The massacre at a movie cinema late Thursday night was a tragedy.
It can be a lesson, too. The question is, a lesson about what exactly? As usual, the devil is in the details.
In the days following a deranged gunman’s diabolical dress-up as the Joker, accompanied by a show-and-tell routine of live ammunition at a late night premiering of the Batman movie, we’ve seen various leaders and politicians come out with public statements about what we might learn from the events in question. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney suspended their campaigns with statements urging prayer and reflection on what matters most in life. Then there were Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert’s remarks that the incident was the result of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs” in this country- with the implication that less “persecuted” Christians in this country would have meant more gun-toting Christians at the cinema. (It was not the first connection to come to mind for me, but maybe that’s why I’m not a politician…in Texas.)
Now I read this morning that the evangelical leader, Jerry Newcombe, of Truth In Action, is throwing in his two cents. In a segment on the American Family Association, Newcombe reportedly said this: “If a Christian dies early, if a Christian dies young, it seems tragic, but really it is not tragic because they are going to a wonderful place…on the other hand, if a person doesn’t know Jesus Christ… if they knowingly rejected Jesus Christ, then, basically, they are going to a terrible place.”
In other words, the non-Christians who did not make it out alive from Thursday’s massacre are burning in hell, and the families of the victims who were Christians should really be celebrating right now.
Some “Truth In Action” that is. What really is “truth in action” anyway? A big, fiery, ball of hell coming at you at the speed of light, maybe. A bit like when another believer approaches with the words, “I’m telling you the truth in love,” only to throw a verbal hand grenade. (A good rule of thumb here by the way, I find, is to duck.)
What lessons do I take away from this tragedy?
That lax gun laws that make it possible for a deluded young man to purchase thousands of rounds of ammunition over the Internet urgently need reform.
That an entertainment industry that makes its revenues marketing violence is reaping the fruit of its labor and has blood on its hands.
That evil is not some made-up “construct” that we see at work only in the Majority world, or in places where science has yet to fill in the gaps by way of some empirically tested explanation, but is in fact a prowling lion seeking to devour its prey (1 Peter 5:8).
That a troubled young man who could have used some help fell through the cracks with devastating results.
That our living and our dying are not up to us or in our own control, and in fact never have been despite the illusion.
That what matters most in life and death is something to give ourselves to now. Today. This moment.
That we err and do harm when we stand in the place of God, by making statements about why bad things happen to certain people in certain places.
That “truth” (if it is even that) unhinged from love sounds about as pleasant as a clanging cymbal or nails on a chalkboard.
These are some of my takeaways. Maybe you have more.
But I would also like to believe that every human being sitting in that movie cinema, including the gunman, is in the hands of a just and loving God, and that they and their families, including the gunman’s church-going parents, are, in their time of mourning, those whom Jesus blesses (Matthew 5:4). May it be so, I pray. Amen.