[I originally wrote this post in response to the tragic shooting at the Colorado theater in July of this year. Though many of the references in this post are specific to that tragic event, I thought the main message of this post was very applicable in light of today’s great tragedy in Connecticut. I hope it helps provide some perspective for anyone asking “Why?” because of today’s horrible events.]
In moments like this, emotions run thick. As I read the reports coming out of Colorado about the senseless, horrible shooting in the Aurora movie theater last night, I run the gamut of emotions: sadness, disbelief, wonder, fear, and ultimately anger. I can’t understand why someone would do such a horrible thing. So I get angry at the gunman. I can’t understand how this young man could gain possession of some of the highly specialized equipment he used. So I get angry at the system that allowed such violence. If I’m honest, I can’t understand how God would allow such an act of senseless violence. So I become angry with God.
If you’re honest too, you’re probably attempting to wade through the same thick mud of emotion that I am. You wonder what could drive a human being to take the lives of so many people that he has never even met. You wonder what could drive a system to allow an obviously unstable young adult to acquire unchecked such equipment as a canister of tear gas, a gas mask, a bullet proof vest, and explosives. And you wonder why a loving, good God could allow such an individual to walk into a full movie theater and open fire on a hundred men, women, and children, killing many and wounding many more.
In situations like these, it is very natural to reach this conclusion. But before we start denouncing our faith because our God didn’t turn out to be the God we wanted Him to be, I would ask you to consider something: maybe, just maybe, it isn’t His fault.
Please understand that I want to approach this subject with as much sensitivity as I can possibly muster. Know that as I type this post, my heart is hurting for the victims of this horrible act and all their friends and families that were affected. But the main purpose of this post is neither to arrest your emotions in the midst of a tragedy nor to make a political statement about the problems inherent in the system. The purpose of this post is theological in nature. I want us to know how this tragic event should affect our relationships with the One who is ultimately in control of all of history. Should we blame Him? Or is there another explanation?
Despite the heaviness of this river of emotion and its continual push toward the oceanic conclusion that God must be to blame and therefore cannot be trusted, I would argue that there is actually another group to blame. It is not a terrorist organization or a political entity. It certainly isn’t a group of people just wanting to watch a movie they’ve been anticipating for months. I fully believe this lone gunman is completely responsible for his own actions, but if you must have someone else to blame, you might want to take a step back before blaming God.
Yes, God allows sin to run rampant in this world. But that sin doesn’t come from Him. It comes from each one of us. If you must blame someone for allowing this world to get to a place where a man can walk into an unguarded theater in the middle of a movie and open fire, then blame all of us. We propagate the darkness in this world and muddy the waters of our emotions with our own sin. With every wayward glance, every prideful moment, and every racist comment, we actually invite the darkness to engulf us further and further each day. How did this world become so incredibly messed up? It’s not so simple as to say that God allowed it to happen. That completely alienates us from the truth of our own depravity and the weight that darkness brings. We invited the world to get this bad. And we invite it to grow worse every day.
Before you become angry with me for making such an audacious statement, I would challenge you to consider something: it doesn’t have to be this way. While I don’t believe we can eradicate evil from this world, I do believe firmly that we can actively seek to lessen its impact on the world in which we live. So my question is, “How are you going to respond to this tragedy?” Would you respond to this horrible event by blaming God, further muddying the emotional onslaught, and thereby inviting the darkness to take deeper root all around us? Or would you rather do something about it? I say we fight. I say we do everything we can as individuals and communities around our nation to fight back the ever-pressing darkness and restore some light to this very dark world.
There is nothing we can do to change the events of last night. The only thing we can do now in response to this tragedy is to pray earnestly and continually for all those affected. I challenge you to do that. I personally will be praying. But looking forward, I challenge you to make a stand and do what you can to push back the darkness around you. Put on your shield of faith and stand firm against the onslaught of the devil and his army of darkness. Do everything in your power to snuff out the darkness of your own sin and choose each day to shine the marvelous light into which you have been called and by which you have been equipped to traverse the muddy, emotional lie that this world is as good as it gets.