The mass shooting in Las Vegas leaves us enraged. And confused. And heartbroken.
Heartbroken describes us best as we find ourselves dealing with an inescapable and horrific truth that our world is not a safe place. Once we take that into our souls, we begin to live life as victims, refugees from all that is good. The television news is filled with the stories of heartbroken people whose loved ones were gunned down at a “fun-filled” event. As people of faith, our lives are interwoven with the lives of the victims and survivors of the Las Vegas tragedy. So yes, although we were not there and did not experience the massacre, we are heartbroken, too.
We are heartbroken because of lives lost. We are heartbroken because brothers and sisters must mourn the death of persons they loved. We are heartbroken because those that survived the Las Vegas shooting now live with relentless survivor’s guilt. We are heartbroken because a healthy family event filled with music violently lost its melody. We are heartbroken because violence reigns in the world. We are heartbroken because we do not have the moral, ethical, spiritual and political will to change the climate of violence through responsible weapon control legislation.
But we have been heartbroken before, far too many times. Orlando, Fort Hood, Killeen, Virginia Tech, UT Austin, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, among others. We have been heartbroken before, and nothing changed. Our broken hearts did not result in courageous spirits willing to persevere, persist and insist on creating change in our culture of violence.
Dan Hodges made this very sad statement in 2015.
In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. Gun control debate. Once America decided that killing children was bearable, it was over.
The facts, though, convict us of irresponsibility and refusal to effect change. The Guardian published a chart — America’s Gun Crisis in One Chart — that reveals the troubling truth: 1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days. (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2017/oct/02/america-mass-shootings-gun-violence) The chart, updated on October 2, 2017, reports 1,719 deaths and 6,510 injuries.
People of faith lament and grieve, asking God for answers. Like the Prophet Habakkuk who prayed for help in a time of trouble, we cry out to God.
How long, O Lord, must I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save.
Why do You make me see iniquity,
And cause me to look on wickedness?
Yes, destruction and violence are before me;
Strife exists and contention arises.
– Habakkuk 1:2-3 NASB
I would never presume to know the mind and heart of God, but I imagine that God’s answer to our question, “How long, O Lord?” might sound something like this.
How long, you ask. Long enough for you to stand courageously for what is right. Long enough for you to develop the political will to seek change through advocacy in the halls of Congress. Long enough for you speak truth to power, constantly and persistently until a new day of peace and safety dawns in your nation. Do not cry, “Peace, peace where there is no peace.” Instead cry out, “Change! Change! Change now, because God desires to comfort your broken heart and wills for you a world of safety, well being, and holy peace.”
May God grant us the courage and the perseverance to make it so.