youth — particularly among boys — and for the society that is shaping them, say experts interviewed by The Lutheran.

Youth grow up with more pressures than those of generations past, yet with less of the family support and community involvement that helped yesterday's adolescents cope. America today is more divided, fearful, stressed, rude and violent. Mix this with a record number of guns in circulation, and you have a potentially lethal situation.

The bottom line: We can't fix what's happening to our kids without fixing ourselves as well.


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