Gary Varvel: Here’s how to address Indy’s startling homicide rate

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Gary VarvelWhy is Indianapolis facing another rash of violence? And how can we stop it?

Every time there is another homicide, those two questions have been asked without a good answer.

In the first 49 days of 2020, there have been 33 homicides in Indy. That is double the number at this point in 2019. The Marion County coroner says the office is running out of room at the morgue.

A Feb. 6 WIBC-FM 93.1 story said, “Mayor [Joe Hogsett] stated emphatically that it doesn’t take a commission to identify what’s causing crime: poverty, drugs, illegal guns, and a juvenile justice system he called antiquated. According to Hogsett, the city needs to continue efforts like its summer youth jobs program to create opportunities for people trapped in poverty, so they don’t turn to crime instead.”

Hogsett is partly right. We don’t need another commission studying the problem. It’s been studied to death. But poverty, drugs and illegal guns are only symptoms of the real problem, and no government program can fix it.

No, the heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart. And by heart, I mean the center of our being: our mind, emotion and will. This is a spiritual problem that cannot be solved with material solutions.

Jesus said in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder … .”

Our Founding Fathers understood this heart problem and how to change it.

John Adams, the second president of the United States, said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. … Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

As we have become more nonreligious, we’ve become more amoral and more violent.

In three Supreme Court decisions in 1962 and 1963, the Bible and prayer were removed from our public schools. Are we experiencing the unintended consequences of these actions?

In “Christianity, Education and Modern Society,” professor William Jeynes writes, “One of the indications that American society has paid a costly price for the removal of prayer and moral education from the schools is that school shootings have regularly emerged on the American scene.”

Everyone has a moral compass, but what moral code guides it?

I’m reminded of George Washington’s farewell address when he said, “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

In other words, Washington believed national morality required religious principles to guide people to make moral decisions.

Evangelist Franklin Graham diagnosed America’s problem this way: “Unless our nation calls on God and we turn our hearts toward Him, violence of all types will only continue to escalate.”

So how can this be accomplished? Government can’t force religion on people.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

◗ Church people need to be more involved. They can help the lonely find community, the depressed find love and the spiritually lost find God.

◗ Schools should reintroduce the teaching of civics: the principles of love, forgiveness and the golden rule. Anyone can teach virtue.

I know many people will scoff at these ideas. But these principles changed my heart. I believe they can change others.•


Varvel is a political cartoonist and illustrator who retired from The Indianapolis Star last year. Send comments to

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One thought on “Gary Varvel: Here’s how to address Indy’s startling homicide rate

  1. This sounds like you are giving your thoughts and payers. Maybe you are blind to the fact that every idiot out there can get his hands on a gun. Maybe there “might” be a correlation between people dying and too many guns. No industrialize country has the same level of violence as the US. Ask yourself again if there MIGHT be a correlation and than rethink your distracted ramblings.