Las Vegas: The Brutal Truth and the Only Hope

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By all means, let’s discover as much as we can about why Stephen Paddock fired blindly into a crowd.

By all means, let’s enact any safeguard that might make it more difficult for this kind of thing to happen.

But let’s not pretend that it won’t happen again, because it will.

Gunshot and death will not always be the outcome.

Sometimes, there will be more, not fewer victims.

In fact, other kinds of mayhem went largely unnoticed around the world all this last week. It did today. It will also mark the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

This last week Pope Francis denounced the “extreme pornography” that adults consume on the web and use of “sexting” and “sextortion” among the estimated 800 million minors who navigate the internet.

The RCMP made the first two arrests in a growing investigation of drug rings selling fentanyl and carfetanil in Canada.

Authorities discovered that, in all likelihood, the prominent Swedish inventor, Peter Madsen first brutally tortured and then decapitated journalist Kim Wall. Judging from the reports, Wall was not his first victim.

And today in Brazil a man doused a teacher and her students in a day care with a flammable liquid, setting them on fire. The teacher and four children are dead.

All that with just a cursory and incomplete glance at some of the news.

The week was undoubtedly much worse in other parts of the world.

While the Bible rightly celebrates God’s love for us, it is equally brutal about the human condition. Genesis three is more a story that describes our predicament than it is an explanation of why we are the way we are. We are offered companionship with God. We prefer to be our own gods. The blame game ensues and, in short order, people die. In Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, we confront the truth about ourselves.

The assessment captures both the dark, chaotic nature of human existence and the urgency of our need for God. And any theological assessment of the challenges we face that lacks that hard truth will not be compelling to anyone who thinks deeply about the nature of human existence.

Sadly, too often the church does not grasp that fact, nor find a place for it in the center of our proclamation of the Gospel. Anxious not to be thought of as fundamentalists, we are alienated from a conversation about sin and the brokenness of humanity. Instead we have therapeutized human failing. We offer the church as support group, and we use the Gospel as a manual for personal or social improvement. As a result, mass murder of the kind that took place in Las Vegas strikes us an aberration or – if not – yet another demonstration that the one bit of legislation that we should have put in place the last time, needs to finally be put in place this time.

The Christian message is nothing so flaccid.

It is an indictment of our condition. A call to renounce “Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God.” A resolute turning toward Christ. And a life lived in every deepening and widening obedience to the implications of that choice.

It is a choice made in a world that has not been and is not free of darkness. Nor will it be, until God chooses roll up history like an ancient scroll.

And we do little good — for God, for the Gospel, for the world, or for ourselves — when we pretend otherwise.

 

 

 

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