Guest Author: A Christian’s Take on Sutherland Springs

So, what can we, as Christians, do about mass shootings?  It is easy to blame the world around us, but the reality is, if the world doesn’t know about Jesus it is our fault.

 

♣ Guest Column by Steven Hart

In the event a mass shooting, the first reaction of the public, as in the case of any tragic loss of human live, is invariably one of unified horror and dismay.  Yet, as the days go by, grief fades, and as life resumes its former pattern, one question remains looming in the public mind: Why did this happen?  Were this only an isolated instance, perhaps we all could continue on, satisfied with a circumstantial answer.  “He was out of his mind!” or “He’s just a really bad guy.”  But when the news of mass shootings becomes more and more routine, the localized answers no longer suffice.  What we really want to know is “How can we prevent this from happening again?”  In our present society, two main answers to the question predominate:

The first solution focuses upon the instrument.  In order to stop mass shootings, we must keep guns out of the hands of mass shooters.  This solution works in theory, but is very hard to put into practice.  Some attempt to achieve this through artificial regulations such as limits on magazine size and mandatory waiting periods, but these do virtually nothing to stop any determined shooter.  Others focus on the idea of “universal” background checks.  The case of Stephen Paddock (the Las Vegas shooter), however, calls this logic into question, as he showed no foreseeable signs of instability and passed all background checks.  Other solutions have been suggested as well, but they all face the same inevitable reality: gun control measures cannot be truly effective at stopping massing shootings in this country without wide-scale disarmament of the American people.  This is not only a logistical, political, and constitutional impossibility, but it also works directly against the second answer to our original question.

Rather than focusing on the gun in the hands of the criminal, some choose instead to focus on putting guns in the hands of the potential victims.  As these people see it, we may not be able to stop the shooter from firing his first volley, but we certainly can stop him from firing a second.  Although this logic may be disturbing to some, it is more pragmatic than many of its opponents are willing to admit.  Indeed, once a shooting has begun, it is most often another gun that brings it to an end.  This being said, although this solution may be effective on a circumstantial level, it doesn’t offer a truly systematic solution to the problem.  Even if we were able to get a gun in every school, church, and public place, (and find able-bodied people to use and fire them) this still would not stop these shootings from happening in the first place.

  …the reality is, if the world doesn’t know about Jesus it is our fault.

I want to make it very clear that I am not attempting to summarily dismiss either of these two solutions.  Both side’s arguments have their merits, and any policy which could lower the number of deaths from mass shootings in this country is at least worth considering.  That being said, both of these plans really only deal with the symptoms of a greater problem, a problem that has its roots in our modern culture.  The reality is that 60 years ago, people didn’t just walk into churches in order to murder everyone.  This, of course, raises a very interesting question. What has changed in American culture such that people now choose, with increasing frequency, to engage in mass murder?

Before I attempt to answer this question, we must first stop to clarify the topic.  People have been murdering each other since the beginning of time.  Domestic gun violence has existed as long as have guns, and violent racketeering has existed (and will continue to exist) as long as it has been profitable.  These things, evil as they are, have existed in some capacity over virtually all cultures at all times since the advent of gunpowder weapons.  [Terrorism, on the other hand, is a more recent phenomena, but not one that is by any means endemic to American culture.  Heinous though it may be, it has its roots in politics and ideology, and thus its causes and motivations are relatively easy to track and understand.]

  A society without God is a society without hope, and a society without hope will inevitably become filled with bitterness and misery.

The shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, alongside many others, however, are of an entirely different phenomenon.  In these cases, we have an individual murdering a large amount of people with no clearly identifiable personal or ideological motivation, other than perhaps a generic ire against society.  In common language, they are just ordinary people who appear to have “snapped.”  Although it is true that these shootings constitute only a tiny fraction of overall gun violence, these acts often appear to us the most heinous, as the victims are chosen not on the basis of any individual offense, but rather their membership in some greater segment of American society.

With this in mind, we can now consider the heart of the question: What has changed about American society, such that these shootings now occur?  There are a lot of possible causes I could point to – social isolation, bitterness, entitlement, etc. – but I think, for the Christian, the answer can be summed up with a simple statement: we live in a society that has forgotten God.  Some may reject this as mere truism, but I deeply believe this to be the heart of the matter.  A society without God is a society without hope, and a society without hope will inevitably become filled with bitterness and misery.  I am afraid that so long as society drifts away from the church, shootings like these will only become more and more commonplace.  Gun control and self-defense measures might be able to help, some, but ultimately, they are nothing more than painkillers.  What we are dealing with is a cancer.

♣  For if we save lives on this earth only for them to perish in the next life, what have we accomplished?

So, what can we, as Christians, do about mass shootings?  It is easy to blame the world around us, (“if only they knew better”) but the reality is, if the world doesn’t know about Jesus it is our fault.  It is our job to let the world know and experience the love of Christ.  So long as the Church sits on the sidelines, entering the public sphere to make its voice heard only on issues of petty politics, societal degradation will continue.  If we wish to curb the tide of nihilism in our society, we must get out and fight!  But we cannot fight bitterness and despair with anger and self-righteousness.  Our weapon against the forces of evil is the love of Christ and the truth of his Gospel.  If you are sickened by this tragic loss of life, the best thing you can do is love your neighbor and share the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For if we save lives on this earth only for them to perish in the next life, what have we accomplished?  For this reason, I urge you all, brothers and sisters, to live and preach the gospel with ever greater fervor, and when tragedy strikes, let your love and faith shine all the more.

 

♦Steven is currently a student at Cedarville University, a private Christian college in Ohio, where he is currently studying Accounting and Political Economy. In addition to his formal studies, Steven enjoys reading about history and philosophy, and analyzing current events through the light of his Christian faith.

Weaponizing Scripture, exploiting tragedy

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Weaponizing scripture, that is, quoting scripture and applying it out of context to attack one’s political enemies and to exploit tragedy for political brownie points, has become a ritual here in America. This familiar pattern has again emerged, with fervor, following the shooting at a small-town church on Sunday.

Like a metal beam which has been bent and is no longer structurally sound, God’s Word does not serve His people when it has been distorted.

So, what exactly did the apostle James mean… continue reading

 

 

No weddings, 2 funerals: My week in hell

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I pray that this post may bring comfort, hope, and strength to all who are mourning at this time. Amen.

Here is the timeline:

  • Saturday, August 26th, 2017: My father – my best friend, my confidant, my sports buddy, my rock – suffered a sudden, debilitating stroke, sending him to the ICU. He was also diagnosed with pneumonia. My family and I spent the next several days with him at the hospital hoping for his recovery.
  • Monday, August 28th, 2017: My 20-year-old nephew suddenly died.
  • Wednesday, August 30th, 2017: My father passed away. (Later, I wrote a short article about the beautiful experience shared at my father’s funeral with family, friends, and strangers from the USAF Honor Guard and the Patriot Guard Riders.)

BAM!

BAM!

BAM!

  • Two days later (Friday), we buried my nephew. Two days after that (Sunday), we buried my dad.

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The sequence of events from my awful week in a living hell left me feeling as though I were being slammed from all directions, blind-sided and knocked down with a 2×4 to the chest every two days. Bam! Bam! Bam!

 

It seems impossible that one family can withstand such tremendous loss – the loss of its patriarch, coupled with the loss of one of the family’s precious young souls – all at once. How could it even be possible for each member of our family to individually withstand such sharp, excruciating pain? Yet, we all, my family and I, kept breathing. Every day, we pulled ourselves out of bed. Even my oldest sister, who lost her father and her son, kept going. I have watched body builder competitions, but I have not once witnessed an amount of strength equal to that of my family, and myself, during this tragic time. Our strength was, in a word, divine!

 

We weren’t breathing, moving, living beings on our own accord. It was God who carried us. It is He who continues to carry us as we endure deep mourning for our loved ones. For this I am grateful beyond words.

 

God is great!  God is good! Though my faith was tried in this week of hell of earth, my faith remains unshaken! Glory to God in the highest! For, without my precious Lord, I would be but a seed tossed in the wind.

 

Let us remember II Corinthians 1:3-5, and praise our Lord of all comfort:

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Remember to give your cares to the Lord. He will sustain you. HERE is a wonderful resource to assist you in times of struggle.

May God bless you and keep you.

Amen.

Ray Charles’ America

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Taps had been played, and two handsome and poised Airmen serving in the U.S. Air Force’s Honor Guard had just placed a folded American flag into my mother’s lap.

 It was Sunday. The sun shone bright in all its glory. I was seated beside my mother beneath a tent, surrounded by my family and our dearest loved ones. We were enveloped on all sides by at least a dozen large American flags held majestically upright by a group of veterans known as the Patriot Guard Riders who had arrived of their own good will for the single purpose of honoring my father.

 What came next was, undoubtedly, the most beautiful moment of my life…. continue reading

Jewish contributions to Western Civilization

“The Old and New Testaments are the Great Code of Art.”

– William Blake (artist and poet)

In Visual Art:

Thousands of reprints of Vincent Van Gosh’s Starry Night adorn living room walls, and Van Gogh’s Irises is one of the most popular computer background images. Hanging in thePhiladelphia Museum of Art is Paul Cézanne’s The Large Bathers, a post-impressionist deconstruction of the human body which broke from traditional portraits of the period and paved the way for generations of new artists to explore different techniques of visual representations of the human figure. Both Cézanne and Van Gogh were mentored by a Jewish impressionist and post-impressionist painter named…….. continue reading

 

Blurring Right & Wrong, a Lesson from Charlottesville

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Project  3, Post  4: Blurring Right and  Wrong, a Lesson from Charlottesville

Artistic Process:

As shown in the above images, I used a watered down orange to blur the boundary of the grass I had created. I did so to lay the foundation for a more impressionistic horizon line.

Reflection:

In my last post for Project Three I emphasized the importance of reading God’s Word for yourself so that you can know Truth, giving the example of Paul as written in Acts 17:11. I wrote about the propensity for us to be lazy and blindly trust that others are preaching the Word in Truth. Many seek to pervert and to misuse God’s Word for personal gain.

One such example of the deceptive use of God’s word comes to us from Charlottesville, VA. where, on Saturday, some of the more grotesque aspects of human nature were on full display. If you would like to read my response to the Charlottesville incident from a Constitutional perspective at The New Americana national news site you may click HERE.

While scrolling through news stories covering the white supremacist gathering, I came across a reference to Vanguard America, one of the participating supremacist groups. I decided to go to their website and survey the landscape. It was a disturbing exercise.

On  the group’s website is an article about Jews. The one consistent aspect of the article is the author’s manipulation of scripture to justify hatred toward the Jewish peoples of the world. It is absolutely repugnant. John Chapter 8, verses 39-49 were among the scriptures contorted for hateful gain.

The Scripture states:

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[a] do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Here, Christ was calling out his followers’ sinful nature. The Jews in that exchange were resisting the call for repentance, claiming Abraham’s lineage and righteousness as evidence of their own high-standing with God. Jesus, however, rebukes their claim by pointing out their sinful ways. Still, they resisted.

Christ was calling those around him on the carpet for their failure to seek repentance. Christ was NOT laying a foundation for justified anti-Semitism. You can read others’ commentary on this passage HERE for further understanding.

Yet, those who seek to justify and to spread their hateful sentiments have used Jesus’s words from scripture as a weapon of deception and malice. I wonder how many foolish souls have read the grotesque, Jew-hating screed laid out on the Vanguard America website.

Evil-doers seek to deceive. If you and I do not seek out the Truth of God’s Word, we can be lead astray by the most abhorrent, repugnant elements of society. Please, be a seeker so that you will not be lead astray. Amen!

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32