Alienation is somewhat of a new phenomenon that has gained the attention of psychologists and therapists alike due to its far-reaching impact into the lives of those struggling with it as well as society at large. Unfortunately, the impact of this emotional problem for the nation is just beginning to be realized as it has just now caught the attention of the general public due to the rise of mass shootings across the nation.
In the wake of recent shootings in Dayton, OH; El Paso, TX; Gilroy, CA; Virginia Beach and a number of others throughout the country,1 Fox News decided to air an interview with clinical psychologist, Norman Fried, whose most recent book, Reclaiming Humanity, discusses the effects of trauma on children and how the divine connection of a relationship with God inspires and serves as a template for healthy interactions and help for victims of trauma.2
In the interview, Fried, alludes to the declining spiritual health of the nation, but more to the point, he talks about the alienation that leads to incidents like the recent mass shootings in the United States today. When questioned about the reason why the shooters engaged in recent mass shooting are characteristically young white men, Fried asserts the reason behind this phenomenon is due to declining spiritual engagement and the alienation and disenfranchisement of the current generation of white males. Others, like CBN News have also noted the spiritual component to these mass shootings.3 Fried asserts these acts of violence are a cry for love and acceptance as the shooter acts out violently searching to be noticed by society.
There is little doubt alienation is on the rise in the US today, as recent studies alarmingly reveal the country is in crisis. According to a recent study conducted by Cigna Health, people within the ages of 18 to 22 appear to be suffering the most from alienation, admitting to feeling alone and “isolated with no one to talk to.”3 In fact, a staggering 69 percent “felt that the people around them were ‘not really with them,’ and 68 percent felt as if no one knew them well.”4 These statistics are not surprising to many of us who have been observing the behavior of the youth of our nation with their increasing use of text messaging, video gaming and other practices that further hinder personal contact with others and promote isolation.
Fried’s assertion that the shooters violent acts are desperate cries for love and attention, while difficult for many to accept, is not that far-fetched. There is no doubt the acts of these shooters are of the highest crimes against humanity rooted in humanities fallen sin nature. Regardless of what drove these young men to violence, there simply is no excusing their actions. However, what is important for society at large to learn from these events in order to avoid future recurrence and save future generations is to understand what is needed to heal the soul of this generation and heal the nation.
Scripture Addresses Isolation
Scripture repeatedly addresses the topic of human alienation between God and human beings directly acknowledging the disastrous impact of the fall of humanity into sin and the destructive consequences to the former harmonious relationship that previously existed between human beings and God. In her Walking a Sacred Path, Lauren Artress highlights humanities isolation with this statement, “We lost our sense of connection to ourselves and to the vast mystery of Creation.”5 I find Artress’ comment thought provoking in that it calls us to reflect back to creation and the beginning of the world and humanity. She speaks of a loss of connectedness, a separation if you will, with our original foundation and beginning. She intuitively calls us to reflect back to the beginning of mankind, back to Genesis.
In the book of Genesis, we read that after the fall of man and woman into sin, God had to search for His human creation as they hid themselves in shame and further isolated themselves from God (Gen. 3:8). After the fall, shame entered into the world and the relationship mankind previously had with God was severed and broken. Paul the apostle references this brokenness and the animosity between God and mankind that exists even today as a result of the fall of mankind when he writes,
“you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds…” (Colossians 1:21–22, NASB95).
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul writes, “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world…” (Ephesians 2:12–13, NASB95).
According to Scripture, those without Christ are hopelessly lost—alienated and cut off from experiencing a relationship with God. However, God seeks to restore mankind and the relationship once enjoyed with God. through faith in the sacrificial work of Christ, mankind may be restored to the harmonious relationship once experienced in the garden. There is forgiveness offered to mankind, by placing one’s faith and trusting that Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient to pay the price for sin.
“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:9–10, NASB95)
Once one embraces the truth of the gospel and receives forgiveness in Christ, Scripture says we are saved from God’s wrath. Scripture says,
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36, NASB95).
Additionally, we are made a “new creation…the old things pass away, and all things become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
What is new is the child of God, who has been born again, now has a “living hope…to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable reserved in heaven for [them]” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
The Prescribed Remedy for Alienation
In Christ, you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). You are a child of God; God is spiritually your Father (Rom. 8:14-15; Gal. 3:26, 28), and you are a joint heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him (Rom. 8:17). From this point forward, you become a temple—a dwelling place—of God. His Spirit and His life dwell in you (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).
You are no longer alienated from God as He is with you and in you, and you are the heir of an eternal kingdom to which there is no end. As such, your search for identity is over, and the heartfelt needs of your fallen nature are resolved, as meaning and significance are fulfilled through your relationship with God in Christ.6 The Scriptures declare,
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12–13, NASB95)
As a child of God, the search for meaning and belonging is over, for the recipient of God’s grace through Christ becomes an heir to God’s eternal kingdom. This is not to say that Christians do not experience feelings of isolation or even depression, but when confronted with these emotions, the child of God has a basis for hope and can seek after God for comfort. The psalmist writes,
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.” (Psalm 42:5, NASB95)
Violence is not the answer as it will not help to alleviate feelings of alienation and despair. However, as one grows in their relationship with God and begins to comprehend the extent of their relationship with God, the former feelings of isolation will begin to diminish as they begin to discover their new identity in Christ and find new meaning and purpose in life.
In future articles I will explain further the root of alienation and provide actions that one can take to help them with this emotional problem.
Food for Thought
- Have you ever experienced a deep sense of longing in your heart that you have been unable to satisfy? What did you do about it?
- Do you have someone in your life that you feel really knows you?
- Have you made effort toward drawing into God to fill your sense of longing?
- Have you made effort to connect with your local church and Christian community, or sought the help of your local pastor with your feelings of isolation?
- If you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are a child of God and your identity is in Christ. You are an heir to an eternal kingdom, and you have brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no need to remain alienated and alone and you can begin to take steps toward connecting with other Christians.
- “Recent mass shootings in the U.S.: A timeline,” Los Angeles Times (Aug 4, 2019), https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-08-03/united-states-mass-shootings
- “Why are most mass shooters young men who felt alienated by society,” FoxNews, Aug 6, 2019, https://video.foxnews.com/v/6068487800001/#sp=show-clips
Norman Fried, Reclaiming Humanity: A Guide to Maintaining the Inner World of the Child Facing Ongoing Trauma, Urim Publications, 2017.
- Benjamin Gil, “’Beasts of Darkness’: The Satanic Hatred that Possessed Connor Betts, and What It Tells Us About Mass Shootings,” CBN News (Aug 9, 2910), https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2019/august/beasts-of-darkness-the-satanic-hatred-that-possessed-connor-betts-and-what-it-tells-us-about-mass-shootings
- CH Sommers, “Who are the most alienated Americans?” AEIdeas: A public policy blog from AEI (Feb. 25, 2019) accessed July 29, 2019, http://www.aei.org/publication/who-are-the-most-alienated-americans/
- Lauren Artress, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice, Riverhead Books, 1996.
- Edward T. Welch, “Who Are We? Needs, Longings, and the Image of God in Man,” ed. David A. Powlison, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Number 1, Fall 1994 13 (1994): 29.
Joe Carter, “The FAQs: What You Should Know About Mass Shootings,” TGC: The Gospel Coalition (Aug 7, 2910), https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-faqs-what-you-should-know-about-mass-shootings/