From Religion News Service.

The author of a new book says the recent shooting atCalifornia's Santana High School may point to significant culturalproblems that cannot be understood without considering their religiousdimension.

The lasting impact of what happened in California -- and theviolence more than a year earlier at Columbine High School in Littleton,Colo. -- may be that many Americans reconsider the values being impartedto the nation's youth, says journalist Wendy Murray Zoba. She examinesthe religious implications of Columbine in her new book, "Day ofReckoning: Columbine and the Search for America's Soul" (Brazos Books,$17.99).

In an interview shortly after the school shooting in California,Zoba said she worries about the enormous questions posed by suchviolence.

"Our movies glorify people who lock themselves in rooms and go crazywith machine guns," she said. "It's hard to make generalizations, but weare in a cultural environment that makes it easier to justify (violence)in the mind of someone who is already kind of losing it, going over thetop."

Zoba, herself the mother of teen-agers, is a senior writer for theevangelical magazine Christianity Today and a former overseas reporterfor Time magazine. She spent months reporting and reflecting onColumbine and traveled to Littleton, Colo., three times, meeting withstudents, family members and friends of the victims.

"As a reporter, it was gnawing at me: What happened here?" saidZoba. "And no parent, myself included, can bear the thought that, in ourwell-ordered universe, kids can be shot execution-style by theirclassmates while studying Macbeth in the school library."

Zoba believes the Columbine shootings have significant religiousimplications. The rampage by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold was describedby survivors of the incident as "a spiritual battle" in which a palpablesense of evil was present. But Zoba said she wanted to see thediscussion taken beyond debate about gun control, media violence andparenting. In the resulting book, her training in theology lendsauthority to her exploration of such issues as martyrdom, the existenceof evil and the meaning of the cross.

During the final hours of her last visit to Littleton, Zoba satnear the graves. "I wondered how there could ever be enough flowers,pinwheels and Jesus poems to compensate for this loss," she writes.

"There will never be enough blame," Zoba writes. "Brian Rohrboughhad called the cross `a dangerous symbol.' I had come to see it isdangerous, not because it was used to memorialize murderers but becauseit is the only symbol that can bear the burden of doing so."

Columbine took "us to a place none of us wanted to go," as did theshootings in Santee, Calif., Zoba said. "One of the Columbine students Iinterviewed inspired me, putting it really well, saying, 'What I'mafraid is everyone is going to look upon us as the generation of theshooters. I want everyone to look upon us as the generation of faithfulbecause we're going to get through this."

That student's vision offers hope in the wake of repeated tragedy.

Two students were killed and 13 injured in the shootings at SantanaHigh School in Santee. Police charged Charles Andrew Williams in thecase. News reports noted that law enforcement and schools officialsresponded quickly, knowing repercussions from the incident would be feltfor weeks to come.

Zoba urges the nation to examine the fragmented soul-searching ofits youth, turning to the work of Christian apologist C.S. Lewis tosupport that contention.

In his book "The Abolition of Man," Lewis writes that when youngpeople are raised in an environment where "there is no sense ofobjective value or absolute truth," they grow up "bereft of that senseof the human disposition that shows grace, restraint and moralfortitude," Zoba said.

"It's that aspect of our human personality that enables us to say noto our visceral impulses. Sadly, it seems that in the age we live intoday, we are living in an environment where we are raising young peoplelacking such understanding," she said.

"The question is not whether or not the killers (at Columbine) askedtheir victims whether they believed in God," she said. "The largerquestion that confronted us as a nation was not do we believe in God,but is God relevant?"