Last week there was yet another mass shooting – this time a mosque in New Zealand. The last I saw 49 people died.
We have a routine down for these things – a shooting happens. We act shocked. We mourn and ask the deep question – why? We try to make sense of it. We try to offer an explanation that will make sense. We try to find a scapegoat that we can pin it on – someone who we can put the guilt on, so that they can be driven out and with them the sin of a mass shooting. And then after all of that…we distract ourselves so we can return to “normal,” – whatever that is. This is our normal now.
I don’t know about you – but I’m sick of this normal.
I’m tired of the excuses. I’m tired of the shock. I’m tired of the trying to make sense of it. I’m tired of trying to come up with a reasonable explanation. I’m tired of identifying a scapegoat. I’m tired of the distraction to go back to some fantasy “normal” that never really existed in the first place.
When a mass shoot happens there are no good explanations. When people are killed while they worship, there are no good reasons. It’s not just a mental illness of an individual we are dealing with. It if was, we could easily fix this.
Instead we are dealing with much more difficult challenges. We are dealing with evil hatred. There is nothing else to call it when someone goes into a holy place and guns down people who greet you in peace – who are worshiping God peacefully.
Hatred is evil. It is anti-Christlike. Hatred drives men (the overwhelming number of the mass shooters are men) to do this. Hatred is a sin. It is brokenness. The person consumed by hatred is broken beyond repair. Their relationship with others is certainly broken. Their relationship with themself is broken. Their relationship with God is broken.
And they are taught to hate. They are taught that violence is the solution to their problems – that it is a right that they have to carry out violent acts. They are taught that peace will come when “others” are eliminated. They are taught that “others” aren’t even people. Hatred not only teaches the shooter these things, it changes them from being a human to something else – their very humanity is stripped of them. Violence stems from violence. Murder stems from murder. Inhumanity stems from inhumanity.
I think part of the reason we are in the new normal cycle – violence, shock, scapegoating, return to normal – is because we are afraid to face death. We are afraid to look it in the eye and see it for what it is. We are afraid. And we don’t think we know what to do. We are afraid that God is lying to us. We are afraid that Jesus didn’t mean it when he promises resurrection. We are afraid. But of what?
I think we are afraid to truly live. To be all in. To be vulnerable. To trust. Look what it got the people in Christchurch – they died because they were all in worshiping God openly. They died because they were vulnerable. They died because they trusted. So we are afraid.
Can we be honest about this? I mean really honest about all of this? Can you admit that you are afraid. That you are afraid that God is full of it. Are you afraid that God isn’t real? Are you afraid that God is asleep? Are you afraid that Jesus’ promise to be with us is false?
Do we trust our senses and see the reality of death versus what God promises. What do you trust?
Self-preservation seems like the smart option, doesn’t it? Except it’s not. No one who has ever lived has ever been able to preserve themself from death. No one. Even Jesus died. Running scared of death isn’t going to work. We are all going to die at some point. The real question is this – have you lived at all? Or are you too afraid of dying? While we are all going to die, do we really believe Jesus’ promise of resurrection?
Here’s a reality for you. In order to experience resurrection, you have to experience death. There is no way around it. It’s no different from a baby has to go through birth in order to live in the world. To stay in the womb would mean death. Yet, the act of birth an act of death – it is the death of living in the womb. So that new life can commence.
How do I explain mass shootings to someone? I don’t. There are no satisfactory explanations. And there won’t be as long as we remain in fear. As long as we are too afraid to actually act and do something to prevent the next shooting. As long as we remain afraid of death. Fear is really nothing more than handing power over you to something or someone else. As long as we fear death, we will remain under its power. We’ll make decisions and do things or not do things because of the fear of death. We’ll even put God aside.
The biggest challenge the church faces isn’t a decline in membership or finances. Those are just symptoms of deeper issues. The biggest challenge the church faces is this – do we actually believe what we preach? Are we all in on what we claim to believe? Do we really believe in life, death, and resurrection? Do we really believe it? Do we believe that it applies to us – individually? as a church? And if it does, then how are facing death – looking it in the eye, knowing what it is, and yet going forward anyway knowing and embracing Jesus’ promise for our lives, for our churches, and for our world?