I was asked to write a response to the mass shooting that recently took place in Oregon.
I intentionally delayed writing this time because I didn’t want to fire off a quick response without having time to digest the situation. Goodness knows enough bloggers and media outlets do that—I don’t need to lend my voice to the fray.
The problem as I see it is that many of the “Christian commentators” are looking at the peripheral issues rather than looking at the heart of the matter. Some of these peripherals include discussions about gun control and homicide statistics in the United States as compared to other Western nations.
But these issues, while they might be important to some, are not the real issue. As I see it, there are two primary issues from a biblical standpoint:
- How do we wrap our minds around the atrocious evil carried out by this person?
- How do we appropriately respond as Christians?
The issue of evil and suffering in the world has been covered by people who have much more brain power than I do. I’m not going to attempt to re-argue points others have made. In a nutshell, what we’re talking about is theodicy—talking about God’s goodness in light of the evil and suffering that exists in the world.
And the world IS an evil place filled with vile people. From the dawn of time, humans have done horrible things to each other. You can’t even blame it all on religion, as some are quick to do. Even non-religious people are capable of despicable evil. The problem is the heart of humanity. No gun control in the world, no amount of intensive background checking, no “gun-free” signs can change the heart of a person. Arguing about gun-control doesn’t address the sin issue within us. Those who are committed to doing evil to others will find a way to do it.
Christians waste our time when we jump into the argument about gun control AS A RESPONSE TO TRAGEDY. This leads us to the second issue: how then DO we respond?
We cry, mourn, and then shut up.
Job’s friends are a great example. After Job has lost everything and is even told by his wife that it’s time to curse God and die, Job’s friends visit.
Now when three of Job’s friends heard of all the misfortune that had come upon him, they set out each one from his own place: Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuh, and Zophar from Naamath. They met and journeyed together to give him sympathy and comfort. But when, at a distance, they lifted up their eyes and did not recognize him, they began to weep aloud; they tore their cloaks and threw dust into the air over their heads. Then they sat down upon the ground with him seven days and seven nights, but none of them spoke a word to him; for they saw how great was his suffering. (Job 2:11-13)
When we see people in time of distress we love to surround them with a bunch of words. How ridiculous. As if any words or any legislation could fix the brokenness we feel when we go through tragedy.
So shut up.
There is a time and a place for conversations about gun control, about how we legislate and enforce legislation. In the wake of tragedy is not the place. Let us rather come alongside those who suffer and mourn with them. Cry with them. Sit in silence with them.
Just shut up.