A Biblical Response in the Wake of the Oregon Shooting

I was asked to write a response to the mass shooting that recently took place in Oregon.

I intentionally delayed writing this time because I didn’t want to fire off a quick response without having time to digest the situation. Goodness knows enough bloggers and media outlets do that – I don’t need to lend my voice to the fray.

The problem as I see it is that many of the “Christian commentators” are looking at the peripheral issues rather than looking at the heart of the matter. Some of these peripherals include discussions about gun control and homicide statistics in the United States as compared to other Western nations.

One of my favorite jokes has always been, “Gun control is a steady hand.” gun-control-finger-discipline-tshirt-light-zoom

But these issues, while they might be important to some, are not the real issue. As I see it, there are two primary issues from a biblical standpoint:

  1. How do we wrap our minds around the atrocious evil carried out by this person?
  2. How do we appropriately respond as Christians?

The issue of evil and suffering in the world has been covered by people who have much more brain power than I do. I’m not going to attempt to re-argue points others have made. In a nutshell, what we’re talking about is theodicy – talking about God’s goodness in light of the evil and suffering that exists in the world.

And the world IS an evil place filled with vile people. From the dawn of time, humans have done horrible things to each other. You can’t even blame it all on religion, as some are quick to do. Even non-religious people are capable of despicable evil. The problem is the heart of humanity. No gun control in the world, no amount of intensive background checking, no “gun-free” signs can change the heart of a person. Arguing about gun-control doesn’t address the sin issue within us. Those who are committed to doing evil to others will find a way to do it.

Christians waste our time when we jump into the argument about gun control AS A RESPONSE TO TRAGEDY. This leads us to the second issue: how then DO we respond?

We cry, mourn, then shut up.

Job’s friends are a great example. After Job has lost everything and is even told by his wife that it’s time to curse God and die, Job’s friends visit.

Now when three of Job’s friends heard of all the misfortune that had come upon him, they set out each one from his own place: Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuh, and Zophar from Naamath. They met and journeyed together to give him sympathy and comfort. But when, at a distance, they lifted up their eyes and did not recognize him, they began to weep aloud; they tore their cloaks and threw dust into the air over their heads. Then they sat down upon the ground with him seven days and seven nights, but none of them spoke a word to him; for they saw how great was his suffering. (Job 2:11-13)

When we see people in time of distress we love to surround them with a bunch of words. How ridiculous. As if any words or any legislation could fix the brokenness we feel when we go through tragedy.

So just shut up. There is a time and a place for conversations about gun control, about how we legislate and enforce legislation. In the wake of tragedy is not the place. Let us rather come alongside those who suffer and mourn with them. Cry with them. Sit in silence with them.

Just shut up.

Adolf Hitler Takes On Joel Osteen…and Wins!

Hitler

In all honesty I’m friends with a lot more people on Social Media than I could ever REALLY keep up with. That being said, I see a lot of comments and quotations flit by the screen as I scroll merrily along. The other day I saw this:

Did you know that the only person keeping you from your best life is you?

I’ll be honest, it sounded a lot like a Joel Osteen quotation (the whole “best life” wording), but the person didn’t attribute it. I also don’t know the entire context of the quotation – I just got the snippet she decided to share with the world. Those caveats aside, let’s progress with the quotation at hand.

It’s ridiculous.

My initial reaction was to imagine Adolf Hitler standing before a boxcar of Jews about to ship out to a death camp telling his prisoners, “Zee only person keeping you from your best life eez you!” – yes you must always read Hitler quotes with a Schultz (from Hogan’s Heroes) accent.

Can you picture it? Ludicrous, right?

Can anyone deny that sometimes garbage happens to us because of other people? Recently having gone through (and still going through) a tough time I had someone say to me, “It blows my mind that you refuse to take any responsibility about…!”

And I still won’t take it.

Don’t misunderstand me – I believe we ought to own up to our choices and consequences. Still, sometimes things happen TO us that go beyond our own behavior. Sometimes bad stuff comes our way without being a consequence of our actions. This is one of the major themes in the story of Job.

When all the horrible things happened to Job (lost his livelihood, his children died, he became very ill…) his friends gathered around him to support him. Eventually they came to the point of telling Job, “Something you did brought this calamity upon you. What was it?”

Job’s answer time and again was: I HAVE DONE NOTHING TO BRING THIS UPON MYSELF!!!

Regardless of what cheery Osteen-ism you want to read and believe, sometimes life sucks no matter what you try to do. You can’t always control things to get a happy and delightful outcome. You don’t always get to have a “best life now.” Just ask the countless Christian martyrs who have died for their beliefs. Ask the countless Christians in developing nations who live in abject poverty. Ask the Christians in our own neighborhoods who struggle and suffer with gut-wrenching problems.

It’s not because they don’t believe. It’s not because they haven’t tried.

Sometimes life just sucks.

Jesus never promises it won’t suck. Sometimes our “best life now” means hanging on by a thread and praying for God to deliver us. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, “We know that our God CAN deliver us, but even if he doesn’t we will not worship another god.”

Sometimes you’ll go through stuff you didn’t cause or deserve. I feel your pain. Shoot me a message sometime and we’ll commiserate. Sometimes it’s all we can do just to get by. I pray I have the fortitude of men like “Rach, Shach, and Bennie – men like Job – who can hold fast to their faith and say:

“Even in this dark hour I KNOW that my God has not abandoned me.”