This is Everyone’s Tragedy

By now most of you have probably heard about the shootings at a missionary center in Arvada, Colorado and later at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. The gunman died in a shootout with a security guard inside the New Life Church. He left three wounded and two dead.

Because we must always be human beings before we are atheists, and because we are engaged in continuous dialogue with people of faith, it would be remiss of us to not acknowledge the tragedy and insanity of this incomprehensible act. On this website we meet with Christians in spirited debate and sometimes heated argument, but they, like all human beings deserve our respect, our compassion, and if there ever comes a time when we can somehow give it, they deserve our protection.

My heart aches for the victims and their families as well as for the clearly disturbed shooter and his family. There are large servings of horror, bewilderment and grief for everyone, and all people should both recoil at such madness and embrace those who have been harmed or frightened.

If anyone has any comments to add, please leave blaming or criticism of beliefs that differ from your own out of this thread. This post is for grieving, reflecting and hopefully healing.

Richard

About Richard Wade

Richard Wade is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living in California.

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  • Siamang

    I second Hemant’s call for keeping this thread on-topic and respectful.

    I gasped when I heard it was at New Life. What with its inclusion in the Dawkins documentary and also in Jesus Camp, I have the impression that I’ve been there, and seen the services and the people there.

    As much as I feared Ted Haggard, his influence, his agressiveness and his political power, I nevertheless felt I had visited the church by its inclusion in various documentaries.

    The scandal focused me even more on New Life. It became one of the churches that I was aware of and followed.

    This tragedy spooked me. It’s terrible, and heart-wrenching that a church, supposedly a place of sanctuary, could be so defiled. I don’t know if the church itself can weather this blow, coming so closely off so many scandals. I fear that the members of this church will ascribe supernatural reasoning and believe that this violence was retribution in some way for the Haggard scandals. I hope they do not. I hope that they members of this church come together and bring each other comfort and what peace they can find in the wake of this tragedy.

    May the members of New Life find solace and comfort in this time of tragedy. My heart goes out to them.

  • Siamang

    Oops. I mean Richard’s call for a respectful thread.

  • Joseph R.

    Thank you Richard for posting that most delicate response. I for one, am deeply saddened to see this type of nonsensical violence take place in the world today. My wife and I send our well wishes and sympathy to the communities and especially the families, that have been affected by this tragedy. We are sorry for your loss.

  • http://www.blakeclan.org/jon/greenoasis/ Jonathan Blake

    Can I whine about the perception that atheists need to be reminded act as caring human beings when tragedy befalls other human beings? I don’t personally know of any atheist metaphorically dancing on their graves just because the victims believed in Christianity. I wish that I wouldn’t be prejudged in that way because I don’t believe in any gods.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Thanks for posting this Richard.

  • Karen

    It almost feels we’ve got a “mass shooting of the week” mentality in this country. This one follows right on the heels of the recent shootings in a mall in the Midwest. And of course there was the gunman at Virginia Tech not so many months ago.

    All troubled young men with histories of alienation, failure, mental illness and easy access to weapons. It’s a deadly combination, and a very sad situation.

  • http://badidea.wordpress.com Bad

    I had some thoughts on the the issue re the difference between how heroic people of different or no faiths, and grieving people of the same, see these events as all happening within the context of their sect, instead of, as I see being much more realistic, as humans.

  • Maria

    My heart goes out to the victims and their families, as well as to the community. This is horrible.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    My heart aches for the victims and their families also. But at the same time, let me put my neck out there and admit to the compassion I feel for the perpetrator.

    Whenever something like this happens, I cannot help but feel more strongly for the boy (why is it usually a boy?) who feels rejected, lonely, and desperate. I wish I could have the chance to go back in time, put my arms around them, and tell them that they are okay just the way they are, not to listen to those who judge them, and that they are so worth loving. When I imagine the unbearable pain and confusion that these boys must have been in, enough to resort to such horrific and desparate measures, my stomach twists in knots and I feel like I can’t breathe. They were victims first.

    Is it wrong to feel that way?

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    Is it wrong to feel that way?

    I don’t think it’s wrong at all, Linda. It means you’re a compassionate person who understands that many people who hurt others are in a lot of pain themselves.

  • Richard Wade

    Linda, I agree that the disturbed perpetrators of these things are the first who suffer. Their pain ends in these acts, while the victims’ and their families’ pain begins. Everyone involved deserves compassion.

    If we can use your kind of sensitivity to notice young people who are in their secret pain and to somehow comfort them as you have described with such pathos, then we may be able to prevent such heartbreaks in the future.

  • ash

    ‘guns don’t kill people…’ but apparently they make it a hell of a lot easier.

    i’m with Chris Rock – if bullets cost $5000 each, you wouldn’t be seeing as much of this kind of grief.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I would only wish these deeply troubled mass-murdering boys would have the decency to change the order in which they kill people. Shoot themselves first instead of last. Then there would be less needless suffering and no other victims. My heart goes out to all the victims of these senseless tragedies.

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    Jeff, are you saying all mentally ill people should shoot themselves?

    How about them getting adequate treatment instead? Wouldn’t that be better? Then there would be no victims.

  • JeffN

    Thank you Richard for the post and Hemant for allowing it. I appreciate the sentiment.

    These kinds of senseless acts or always a tragedy. My prayers and thoughts go out to the victims family’s at there time of loss and even more; so close to Christmas.

  • Pam M

    Linda, I agree with your feelings as it relates to the shooter here. It seems like a definate trend these days. While I feel for the victims and cannot imagine their pain in losing someone they love in this way I also feel pain for the person who commits these acts. It is hard for me to accept that someone close to those children cannot see trouble coming. Where are the parents or guardians of these children? It is difficult for me to believe that there were not definate signs of trouble. Are we so busy in this world today that we are not taking a closer look at our children? Parents, teachers, friends, and as Hillary says It Takes A Village to raise a child. Well, where are the people in this village that these children live in? Thanks Richard for your usual kindness.

  • Keith

    Richard, thank you so much for posting this … Siamang, thank you for your words as well … it’s an honor to know you both …

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Helen,

    By all means, mentally ill people should be treated just like anyone else with a physical illness. All I meant to say is that I wish that if killing was going to happen, then suicide is preferable to murder-suicide. I also agree with the sentiment that friends and family should pay more attention to those people they know that are troubled. Of course the age 19 or 20 is a particularly hard age for some people. They are usually out on their own and isolated for the first time in their life…

  • http://brettmaxwell.com brett maxwell

    I am a Christian, and I thank you for the grace you present in this post. I hope my fellow Christians would do the same if the circumstances were reversed.

  • Claire

    It is hard for me to accept that someone close to those children cannot see trouble coming.

    Sadly, sometimes it just doesn’t matter, and even with all the help there is, it ends up the same way. The recent similar tragedy in Omaha was a case where that happened.

    Even when everyone involved has done their best, it won’t always be enough. All we can do then is pick up the pieces and help each other go on.

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    Jeff, if what you were saying is, let’s minimize the killing, that makes sense to me.

  • Randy

    I’m in Omaha where the mall shooting took place. The shooter had a LONG history with the social service systems of several states. He was initially removed from his family “under no fault of the parents”. Very troubled individual. Had two friends in that store and on that floor where the shooting took place. They were both unharmed. One of my wifes’s music studnts knew the shooter. Small world.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Everyone speaks as though we are the normal and the sane ones. The troubled and “mentally ill” ones are people different than ourselves.

    They are our sons, our brothers, our cousins, and our friends. They are ourselves. They are you and me. I am fully capable of walking into a building with a loaded machine gun. Given the right amount of judgment, condemnation, dismissal, and betrayal, I can grow that hatred that is beyond rationality.

    These kids want to be loved unconditionally — not put into a category, labeled, studied, and “helped.”

  • Karen

    I am fully capable of walking into a building with a loaded machine gun. Given the right amount of judgment, condemnation, dismissal, and betrayal, I can grow that hatred that is beyond rationality.

    I’m sorry to hear that. I agree with you that mentally ill people need love and support, but I cannot even remotely imagine myself acting out violently toward anyone – let alone with a gun.

  • Doreen A Mannion

    It upsets me terribly when people say that family and friends should have paid more attention. In some of the cases, there are clues, but in many others, there are not. You just cannot know what is going on inside someone else’s head.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    They are our sons, our brothers, our cousins, and our friends. They are ourselves. They are you and me. I am fully capable of walking into a building with a loaded machine gun. Given the right amount of judgment, condemnation, dismissal, and betrayal, I can grow that hatred that is beyond rationality.

    I agree Linda. I was first struck with this realization when I visited the death camp of Auschwitz in Poland and saw pictures of the Nazi guards. They were just young guys, kids of 18 or 19, as I was at the time. And I realized that they weren’t that different from me – that if circumstances had been different in my life, that could have been me; that the same darkness that led to the atrocities of Auschwitz lives within my own heart, lives within all of us really.

    It’s comforting to think that “I could never do something like that”, but it’s dangerous too, because it’s not necessarily true. It’s the same mentality that makes Americans think that we’re always automatically the good guys and that we could never act in tyrannical ways. Whenever we start to think that we’re the “normal/sane/good” ones, and “those people” who do bad things are qualitatively different from us, then we’re on the path to some major self-deception and potentially some big trouble.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I cannot even remotely imagine myself acting out violently toward anyone – let alone with a gun.

    Really? What if someone raped you? What if someone hurt your parents? What if you were wrongfully judged and condemned? What is someone put you on stage naked and laughed at you? What if someone hurt your baby? What if some religious fanatics flew a couple of planes into buildings in your own back yard and destroyed what you love and hold dear to your heart?

    Can you gurantee that you would be able to remain sane, rational, and passive?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Whenever we start to think that we’re the “normal/sane/good” ones, and “those people” who do bad things are qualitatively different from us, then we’re on the path to some major self-deception and potentially some big trouble.

    Mike, my sentiments exactly.

    Thank you for being so much more eloquent than me.

  • ?

    having some serious ‘issues’ myself, and therefore having had some experience from the mental side of the fence…

    1) it’s disgustingly easy to hide even severe problems from anyone, including your family. only 1 person in my family knows about my suicide attempts…because i told them. i am covered in scars + bruises from self-harming…but i have never had a problem hiding/explaining away the new ones even to partners. with many forms of mental illness come the benefits of paranoia. self-repression and fanatical secrecy. there’s even the joy of a self-loathing so intense that even if you weren’t hideously embarrassed to admit you have a problem, you may decide that you are not worthy of help.

    2) i’ve seen some seriously deranged behaviour from people who, to all intents and purposes, are completely sane. and yes, anyone can be pushed to violence given the right trigger.

  • Richard Wade

    To ?
    You describe your difficulties in the present tense. I hope that since you have so much clarity and insight about your problem that you are giving yourself the gift of getting the help that you very much deserve. For you to be able to see yourself objectively as you have shown above is a very important and rare first step toward being free of your pain. All that is necessary is for you to break through your secret shame and your secret pride. Let your loved ones know in clear sentences rather than gestures that leave coded messages on your body.

    As you have said, you are not alone in your challenges. There is help that works. You deserve to live a happy life in spite of any hidden opinion you have to the contrary. I wish you wellness.


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