Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
- 1 Peter 5:6-8
Watching a repeating scroll of children’s faces on my computer screen left me in tears – for children I have never met, for the aching arms of parents and siblings, for the dreams that will never be born, and loves never fulfilled. Tragedy is always personal, and the horrific reality of yet another mass murder is seen in the faces of the children whose lives ended so abruptly in the midst of unfettered evil. Before we had even a moment of silence to absorb the shock of the atrocity, the same opinions with the same politicization and the same debates and accusations began.
Human beings are nothing if not predictable, which applies to self-important politicians and man-boy murderers. Therein lies our confusion. In reality, human beings are entirely predictable, but we have convinced ourselves that humanity has advanced and is superior to all preceding generations. Events like what occurred in Uvalde force us to face a reality we thought we left behind. Only now, we no longer have a framework for understanding, nor do we have the words to express what is right before our eyes.
In the jockeying cacophony of news reports, we hear one, endlessly repeated, and utterly useless phrase: senseless tragedy. Certainly, taking a semi-automatic weapon into an elementary school to unleash wrath and death on innocents is a tragedy of incredible proportion and in multiple ways. But what it is not, is senseless. If Christianity offers anything in this moment, it is a clear understanding of the insanity of human life, human decisions, and human actions. We are the voice, the heart, and the hands of the One Who conclusively defeated evil from an empty tomb and Who has the power to defeat evil still today. That Christians do not know that is to our shame.
Contemporary American Christianity has so readily embraced the facile and misguided knowledge of our society’s great leaders that we no longer possess the wisdom of God to share when it is most needed. We don’t even remember to turn to God for wisdom in these times. Comfort, hope, strength, maybe, but wisdom? What does God know about a society as advanced and sophisticated as our own? As a result, when the world in which we live doesn’t understand itself, neither do we know how to understand ourselves, our circumstances, or events of the day, whatever those may be. Thus, we – the recipients and bearers of God’s salvation – have no wisdom to offer and parrot the political party or cause of choice. Like pundits and commentators, we make pointless recommendations born of our failure to see the world through the eyes of its Savior, endorsing the treatment of symptoms, not causes. The problem with the boy who went into the school and opened fire was not the gun he used because a gun has no will, no capacity to fire itself, no means of choosing victims. The 18-year-old man-boy had the will, the capacity, and the choice.
Such a statement should be glaringly obvious to everyone, but when we embrace and repeat the lie that we have no control over our own desires, the one thing we cannot see is that the boy had a choice. Likewise, when we believe the most a human being can ever be is a glorified animal meeting and satisfying its needs and wants, then we should not be surprised when people act like animals.
I first heard about the shooting from a friend, who also was an acquaintance of one of the teachers murdered Tuesday, and immediately upon hearing, I began looking for information. Horrified and heartsick, I read through a couple of news reports. The political posturing was on full display mere hours after the deadly nightmare.
One story that I read reported that republican Darrell Issa tweeted that he was praying for the families, to which a democrat congressman responded, “F--- your prayers. They haven’t worked for the last 20 mass shootings how about passing laws that will stop these killings” (sic)
Another congresswoman tweeted, to the world in general, “There is no such thing as being ‘pro-life’ while supporting laws that let children be shot in their schools, elders in their grocery stores, worshippers in their houses of faith, survivors by abusers, or anyone in a crowded place. It is an idolatry of violence. And it must end.”
I use those two remarks by national political leaders to make this point: upon seeing a post by a retired clergywoman whom I respect and consider a friend, I read a shockingly long list of school shootings and was surprised to see there had been so many. If school shootings have become so commonplace that we no longer notice, that would be inexcusable. As I looked through the list, the dates ranged back to 1998, and there were actually very few I did not recognize. The post ended with a (beautifully) paraphrased quote from the Bible calling for peace, for caring and understanding, for weapons to be made into plowshares, so that young men could be directed toward beneficial ends. This is a noble call to every Christian among us. How can we not desire peace? How can a Christian not want division overcome with care and understanding? It was truly beautifully stated, almost prayer-like in nature.
And, that is my point.
Peace will prevail across the earth and weapons will be turned into tools of employ when our Lord returns. Until that time, our world – every human being alive – is buried beneath the weight of our sin, dying from a cancer of the soul, and unable to rise above ourselves without divine assistance. As Christians called to be light to the darkness, hope to despair, and life to death, we can offer Christ’s salvation and new life in the Spirit to this time and this place, but we cannot enact the Kingdom of Christ that will come in fullness only at His return. We are far too sinful to have any idea how best to resolve all the problems of human sin present in this generation, much less in generations to come.
If we want to make sense of what happened in Uvalde, then we need to accept that the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone acknowledges and answers such unspeakable evil. This is a world that has rejected its Creator and sought to be our own gods – from the beginning of time. The only barrier to the evil that prowls around looking to devour is the Cross of our Lord. We live in a world that needs to be saved, and that is precisely what we see every day in limitless ways, including in the mass murder in Uvalde.
We – the Church, Christ’s own Body – have so often forfeited the wisdom of God for the skewed and limited knowledge of human minds and the trivial slogans of politicians that we’ve forgotten we are to be salt and light to the world. If we truly desire to make a difference in our time, let us humble ourselves before God and seek the greater good of obedience to Him rather than pursuing fruitless laws. The former is an endless form of death to our pride, while the latter is a quick call to action that produces false confidence in our own ability to overcome evil with good.
Paradoxically, the humiliation of our insufficiency before the complexity of the human creature made in God’s own image – whether ourselves or any other – is the necessary condition for accomplishing any lasting or long-term good with the life we are granted. For Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness. As a society, the greatest delusion we trumpet is that we are too smart, too advanced, and too sophisticated to be weak. The only possible outcome for such arrogance is complete failure. For every accommodation we make with this vain and blind culture, Christians weaken the power of Christ in us.
The young man who walked into the school with a gun and maimed and murdered so many is easily understood in a culture that believes nothing is sin, except perhaps judging the wants and desires of others. In a nation that actively cultivates single mother families and derisively treats men as useful idiots in the reproductive process, there should be no surprise to Christians that boys are angry and have no knowledge of what it means to be a man – an immediate example of which is available in the juvenile congressman spewing vulgarity and vitriol at the prayers of another politician. As women march and scream obscenities about the right to destroy life in the womb as a personal choice, our children learn that life does not really hold value. When our children are raised in school environments that cater to girls and devalue all things male, boys learn they are inferior even as they inevitably develop God-given masculinity with no acceptable expression or outlet, an endless source of drive and energy with nowhere to go. While ideologies of tribal pride create identities for a world without transcendence, and science and technology promise nothing exists beyond this moment, human insignificance and meaninglessness become the cruel and indifferent humor of the grand cosmos. With all of these and more, Christians should recognize immediately the ongoing destruction of the murderer’s humanity. And if the man-boy has no humanity, then neither does he value the humanity of children, teachers, or grandmothers.
I understand that politicians use every event to their advantage, but Christ gains nothing when Christians help politicians score points in the midst of tragedy. This is the world that God so loved, He sent His Son to save it – to save it from the devouring lion of evil, to save it from the deadly consequences of blind ignorance, to save it from the arrogance that denies God Himself, as well as His love. Politicians and political decisions matter somewhat, but our salvation comes from God, not from any political party or politician. Moreover, our task is not to legislate salvation on earth, but to birth new life in Christ through endless patience, gentleness, lovingkindness, and faithfulness – fruit that we attain only as God’s Spirit measures our humility and readiness.
The notion that a doctor or a politician or psychiatrist, social worker, or university professor might know more than God reflects how little we know of God. Laws and prescriptions treat symptoms of godless and grandiose theories that, removed from daily life, leech the soul from our humanity. I confess, I am always intrigued by those who mock belief in Jesus Christ as they tout advancement beyond religion, when the fruit of our progress is profoundly rotten and certainly no better than that of our forebearers, if it can even claim equality. I passed a quote from a commentator as I scanned the news. “History has not prepared us for this.” Apparently, he doesn’t know history very well, for human beings have repeatedly proven their capacity for stunning and vicious cruelty.
As talking heads dissect who failed and who’s to blame, they and we need to start by looking in the mirror first. American leaders and institutions have mocked and rejected Christianity, leaving believers to whisper prayers in privacy, and far too many of us are content with this arrangement. But the One who created us in His image knows how easily we are deceived by evil when we separate ourselves from Him, so He relentlessly continues to seek us in love. People mocked Jesus. It won’t hurt us if people mock us. Do not fear those who kill the body, but instead, fear that which kills the soul.
My heart hurts for all those who mourn in shock and inexpressible sorrow. Everything about mass shootings that harm and murder speaks to the depravity of the barren human soul. Thus, I also mourn for the man-boy who was so empty that he became a home for the wandering evil that successfully devoured him, and through him, so many more. Finally, my heart hurts for the pallid and anemic faith of Christians who do not know the power of God for life, for transformation, for destroying evil, and for conquering with love.
Awaken us anew, O Lord, to You, for Your glory and for our salvation. Reshape our minds to reflect Christ our God so we will recognize when You lead and where You wish us to follow.
In Him –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau
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