I first wrote a version of this story after 9/11, rewrote it after the Newtown shootings, and again after the Boston Marathon bombing. With heavy heart, I write it again in response to the Las Vegas massacre. It is my attempt to make sense of an event that makes no sense, to try and reconcile what this horror means in a spiritual context.
Everyone is looking for the motivation of the gunman, the reason this happened. At this writing, it is still unknown. Maybe it will never be known. And does it really matter?
If God is love, then this is hate. If God is light, then this is darkness. If God is good, then this is evil.
Like ying and yang, good and evil coexist in this world. They are often separated by real and imaginary walls or borders, but sometimes they brush up against one another. We were witness to this during and after the events in Las Vegas, when the most unspeakable evil was followed by countless acts of bravery, generosity, community and love.
It is during times like this that we may question, where was God? How could a just God could allow this to happen?
When the darkest evil slithers into our lives, it catches us off guard. When it is of such a monstrous scale that it destroys the lives of scores of innocent people, it knocks us senseless. For a moment, it puts us in the same dark space from where this evil sprung, a place devoid of light or love or God.
Yet, we have been graced with the strength and will power to bounce back. We are knocked down and we get back up. We walk from the darkness, back into the light.
We come to the aid of those who are injured or dying. We comfort those who are hurt in real, if invisible ways, whether they were on the scene or are hundreds of miles away, because they too have been scarred. We do this because we are part of the human community, that does not know race or color or creed, we do this because we love.
A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave. ~Mohandas K. Gandhi
I again read the words of the Reverend Mark Lloyd Richardson who once wrote a story “Look for the helpers”. Its title is based on an old quote from Mr. Rogers who once said “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Sure enough we saw “the helpers” in the footage from Las Vegas, scores of people running into the mayhem, not away from it, to see how they could help the injured and dying. Richardson believes that because of this, the good will eventually win out, stating:
The vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doer and, more importantly, the damage he wreaked. So when you spot violence or bigotry, or intolerance or fear, or hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think:
The good outnumber you and we always will.
So perhaps the answer is that in Las Vegas, as in so many other events that cause such mass pain and suffering, God was there. Only on days like this God appears to us in human form, in the people who come rushing in to rescue, comfort and heal those who needed help the most. This is the presence of God here on earth.