Tag Archives: Shootings

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).

17 Souls

By now we have heard the news of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.  It is commonly reported that 17 people died, adults and students, but it is also necessary to remember that those who died were image-bearers of the eternal God, each having a soul.  It was not just 17 people who died, but 17 souls went to see their Maker.  As Solomon wrote, “For man does not know his time.  Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time,w hen it suddenly falls upon them,” (Ecclesiastes 9:12, ESV).  Ready or not, these souls left this life and entered into the next.  No matter their age, race, language, sex, religion, etc. they departed this world and arrived at a new one.  For some, this may have been an exponential upgrade as they met God as Father.  For others, life literally became hell.

But these are souls.  Seventeen souls.  Within minutes, seventeen souls were here and then gone.  One student with one AR-15 made sure of that.  I mention the weapon simply because it was originally made for and marketed to the military. It is, for all intents and purposes, a military grade semi-automatic rifle.  It is the civilian and law-enforcement (police, FBI, Secret Service, etc.) version of the military’s M-16.  It was created to kill people–that is, souls.

I am a fan of the Second Amendment.  I own a number of guns.  Often I’m carrying one on me.  I know that we are “guaranteed the right to bear arms,” and I utilize that right.  But as a Christian I wonder, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything,” (1 Corinthians 6:12, ESV).  Even more to the point, “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor,” (1 Corinthians 10:23, ESV).  Having an AR-15 may be a legal right, but is it helpful?  Having the Second Amendment grant us the right is wonderful, but are we being dominated by this right?

As a Christian, I can easily say that just because abortion is legal, it doesn’t make it right.  Any conservative Christian that I know wants Planned Parenthood to go under, along with any other abortion facility.  They kill our children.  Yet, those same Christians (some, not all) are so married to the Second Amendment, that they make the same arguments (with little word variation) that the extreme pro-abortionist makes.  “It’s my body.  It’s my choice.  It’s my right.”  “It’s my gun.  It my choice.  It’s my right.”  Just because it is a right doesn’t make it right.

Many pro-gun advocates are much like the pro-abortion advocates: Guns on demand and no limiting my rights. (For those who still espouse the constitutional right, I again say: just because it is a right, doesn’t make it right…even if it is in the Constitution.).  Every right that we possess also comes with responsibility, but it also is uninhibited.  Free speech is limited.  We all know the old example that one cannot yell “fire” in a crowded building.  Why?  Because souls are at stake.  Panic and trampling, death and carnage.  Freedom of the press is limited.  A journalist cannot write libel.  TV reporters can commit slander. Remember, the reason that reporters and journalists use the word “alleged” now is because libel/slander could be cited in civil/criminal courts if the person was found not guilty (along with the idea of an unprejudiced jury).  Why?  Souls.  The reputation of a man, woman, or child is at stake.  Their very being (soul) is at stake.  Freedom of religion is limited (more and more it seems like these days).  Utah was not allowed to be part of the Union until it outlawed polygamy, accepted by the Mormon Church.  Zoning laws (commercial versus residential) will keep church buildings at bay or welcome them in.

I know there are gun laws.  I’m not disputing that.  Yes, the government needs to do a better job at enforcing what we already have on the books.  But I go back to the very thought that while it is lawful, it is not helpful, nor does it build up.  If the believer should be about loving his neighbor, and Jesus taught that the neighbor is anyone and everyone, then ought we not put neighbor ahead of guns?  Ought we not give up our right to love our neighbor?  That seems to be the case that Paul was making in 1 Corinthians.

Seventeen souls yesterday, hundreds more in recent years.  I know the problem is overwhelming, and that when people get overwhelmed they often shut down.  Yet this is not the time to shut down and pretend that nothing is happening.  I don’t have the solution.  I am only seeking to point out to many who refuse to see there’s a problem that there is indeed a problem.  It is not as simple as saying that the laws on the books need to be enforced (which they do).  It is not as simple as saying that “crazy people” shouldn’t have guns.  It is not as easy as saying it’s a sin problem or a heart problem (which it is).  But it is not just “their” sin and heart problem.  It is ours as well.  I see more love for guns than I do for souls.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I am calling it like I see it.

I wonder if Jesus would not say (if he were in America today), “Love your neighbors as you love your guns.”

These people are not just people.  They are souls, image-bearers of God.