Friday, July 20, 2012

Finding God Amidst Aurora's Carnage

We're all particularly shocked, I suppose, because we all go to the movies.

Well, you probably go more often than I do, but still; we understand it could have been us.  There's little about this morning's massacre in Aurora, Colorado, that makes it geospecific.  We can all relate to sitting in a crowded, darkened theater, engrossed in whatever thrilling scene is splayed before us on a giant screen, our ears being bombarded with noises and special effects to make it seem oh-so-real.

And then we wake up this morning to news that a gunman took advantage of such a vulnerable movie audience to slaughter 12 people and injure dozens more in suburban Denver.  He'd walked through one of those discrete emergency exit doors like those that exist in the front of every modern theater, facing an entire room full of potential targets ensconced in plush reclining seats spaced just close enough together where getting in and out can be tricky, even when all of the lights are on.

And he opened fire.

We can almost put ourselves into the scene just hearing about it - a feat of the imagination movie producers spend millions of dollars to replicate on the silver screen.

Try a Different Perspective

Already, not even 12 hours after the tragedy inside that Colorado multiplex, pundits are coming out of the woodwork, rhapsodizing about what this means for America, how such a thing could happen, calling for further restrictions on guns, and calling for good wishes for the victims and their families.

And at the risk of joining this emotional sociopolitical backlash by people who weren't there and don't know all of the facts relating to how and why 24-year-old James Holmes did what he did, let's focus on what we do know:  at its core, today's shootings are the result of sin, the downfall of mankind.

Amidst all of the chatter over Aurora's tragedy, have you yet realized that, in God's eyes, what Holmes did is no worse than the sins you and I commit regularly?  They're all an offense before our Creator.  Granted, our sins may not result in as many victims as Holmes', and murder is a particularly despicable sin which civilized societies cannot tolerate, but God's Word teaches that every sin except one has equal repugnance in terms of His holiness, and demonstrates our need for redemption through His amazing grace.

I could also go on to add that as a reformed evangelical, I believe every person who died early this morning at the Century 16 would have faced their eternal destiny at that time whether through being murdered by Holmes, or by some other means.  God allows death to happen for a variety of reasons, and He allows even the methods of death for a variety of reasons.  But at their core, whenever and however each of us dies, the methods God allows represent an expression of His sovereignty.

God's Sovereignty and Our Accountability

Of course, it's at this point where even reformed evangelicals like myself have a hard time grappling with how our sovereign God could allow people like Holmes to carry out such evil on His creation.  I suppose the most technical answer is that all of us besmirch or destroy God's creation to varying degrees all the time, yet in the interest of self-preservation, we find something particularly evil about murder.  After all, human life has eternal significance, and is the vehicle through which God Himself chose to have fellowship with His creation.  Christ tells us that since God loves even His aviary creations, how much more will He provide what His human creations need.  That's one reason why evangelicals abhor abortion - life is a gift ordained for and sustained by God, not ours to destroy. 

It gets mind-boggling pretty quickly when you stop to think about the big picture after these sensational catastrophes.  I suspect this is one reason why we find it easier to quibble over lesser reasons, such as how evil today's movies have become, with all of their depictions of rampant killings, destruction, and mayhem.  It's also far more comforting to argue over gun control, because we can feel like we're doing something productive in either blaming machinery or protecting our citizenry's rights to bear arms.

Speaking of which, this shooting having taken place in Colorado, a pretty gun-savvy state, isn't it surprising that nobody in Holmes' theater was packing heat?  And if anybody was, they apparently weren't able to get off a couple of rounds to protect the audience, which is ostensibly the reason gun rights advocates say the Second Amendment needs to be preserved.  Might even the most ardent gun supporter not be able to react quickly enough when bizarre scenes like this spontaneously unfold in everyday life?

I'm not a gun control freak, but when was the last time one of these attacks was thwarted by a pistol-packing Good Samaritan?
Might it be more productive for us Americans to have a serious discussion about how much violence we're going to tolerate in our entertainment?  Not just in movies, but in video games, which can be far more brutal in terms of violent content than the Batman movie premiering during Holmes' rampage this morning.

Are there ways our society should explore to minimize the chances of such an atrocity happening again?  Absolutely.  Recognizing the role sin plays in life does not absolve us of seeking to mitigate it and its effects.  At the end of the day, however, we're each responsible for our own actions and decisions.  Plenty of gun owners and people who've been subjected to the same - or worse - stimuli that Holmes has experienced in our society have been able to lead considerably less-violent lives. 

"Seek peace and pursue it" remains one of God's mandates for believers in Christ.  And many unsaved people also recognize that peace benefits society far more than violence.

In terms of committing acts of murder, sure, virtually all of us are "better" than Holmes because we've never killed anybody, nor do we plan to.  Yet apart from Christ and His salvific work on the Cross of Calvary, we're no better in terms of our standing before God and our own pecking order of sins than this shooter who purportedly is some sort of PhD. candidate in the medical field.

But instead of concentrating on Holmes, or even his victims, shouldn't we concentrate on Christ?  He's the One Who presents all of us - even Holmes, if he ends up at some point professing Christ as his Savior - undefiled before our Righteous Judge.  The Judge Whose righteousness we oftentimes ignore or marginalize as we compare ourselves to our fellow man instead of His Son.

Not that we don't grieve over the continual loss of humanity this morning's tragedy illustrates.  But that we remember God loses nothing to humanity.

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