Tag Archives: evil

50 dead

50 dead. Let’s keep being America.

I woke up this morning to the news— 50 dead, worst mass shooting in US history— and in my mind I could already hear the spittle-stained shouting to see who could respond in hate the most.

Gun advocates, gun opponents, the Muslims, the gays: All will be vengefully and vociferously hated by angry voices of popular and social media for days to come.

I wish my own quiet voice of peace could be louder.

There can be no question that this was a hate crime. How, then, can we possibly prevail if our only response is further hate? Martin Luther King Jr put it best: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Even as Trump’s poll numbers will surge in the coming days, even as millions of peace-loving American Muslims will endure one more round of excoriation as the nation’s whipping boy, what I long for is a warm and gentle voice of reason to lead us through the madness.

That voice exists. But it is not shouting. It is saying, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is saying, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” It is saying, “Fear not.”

For all her faults, America has sometimes heard that voice before: when she wrote guarantees of basic rights unheard of in a day and age of autocratic monarchy, when she became a home for all of us former cast-offs yearning to breathe free, when she struggled to cast off her own inner demons of slavery and oppression.

In this historic moment, let us hear it too.

It has been said that the correct response to terrorism is militarismtorture, extermination. It has been said that we must think only of the extremists, that whether Nazis, Stalinists, Maoists, or 9/11 terrorists, the peaceful majority are irrelevant.

My question, then, is this: when our nation of 300 million lashes out in anger against our enemies, sweeping the innocent into the mix, where will our peaceful majority be? Will we speak or be silent? Will we risk our own lives to stand up for the innocent, or be those left mumbling “orders are orders”?

When our collective wrath takes us down the only path that wrath has ever known, will our peaceful majority pass the test that so many others in history have failed? Or will we, once again, be irrelevant?

mass shooting, police line, memorial

Mass shooting, evil, and the end of the story

A mass shooting is once again in the headlines in what has, by now, become a familiar pattern. The problem of evil is one that we want to solve, and it is right that we should try, but we can’t agree what the solution is. Here are some of my reflections on the time, last year, when it became personal. (Part 1 in a series.)

October 24th, 2014, my phone rang: my boss from church. The conversation went like this:

  • “Hello?”
  • “Hey there, it’s me.”
  • “Oh my God, I saw on Facebook. I’m so sorry.”
  • “Thanks. So I need to go home for the weekend. You can handle the service?”
  • “Yes, yes, yes– definitely. We are praying for all of you.”

Two hours earlier, in his high school cafeteria, her little brother had watched as several friends sitting at his table were shot point-blank in the back of the head, by another one of their friends. That day, a small town called Marysville, Washington became the latest in a grim litany of place names like Columbine and Sandy Hook and Aurora— places you never heard of until they became synonymous with unthinkable tragedy.

The knowledge that we live in a fallen world, that horrible things happen every day, is not new. And yet, for many, the first question is, “Why?” Why do people perpetrate such monstrous evil, and why does God allow it? We don’t all answer those questions the same way, some assert there are no answers, but the shared humanity, the innate revulsion towards evil, is undeniable. That fact— that nearly all of us are fundamentally incapable of inhabiting a worldview in which human slaughter is unremarkable— may be the first, best evidence of God’s image in us: eons out of mind, we remain better adapted to Eden than to the place where we actually live. 

At the same time, we remain fascinated with tragedy. It dominates the news and inhabits every form of our self-expression, from Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead to Madame Butterfly and Faust. We visit with evil during playtime, but are shocked when it follows us home. “Do not give the devil a foothold,” warns Christ, probably because he knew how readily we do so.

Yet Christ is unique in that he offers, not just a warning against, but a solution to the problem of evil, by offering his own life as a ransom for many. The redemption song is loud in our DNA— whether in Marguerite’s delivery from Faust’s demons or in Rick’s reunion with Judith, the voice of the angels will be heard. The power of God cannot be gainsaid. 

The message of Christ’s resurrection is that, come the worst this world can deliver, this world is not the end of the story. It is easy, on any day like this, in any place newly joining that sad roll call, to think about the lies the devil tells and the death the devil threatens. On a day like that, even as we battle to write such horrors out of the book of our public life, it is worthwhile to look inside our own hearts and remember that there is always one chapter more: a chapter all about the one who is, in the end, the way, the truth, and the life.

Read Part 2 of this series: “How to make peace with God after loss.”