Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris
Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris,
the murderers at Columbine High School.

April 20

Columbine Massacre (1999) and Religion

It was on this date, April 20, 1999, that two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, brought guns and explosives instead of textbooks to school. After their rampage, which left 12 students and a teacher dead, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris took their own lives. They had planned their massacre for over a month — even making a videotape to reveal their motives on March 15 — and timed it for Adolph Hitler's birthday.

Former political candidate Pat Buchanan, former vice president Dan Quayle, and Congressman Bob Barr, saw the massacre as an excuse to bring officially mandated prayer back into public schools. And many latched onto stories that two of the student victims, Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall, proclaimed their faith in God when the gun was pointed at them. Cassie's mother even published a book: She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall.

Rachel Scott, Cassie Bernall
Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall
They didn't say "yes."

The attractiveness of the legends surrounding the early Christian martyrs is irresistible to some; the temptation is strong to show the same religious fervor even in these irreligious times. Any innocent person's death by violence is tragic; but tragedy doesn't liberate you from telling the truth: Columbine survivor Emily Wyant told the FBI, and later a local newspaper, that she saw Cassie die — and Cassie never said yes. Neither did Rachel.

It is rather slippery to claim that the incident that has come to be known simply as "Columbine" constitutes some message from God that our nation has strayed from the path of righteousness. The US is a violent society to begin with: other industrialized democracies don't have the problems we seem to have with kids and guns and random violence. Could the Columbine massacre have been prompted by Satanism, Witchcraft or Neopaganism, as many Christians claimed? Nope. Klebold and Harris had nothing to do with those ancient religions. And even if they were into those other popular scapegoats, video games and role-playing games, there's no evidence these exercised any influence on their behavior, either.

Lack of prayer in schools, then? Organized prayer is so watered down, it is unlikely to foment any religions transformation; more specific prayers would violate somebody's sensibilities, anyway. Maybe if the Ten Commandments — thou shalt not kill — had been posted? Klebold and Harris may have been confused because that absolute law against killing is violated by Christians every day, and they know in their hearts that Christianity itself is founded on a murder.

How about lack of corporal punishment (spanking) at home or in school? It might be hard to argue that the use of violence will teach children not to solve problems with violence. Maybe they came from broken homes? Nope: both murderers came from intact, two-parent families and, in their videotape, thanked their parents and forgave them their errors.

The real reasons Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris made thirteen victims of blacks and whites, jocks and nerds, girls and boys, Christians and non-Christians, and one teacher, on this day in 1999, were probably just as they claimed in their video: years of ridicule, social ostracism in school, and easy access to guns. It's a little dishonest to claim that the Columbine killers, because they lacked God in their lives, therefore took the lives of Cassie and Rachel and 11 others. If she really "said yes," where was Cassie's God when she needed him to save her life?

Want to comment on this essay? Send me an e-mail!


Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance writer.
Wordcount 560


Comments on the rant above can be found at this link:
The Columbine Letters