America just experienced another horrific tragedy. A troubled young man killed twelve people and injured dozens of others in an Aurora, Colorado theater. That sad event raises the age old question of why bad things happen to good people – a question that even crops up in Scripture.
The prophet Habakkuk wrestled with why God chose to have God’s disobedient people conquered and chastised by a nation that embraced false gods, only to have God respond that the just will live by faith. The Book of Job recounts how an unquestionably righteous man encountered horrific suffering because of what appeared to be a wager between God and Satan, only to be reminded before he was restored, healed and again richly blessed that we cannot understand the will or the ways of God. The Scriptures remind us that some things will never be understood. Tragic situations can sometimes, however, yield unexpected outcomes.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a horrific tragedy, but his death led to the elevation of Lyndon B. Johnson to the Presidency and the previously unimaginable reality of a former southern segregationist pushing sweeping civil rights laws through Congress. The unexpected death of my mother led me to get more involved in the church and to subsequently answer a call to ministry that I had long resisted. The unjust and brutal execution of an innocent Jesus opened the door of salvation for all of those who embrace Christianity.
Tragic situations sometimes yield unexpected outcomes, and the best outcome in the wake of what happened in Aurora, Colorado would be for people of conscience and good will to see that the loss of innocent lives leads to meaningful action.
Meaningful action includes a remembrance of the precious and fragile nature of human life. President Barack Obama touched on that when he reflected on how his daughters could have easily gone to a movie premiere that went horribly wrong and how that would lead him and the First Lady to hug their daughters a little tighter on the night after the tragedy.
Meaningful action includes paying attention to the well being of those around us. The unfolding story of the most recent tragedy shows that those who sensed that something wasn’t quite right with the killer didn’t reach out to him or encourage him to get help. All of us should care a bit more about each other and encourage each other to seek help when needed.
Meaningful action also includes supporting laws to lessen the possibility of similar tragedies in the future. I’m not for banning all firearms in a nation where hunting is a way of life for some citizens and where many choose to arm themselves for personal defense, and I respect the Second Amendment to America’s Constitution which says, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Incidents like the mot recent tragedy, however, pose some serious questions.
Why would a hunter need a high caliber automatic weapon that can tear an animal to pieces in minutes and do the same to a human body? Animals don’t return fire or wear body armor. Why do gun advocates claim that being armed – as has been asserted in the incident in question – would prevent such incidents? The Aurora, Colorado killer wore protective ballistic gear from head to toe. An armed movie patron wouldn’t have been able to stop him and would have instead forced those fleeing for their lives to dodge two sets of bullets.
Why is it that in a nation where records are kept of those who buy strong medications and where those who buy too many are “flagged,” a disturbed young man can buy a shotgun, an automatic rifle, two pistols, 6,000 rounds of ammunition and a high volume of explosive chemicals in the span of two months without drawing attention? Why is it that movies that show excessive nudity are rated “X” and considered to be pornographic, but movies that show graphic and bloody violence are rated “R” at worst and considered to be “thrilling adventures?”
The best way for us to see that those killed in Aurora, Colorado didn’t die in vain is to care a bit more about each other and to press for laws that make it harder for those with nefarious purposes to buy guns and ammunition without their purchases being noted and investigated. That’s not restriction, that’s common sense.
Keep those families touched by the Aurora, Colorado massacre in prayer as they heal, and commit yourself to seeing that ours is a safer, more caring and more civil nation. That would be positive “climate change.”