Yesterday we woke to the news of the latest (and worst) mass shooting in U.S. history: 59 dead; 527 injured.
The scope of this horrifying event defies imagination. How can we begin to measure the grief, the shattered lives, the devastated families, and the personal trauma?
Sarah Sanders (on behalf of the Trump administration) and others (in the mainstream media) have immediately insisted that we not talk about gun control. “Now’s not the time.” After all, as the deep-pocketed NRA keeps insisting, “Guns don’t kill people; people do.” That mantra has become entirely predictable after each terrifying and destructive incident. So, we’ll leave guns alone and target poor hotel security or inadequately thick hotel windows or some other senseless distraction.
If past history (e.g. Sandy Hook, Orlando) serves as any guide for this current event, we know how this will play out. The voyeuristic fascination with images and amateur videos will die down in another day or two. We’ll have watched enough and heard enough. Funerals will get organized, photos and bios of the victims will be posted online … and we’ll all get back to “normal” with the next major news cycle.
It’s a very new and disturbing “normal.”
How should we as Christians respond? It has become an impossible conversation, and the word “should” will get debated at every turn. Who am I to suggest there is a specific, necessary, or right ethical response?
Our communities can no longer have this conversation because we have come to believe that we must all just “follow our conscience” on this. We’re told that “it’s complicated, because we need to (above all) preserve the rights of the individual to arm themselves heavily, to travel freely, to live their lives privately (and secretly), to decide for themselves what is right, and to say what they like.”
Individual rights have become sacrosanct. And when individualism trumps social obligation, the conversation collapses.
Ethics (“what is good and right”) assumes a corporate conscience. When we diminish or displace such a conscience, we have no grounds for social change. Opinions may flourish, but nothing becomes binding.
The frequency of mass shootings is accelerating, and the solution is not President Trump or Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s proposal to put more concealed weapons in the pockets of young college students or the American public at large. More guns? Better concealed? Seriously?
In 1996, Australia reeled one Sunday afternoon when a heavily-armed young man slaughtered 35 people and wounded 23 others at a tourist spot in Tasmania. In the six months that followed, the Federal government enacted strict gun control laws which have remained in place. Since then, Australia has not experienced another indiscriminate mass shooting.
How shall we respond to Las Vegas? Perhaps the following couple of steps would make for a meaningful (and preliminary) Christian response.
Pray. Pray for the victims. And let’s pray for each other, that God may give us clarity and courage for a way forward. It’ll take plenty of both!
Talk. Talk with your kids and grandkids about violence in our culture; not just the facts and news stories of violence, but the dangerous way that we honor it and have become entertained by it.
Act. Act as you have opportunity and conviction. As Edmund Burke famously said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Fifty-nine families — and so many more — will not be healed or helped by the coming of the next news cycle.