When Foresight Fails

I just read two articles back to back.  Both dealing with information not being followed up on.  The first was a case that existed a few years ago, when the first wife of Devin Patrick Kelley (the man who killed 26 people at a Texas church), reported that she had been sexually assaulted, abused, and even water-boarded by her husband.  The case was inactivated when the victim did not return a detectives phone call.  The second article was about Nikolas Cruz (the young man who is accused of killing 17 people in Parkland, FL).  The FBI received what now seems to be crystal-clear information that Cruz was ready and willing to shoot as many students as he could at his former school.  The informant, who knew Cruz well, told the FBI that he had the guns, the anger, and even a post stating he would be a professional school shooter.  Yet the FBI did not forward the information on to their Miami branch.

There is a lot of what I call “millennial outrage” these days.  That’s outrage for outrage’s sake.  Other people are outraged, so therefore I should be outraged.  It’s perpetuated especially on social media.  Some call it, “outrage porn.”  But these two articles are enough to make anyone outraged.  It would seem that if these reportings had been followed up on, investigated, or forwarded to the proper people, 43 people may still be alive, and many, many more uninjured physically, mentally, or emotionally.  Families upon families would be together, without this emptiness in their hearts and lives.

How does one handle such outrage?  How does one handle the fact that the very ones we expect (and pay with our tax dollars) to protect us and our family and friends fail to act as they ought?  Let me give a few thoughts:

  1. Seek to understand their job.  We may not be able to walk a mile in their shoes for various reasons, but we can at minimum seek to understand what it is that they do.  How many tips, how many investigations, how many hours, how many current cases, how short-staffed, etc.
  2. Ask if those involved simply made a mistake (even though that word seems so underwhelming) or if they are incompetent.  As devastating as these events are, foresight is often not enough.  Sometimes it is.  Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.  What do these people’s personnel records/jackets look like?  Are they consistently missing leads or ignoring cold, hard facts or information?  Is this an isolated (though major) miss?
  3. Know that these are people.  These are not machines.  Again, what seems so obvious after the fact, may in the person who had all the information, seem dubious.  Humans are human.  They don’t have algorithms like computers, and they cannot tell the future.  These are humans.  They know their mistake.  They know that their mistake led to human blood being shed.  I am sure they feel the guilt and weight of their decisions.

These shootings are tragic.  They tear at our hearts.  They cause us to get angry and look for people to blame.  That is all very natural.  People must be held accountable for their actions.  Cruz and Kelley must be held accountable.  Those who did not foresee these killings, though they had information as to the persons committing the crimes, must be held accountable.  But justice (which we all desire to see happen) cannot happen with unchecked rage.  “Anger [wrath, deep seething anger] does not produce the righteousness of God,” (James 1:20, ESV).  We must be careful that we are not as Cain, who when anger was warned that sin was crouching down waiting to devour him.  Rather than rule over his anger, he allowed his anger to rule over him.

We must be careful what we do with such anger.  It can lead us to slander (libel), hatred, distrust, and any number of other sins.  Let us pray and seek justice, but let us do so without seeking vengeance.  “For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mind; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” (Hebrews 10:30-31, ESV).

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