Scotland and Marjory Stoneman Douglas

I recently invested a morning with middle school students in Dundee, Scotland. Having been welcomed into their new school, we discussed life, aspiration and faith. I told them that they could ask me any question and I would tell them the absolute truth. They wanted to know why we, in America, have school shootings. They wanted a discussion concerning the recent tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They wanted real answers as to why we have guns in America. This reality does not compute in Scotland.


Wanting to give them an explanation, I discussed the reason why we have a right to bear arms. I told them that we originally wrote a Constitution that afforded us the freedom to defend ourselves against our own government, if necessary. Having dealt with England in the past, I thought maybe they could relate. This concept seemed ludicrous to them because their government now sends their parents checks, pays the family’s rent, and provides eyeglasses and health care.


These youngsters live in what most would describe as a very rough, impoverished neighborhood. Their former school building, only yards away, was ravaged by abuse and violence as students acted out their hatred for their lot in life. Just beneath the surface of many is an underlying, latent anxiety, if not rage. Scotland would likely have many school shootings if only they had guns. In Scotland no one has a gun, not even the local police. Instead, some students throw chairs and bully others for sport or for therapeutic reasons.


There are a few ways to respond to what is taking place on any school campus in the world:

  1. Express an utter disgust, pray a bit, and then go on with one’s life until the next seemingly inevitable horror alert pops up on the cell phone.
  2. Respond with social action and protests that illicit change on a legislative level.
  3. Go the prayer route; organize prayer walks and push back the darkness.
  4. Resource and bolster youth ministers and organizations like First Priority and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.


I like all the above responses with the exception of the first. First Priority is substantial and influential on school campuses in South Florida. These warriors have access to students even during the school day. It is the gospel that brings about transformation and stems the tide of violence. We can analyze student killers all we want, but at the end of the day, we realize that they need a “father” relationship, unconditional love, encouragement, deliverance, purpose, meaning, an understanding of authority and an appreciation for life. I want to encourage South Florida to bolster these ministries in pray, in funding and with action. God placed them right where they are for a reason.


In Scotland, a local pastor is required to be a chaplain to a local school. Some classes require spiritual discussion with a local minister. Scripture Union, Scotland’s version of First Priority ministry, welcomes students who attend. The gospel is shared. Love is extended. Faith is accentuated. Scotland is a nation longing for her church to rise, a church that advocates spiritual content in her schools. Scotland realizes that there is a role for spiritual nurturing among students.


America, a nation once rich in spiritual depth, seeks to limit matters of faith on campus wherever possible. America has a lesson to learn. We could certainly pray about this but just not in the classroom. We cannot simply legislate morality. Laws, while certainly beneficial, do not change the human heart. If God’s divine law cannot change our behavior, how can we expect a deeply troubled young person to observe the laws of our land? We have to have access to the human heart before it gets seared, sealed and vehemently driven to end human life.

First Priority is aptly named and worthy of parental support and the encouragement of the local church. First Priority is already on campuses. Whatever that ministry needs, give it to them with the same level of passion that we seek to change laws. Those who battle in forward trenches are always worthy of our greatest respect and support. We know of many school shootings in our wounded land. How many never took place that we do not know about because some ministry reached out to connect with some kid headed in the wrong direction? Proactive ministry is always better than a reactive aftermath. God help us. Please.


Dr. Gary Hewins is the president of, a coaching and consulting ministry to ministry leaders and preachers and the senior pastor of Community Bible Church in the picturesque mountains of Highlands, NC.

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