Thinking about guns, people who have guns, and people who use guns, I started thinking the other day. I wondered if anyone in my circle of acquaintances, friends and parishioners fit the profile of a mass shooter. Do I know anyone who could snap and start to take lives?
I did a little bit of non-scientific online research. Multiple sources report that 13% of Americans over the age of twelve are taking antidepressants. Three percent of the population is bipolar. In my county, there are between eight and twelve arrests for domestic violence every week. Over fifty percent of adults who have some kind of mental illness are not being treated for it.
I believe there is a good chance that I know someone capable of being the next shooter of innocent people in a crowd somewhere. No, I don’t have anyone particular in mind. But I do know some really angry people. I know a few who are really bitter about the hand life has dealt them. I know others with really short fuses.
I also know that each of us is capable of any number of atrocities against humanity — or as we pastors like to call it, sin. The first sin mentioned in the bible outside of the Garden of Eden was murder. Cain killed his brother Abel, in a dispute over worship styles (Genesis 4). Obviously it didn’t take much to flip his switch. King David arranges for Uriah to be conveniently killed in battle, so he can have his wife, who he has already slept with and impregnated (2 Samuel 11). When a Samaritan village didn’t receive Jesus, disciples James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to eliminate the entire population, an ancient version of a drone strike on an enemy village (Luke 9:51-55). And by the way, these weren’t tax collectors or sinners or atheists or devil-worshipers. These were believers. They were God’s people. Yikes.
Whether it is a senseless mass shooting on a college campus or a movie theater or a concert venue, it’s a reminder of the evil in this world and the evil in me. I like to think that I am a cut above those who would abuse children, strike their spouse, or steal offerings from a church. But I’m not. And you know that’s true, because pastors have done all those things. And more.
Every headline about violence reveals the dark, disgusting underbelly of our world, our nation, our community, and people just like you and me. This is a nasty place, and we are nasty people. And Jesus became one of us, like us in every way, experiencing anger, despair, pain and death. When the Bible says that he who knew no sin became sin for us, it means that he became that dark, nasty, disgusting underbelly. He became the mass killer, the suicide bomber, the violent father, and the abusive spouse. He became us, so that we could be something different. So we could be like him.
Maybe some laws will change because of what happened in Las Vegas. Maybe not. Maybe people will turn to God for help and for hope. Maybe not. Probably not. In the book of Revelation, no matter what disaster is poured out on the earth, people still refuse to turn back to God.
But in the midst of all this, who’s on the throne (in control)? Who got hit and killed in the violence of this world? And who says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled?” Jesus.
I not only know someone capable of doing horrible things. I also know someone who brings light to the darkness.