Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Aurora Colorado: I'm Not Surprised

Why write about this days after it happened?

Why not sooner?

I wanted to process a few things.

I wanted to watch the reaction to the events that unfolded at that midnight showing of Dark Knight Rises.  They were typical.  Predictable.

- An outcry of support for the victims from all corners and all places.  I know many in the Church were lifting up victims and their families in prayer.  Lutheran Youth at the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans offered special prayers and tweets.  My Facebook feed had several postings of thoughts and prayers heading to Colorado.  Such things always come when tragedy strikes.  They show what is good and noble about the human family. 

- Blame and spin.  Calls for tighter gun control hit the press followed by counter calls that if more people in the theater were armed, fewer people would have been killed/wounded.  Political theater.  Nastiness.  Using tragedy to promote agendas. 

- Asking why.  A lot of times this plays out in the blame and spin section.  Is it a societal problem (guns, glorification of violence, absence of clear cut morality)?  Is it an individual's problem (the shooter went nuts, was a loner, a sociopath)?  Is it a combination of both (crazed individual enamored with violence who had access to guns)?  Oh, we could spend a lot of time analyzing this one and get absolutely nowhere.

Christianity offers an answer to such events: sin.  Yep.  That unpopular three letter word.  S-I-N. 

Face it folks, our world is broken.  It was created good.  It was created to function properly, but it got warped.  There are still plenty of good things to see, to experience, to do and be a part of.  Yet, there is also the dark side of reality--the place where greed, jealousy, anger, frustration, sadness, hopelessness, disease, and other such things congregate and make life miserable and instill fear and trembling into many.

We would like to think we can control this darkness.  We would like to think we can push it back and conquer it.  We impose all sorts of laws believing they will make things better.  But have they gotten better?  Really?

It is true we are living in a time of relative peace and prosperity.  Violent crime has actually been on the decrease.   Conflict on a global scale is non-existent.  This is good.  Yet, despite these things, most folks don't feel safer.  They don't feel relaxed.  In fact, many believe the exact opposite is the case.  Why?


You see, not only is the world broken.  We are too.  We live in fear, in worry.  Fearful and worrying about what? 

That what WE have and what WE like will somehow be taken away from us by X.

(X= what ever boogyman you would like to put in its place: robbery, cancer, the government, you name it.)

When we become totally focused on ourselves and lose sight of a larger reality--bad things happen. 


The Judeo-Christian scriptures have multiple stories attesting to such things.  The earliest was the story of Cain and Able.  Cain becoming jealous of Able's relationship with God commits the first murder.  "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain asks.  Well, no.  You are not your brother's keeper, but you have a responsibility not to purposely harm him or take what is his.  "Uh oh."

Some may argue that God should have simply diffused the situation by giving Cain the same amount of attention He gave to Able, but this misses the point.  The point being, some of our actions are pleasing to God, and some are not.  In Cain and Able's case, God judged their very attitude's and found Cain's lacking.  Is it right and good and just to reward an evil heart?

No.  Of course not.  God could not reward Cain for his attitude because his attitude wasn't godly.  And Cain continued down the path of ungodly behavior.  From the darkness of his heart, he struck out in anger against his brother.  He thought he could pacify that anger by getting rid of the perceived source of it.  But in reality, killing Able brought about no change.  Cain had to be changed from within. 

This is where we begin having a difficult time as a society.  We don't like the notion that something is wrong deep within us.  We don't like the notion we are broken.  We don't like the notion that something within us must change and that despite our best efforts we are unable to make those changes ourselves.  Deep within us anger, fear, jealousy, hatred and other such things dwell.  Perhaps we can keep a lid on them for a time, but as pressure mounts, they will erupt.  And when they erupt, people get hurt: emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

As we look at the recent shootings in our nation from Columbine to Aurora, we see young men who snapped.  Research shows how they were withdrawn, recluse, loners--sometimes picked on and bullied.  They were perfect candidates to turn inward--incurvatus in se.

Martin Luther expounded on this in his Lectures on Romans and described this state as: "Our nature, by the corruption of the first sin, [being] so deeply curved in on itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them (as is plain in the works-righteous and hypocrites), or rather even uses God himself in order to attain these gifts, but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake."  (source Wikipedia)

When all revolves around us and our desires and our wishes, several things can happen.  We either go to extreme lengths to get what we want regardless of the consequences to others, or upon failing to obtain what we want, we snap.  Bad things happen.  S-I-N.

Such is the history of humanity.  Any history book will attest to this although they will avoid the term sin. 

And what is the cure?  Can we overcome sin?

Not this side of eternity.  Events like Aurora will continue to happen.  This is why I am not surprised by them.

But are we left without hope?  Are we left to just accept such acts?

No.  But we must be willing to acknowledge a few things.  We must willingly acknowledge there is something fundamentally flawed with our nature as human beings.  We cannot sugar coat ourselves with placates like "I'm O.K., You're O.K."  We must be willing to seek one who is not broken to teach us how to look outside our selves and give us healing.  Of course, as a Christian, I believe I know the One who can do such things, but you already knew that.

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