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Arkansas governor’s book on violence points to need for basic values

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was already developing his new book on American culture in crisis when two students murdered four children and a teacher just after lunch at a middle school in Jonesboro, Ark., on March 24.
Suddenly, his latest Broadman & Holman project became even more relevant.
“The Jonesboro story gives the book focus, but the book was going to be written anyway,” said Huckabee, who coauthored “Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture of Violence” with writer George Grant. Grant, who has written more than 50 books, is director of the King’s Meadow Study Center and a regular contributor to WORLD magazine.
Kids Who Kill, published by B&H, the trade publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, was released in June.
“Jonesboro certainly deepened my conviction that we are in fact experiencing a cultural conditioning regarding the values of our children that will lead to a level of violence we have never imagined,” Huckabee said.
Currently on the gubernatorial campaign trail, Huckabee had planned to write a book about the collapse of modern culture and its impact on society. “When there was a rash of schoolyard shootings — most notably the one in my state — we decided to focus the title on Kids Who Kill, because the ultimate evidence of a culture crisis is when children lose a sense of innocence and carry out violent acts without regard to the consequences,” he said.
Media reactions to the Jonesboro tragedy helped convince the governor that Americans are all too eager to find quick answers to violence among children. Huckabee was en route home from Washington when he was informed of the murders. By the time he arrived, he said news media were already waiting, polling the experts and drawing conclusions based on very limited information.
“As I have spent time with the grieving people of Jonesboro … and consulting (Arkansas and national) law enforcement officials …, I have become more and more convinced that there are no simple answers to the frightening spectacle of children killing children in our society,” Huckabee writes. “There are no quick fixes.”
“Me tinkering with school security or criminal justice frameworks will not eliminate child violence from the land,” Grant added. “Instead, we must address the culture of violence we have created.”
Part one of the 180-page book sketches out in broad terms the state of juvenile violence in America. The authors state minors account for about 17 percent of all reported arrests for violent crimes (murder, rape or other type of sexual battery, suicide, physical attack or fight with a weapon, or robbery) in the United States every year. Huckabee and Grant then explore the idea that at the heart of this looming crisis are the questions of character, virtue and cultural cohesion.
Part two examines the contributing factors of America’s cultural demoralization. The authors discuss their convictions about how:
— A disregard for the value of life has diminished all Americans.
— The current fascination with antiheroes and gangsters breeds cynicism, disrespect and selfishness.
— Trends in youth culture exalt rebellion, chaos and brutality.
— The popular media often exploit and promote violence.
— Family breakdown is exacerbated in U.S. society by the very institutions entrusted to prevent it.
— Both rural and urban poverty contribute to an atmosphere of hopelessness and criminal activity.
— America’s educational decline often aggravates violent behavior.
— The current national void in leadership, statesmanship and civic virtue affects U.S. social vitality.
Contemporary society has experienced “an increasing barbarization of all aspects of life,” Grant said. “Barbarization quickly turns from coarseness and unrefinement to violence.”
Huckabee and Grant believe new legislation is not central to the solution of youth violence. Instead, the authors write, the key to U.S. recovery of cultural balance and social harmony is the vitality of America’s basic values: faith, family, work and community.
Throughout their eight-month writing project, the authors met together personally but mostly communicated by fax, the Internet and phone.
Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor, left the pulpit for the political arena in the early 1990s. As lieutenant governor of Arkansas, he was preparing for a swearing-in ceremony on July 15, 1996, to replace Gov. Jim Guy Tucker in the wake of Tucker’s resignation after convictions for mail fraud and conspiracy. At the last minute, Tucker refused to relinquish control of the office, and Huckabee’s appointment to the governorship was surrounded by dramatic events that he details in his first B&H book, “Character Is the Issue” (September 1997). He said B&H has discussed future book projects with him.
Huckabee said he and Grant found their Christian worldview enabled them to look at social issues in a wider, holistic context. “The biblical worldview accepts the reality of moral absolutes — unchanging principles that form the ideal attitude and behavior of a human.
“This benchmark is the standard as described in the law, but personified in the person of Jesus Christ.”

    About the Author

  • Kristin Searfoss