SURPRISED BY THE FACTS Reflections on Mass Shootings

This blog began as a reflection on the idea that each of these murderers was a failed male. I was going to talk about our need to call and mentor young men into healthy masculinity. I still believe they were failed males, but there are millions of those that never commit mass murder. The facts pushed me in a different direction.

Where to begin?

With compassion for the citizens of Sutherland Springs, Texas? Yes, of course. Their suffering staggers us. Like the open casket at one’s first funeral we shudder to approach it. But for me it’s more about Pastor Frank Pomeroy.

Every pastor shares the soul-shredding grief of sudden death in his congregation and wonders, “How will I comfort them?” But who will comfort Pastor Frank and strengthen him to serve what remains of his congregation as he mourns his daughter and comforts his wife? I pray for him, that Jesus Christ the brutally crucified death conqueror will meet him in power and in his congregation as each one comforts the other.

What about gun control? Violence as entertainment? Hardening soft targets? The inescapable reality of evil? The biblical case for the use of force? Please click the links for my thoughts on those things. Writing on these topics has helped me, and I hope you, process these events from the biblical worldview perspective.

What about outrage at the Air Force bureaucracy that failed to post the shooter’s criminal record, the one that might have prevented purchase of the weapons?  I did not give this much thought at first. As we have known since 9-11, terrorists and murderers only have to succeed once. Law enforcement systems must be 100% perfect to prevent crimes, an impossible standard. Someone will always find a loophole in the law, or bypass it altogether.

At least that was my thinking when I began writing.

This blog started out as a reflection on the idea that each of these murderers was a failed male. I was going to talk about our need to call and mentor young men into healthy masculinity. I still believe they were failed males, but there are millions of those that never commit mass murder. The facts pushed me in a different direction.

Under reporting of mental illness and or criminal backgrounds is a major factor in five of the six mass shootings in the last decade (the jury is still out on the Las Vegas shooter).[1] Each murderer was enabled either by laws meant to protect the mentally ill, or by lack of communication between bureaucracies, or by over protective, enabling family members, or some combination thereof to obtain the weapons, plan, and carry out the massacres. The Virginia Tech shooter, the Charleston shooter, the Sandy Hook shooter, the Roseburg shooter, and the Sutherland Springs shooter never should have been able to purchase the weapons they used.

I suspect that there will be some restrictions on gun sales and production that come out of these recent tragedies, particularly of semi-automatic rifles with large magazines initially designed for the military. And that is probably not a bad thing. But it will not solve the problem if we fail to address our inadequate mental health system and criminal background reporting requirements.

[1] Jihadists terror attacks not included as their motives are different.

FACING THE EVIL AMONG US The Las Vegas Massacre

My gut double-clutched as I heard the newsman’s report on Monday morning radio: “Over fifty killed, over five hundred wounded.” As John Stonestreet said on Breakpoint yesterday, we weep for the suffering and we call evil by name.[1]

That’s what I want to do today, help us face the evil.

Law enforcement will sift out a motive, and the debate will rage again about gun control, but in the end, these will not speak to our deepest fears. Remember that in 1995 Timothy McVeigh used a Ryder rental truck, fertilizer, racing fuel, and diesel fuel to kill 168 people, injure 680 others and destroy 25 buildings. On 9-11 Islamic terrorists killed almost 3000 with box cutters and airliners. No amount of investigation or new security will bring these people back.

Whatever the outcome of the investigation and the debates, the question will remain: Knowing something like this could happen again, how are we to deal with it on a personal, day-to-day basis?

The Reality of Evil

Historian David McCollough made this comment after 9-11, “We have for a long time now chosen to see everything in shades of gray. We have eschewed the idea of a clear line between right and wrong, good and evil. I think this event changes that.”

Paul called it the ‘mystery of iniquity’. Evil, how it works and why it torments us, is a mystery. But it is not a myth. It is as real as the thunder of a falling tower and as terrible as the rattle of an automatic weapon, and it resides in our hearts too.[2] Each generation must come to grips with the reality of evil.

The Mandalay Bay shooter was not always evil. He was a baby at his mother’s breast. He was a little boy playing sandlot baseball. But something happened and he turned. He was a free moral agent and made a choice to nurture the evil inside and let it grow.

The Bible teaches us that we have a choice.[3] The question is, what will we do with the evil within?

Salt to a Rotting Culture

Were all of us more truthful with ourselves we would admit violence in our entertainment is just as poisonous as pornography. The more we consume it the less we abhor it and the more it becomes a viable option for calming our inner demons.

No one knows what evil drew the Las Vegas shooter to that hotel high ground, but nothing is more certain than that he saw violence as his only response.

Evil comes from within, but it is nurtured by corrupt culture. Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth, we are the light of the world. Surely that means that we have a role in reshaping our cultural taste for violence.

Find True Security

Stories are already emerging of people who made narrow escapes, or left the venue like John Rich of Big & Rich, before the shooting began. But ultimately, safety has nothing to do with where you are or what you are doing. Safety is found in God alone.

I’m not suggesting we ignore security precautions. I’m just saying that five minutes or five seconds one way or the other is often the difference between life and death. And none of us knows which side of that count we will be on when we walk out the door.[4]

If you do not yet have a relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ, God doesn’t want to know your plans for tomorrow. He wants to know your plans for today. Will you trust him with all that you are for all of eternity?

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”[5]

Let your grasp of who he is be so firm, and your understanding and respect for his power be so immense, that no evil on earth can intimidate you.

[1] http://www.breakpoint.org/2017/10/breakpoint-mourning-wake-las-vegas/

[2] Matthew 5:19

[3] Ephesians 4:26-27; James 1:14-15

[4] Psalm 103:15-16

[5] Matthew 10:28-31

SOFT TARGETS: The Orlando Massacre

 

“Trapp in bathroom … he coming … I’m gonna die.”

Those final texts from Eddie Justice to his mom moments before he was killed early Sunday morning will forever define the Orlando Massacre, the Islamic terrorist attack on the gay nightclub, PULSE.

At least they will for me. My heart broke when I read them.

Two thoughts flashed through my mind when I first read Eddie’s words amid the breaking news of the shooting: Islam again! And, Soft target!

They were quickly followed by, what on earth were all those people doing in such a crowded, unsecured, place with few exits, drinking, dancing and partying? Were none of them armed? Did they not know this was the eve of Ramadan? Are they unaware of the threat environment in which we all live? PULSE could just as easily have been FCC, or any church in the nation. Jihadists hate Christians as much as they hate gays. It could also have been a veteran’s parade, a Memorial Day service, any soft target that represents the full freedoms of America.

Some may think I’m blaming the victims for thinking this way. It’s true; my dad taught me long ago that nothing good happens in a bar after midnight, and I’ve never regretted heeding that advice. But hear me out.

I’ve learned not to trust my initial thoughts on something like Orlando until more reports come out, but having now reviewed them, I think I was right. The shooter clearly linked himself to Islamic Jihad during his crime, and PULSE, even though it had an armed off-duty police officer who tried to intervene, was definitely a soft target.

Of course, those are just the basics. There’s much more to it, like the shooter’s earlier visits to the bar, his alleged attempts to pick-up gay men, his trips to Saudi Arabia, two prior FBI investigations into his activities that drew a blank, and the list goes on.

Related issues include gun control, the theological foundations of Islamic terror, and the biblical understanding of the use of force. I’ve written extensively about these things and will provide the links below.

But for now I think Americans of all stripes need to do three things.

First, we need to reach out in love and service to the gay community. They are really hurting and they need to be reassured that all Americans, including and especially evangelical Christians, hurt with them. Scripture says to overcome evil with good. Chic-Fil-A has led the way by breaking their famous “closed on Sunday,” policy in Orlando to serve the wounded and their care-givers. We need to match it.

Second, we need to keep our government official’s feet to the fire about the politically correct institutional, administrative, and investigative limits that have been imposed on the FBI and other Federal law enforcement entities that prevent them from following up on legitimate leads in order to avoid so-called discrimination against Islamic Americans. The Obama Administration bears principle responsibility for hog-tying law enforcement in this area. I don’t fault Mr. Obama for following his principles, but he needs to realize when he’s wrong.

Finally, all of us need to tell ourselves the truth about the nature of the Jihadist, and other violent threats, on soft targets. This danger pre-dates 9-11, has ramped up since then, and will not go away simply by wishing it were not so. How we choose to prepare for that threat is up to each individual and institution, but until the threat environment changes we need to be prepared to meet it, or else to stay out of soft targets.

Links to other articles:

ISIS IN PARIS -https://daneskelton.com/category/islam/

STOP THE SHOOTINGS (thoughts on gun control)  – https://daneskelton.com/category/guns/

RESISTING EVIL IN A VIOLENT WORLD – http://www.fccsobo.org/rwt-blog-39101