By Bob Setzer
Like most Americans, I am heartsick about the tragic shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colo. When the faces of the 12 people who died so young and full of life scroll past on my computer screen, I shake my head in sadness and disbelief.
I also try to turn my grief and bewilderment into prayers for the victims and their families. I don’t know what God does with such prayers, but I need and want to believe God honors them. It helps me feel not quite so powerless and hopeless.
It also helps to rail at God in such moments of bewilderment and pain. Fortunately, there is a whole class of Psalms called Psalms of Lament that give voice to such wails of anger and accusation.
For starters, try Psalm 10:1-12 and 44:22-26. It will help you believe God is not remote, detached and unmoved by our national grief. Jesus hurled just such a Psalm at the heavens from his cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).
But amidst our railing at God, perhaps we ought to listen for God’s railing at us. God did not create the culture of violence that took a 20-something kid, probably criminally insane, from the suburbs and turn him into a ruthless killing machine.
I don’t profess to know all the factors that created the perfect storm of madness and killing rage that erupted in that theater. But in my mind, the celebration of gruesome violence that drives blockbusters like “The Dark Knight Rises” (and the accompanying video games) along with the ready access to military-grade weaponry and thousands of rounds of ammo are surely part of the lethal mix.
So while we rail at the heavens and accuse God of being AWOL while innocents were being gunned down in a movie theater, I also see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Only this time he is sitting unseen on the curb of an American cinema complex, head in hands, tears coursing through his fingers: “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:42).
In other words, the blame for everything that goes wrong in this broken world cannot be fairly laid at God’s throne. We bear a lot more responsibility than we can dare to face, let alone admit and take measures to address.
Sadly, tortured souls like James Holmes who live on the razor’s edge of sanity and insanity are nothing new. What is new are number of mass shootings from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Aurora. Why now?
What is fueling this alarming rise in killing violence in our country, spawned not by Islamic terrorists but by the “boy next door” no one ever expected was capable of such an atrocity? I can’t help but believe the glorification of violence in the entertainment industry and the ready access of all citizens to an arsenal suitable for a third-world dictator are a big part of the answer.
Jesus said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Does anyone really believe he would have said something different if the weapon of choice were an automatic assault rifle with a hundred-round magazine?