How is it that our hearts do not break beyond repair? The loss of life in Las Vegas - can it still penetrate us? Or, have we grown so accustomed to mass shootings, our pervasive violence, and the fear we have others, that this day of grief - like so many before - will pass into another day of normal? If I do not give into fear, or political arguments, or media punditry, can I take time to grieve? I will not give into fear. I would rather grieve and pray, trusting God for strength and peace than to arm myself against others.
Mutually Assured Destruction
I remember living in Philly during the pinnacle of the Cold War. There was, from time to time, a pervasive nihilism. Some would succumb to the inevitable feeling that death was waiting around the corner. Each day, for some, was a day to work for justice and to turn the evil away. For others, it was a release to hedonism and just party until the world ends.
The most insane policy for nuclear safety evolved between superpowers. “If you bomb us, we’ll bomb you. And there will be no spoils of war for anyone. Everything, and everyone on earth, will be gone.” Leaning full tilt into the insanity, the major world powers manufactured and stockpiled arsenals that would destroy the world several times over. At the time, even those who supported these policies believed they were dangerous and ridiculous. Insane. There was no better acronym than M.A.D. Mutually assured destruction was madness.
This is not a political rant. Nor a history of the Cold War. Last night’s shooting of hundreds of innocent people in Las Vegas is one more step toward a nihilistic reduction of our humanity. Not only in the violent action, but also in the frightened hearts of people without hope. While the world was still in shock from the devastation of dozens of deaths, and many more wounded, pre-market trading of stocks of gun manufactures rose.
Nasty, Brutish, and Short
As one friend posted on Facebook this morning: “Nothing will change. If a bunch of dead children in a school couldn’t provide the political will to change the law, nothing will.” While I cannot challenge that assertion, I have to try. Of all the inane and useless statements in the gun debate is the old standard, “Guns don’t kill people, people do”. I hate hearing this statement, like nails on a chalkboard, this statement makes my soul cringe. While I have strong feelings about gun and the proliferation of guns, I have greater concerns about the broken people and damaged souls who cannot find alternatives for their fear, desperation, anger, and pain.
And into these helpless feelings many more flee with each shooting. Like Mutually Assured Destruction, when there is a mass shooting, more guns are sold. With each outbreak of violence, fears are raised. This cannot realistically be an endgame strategy in which we all become armed, all the time, on guard against everyone. Are we in an arms race with each other? In the 17th century, arguing for a form of civil society that would heal the experience of unending civil war, Thomas Hobbes described our present trajectory:
"Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is Enemy to every man.... In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Chap 9).
Love Casts Out Fear
If people kill people, then can we not gather our strength to love and to care for one another? Into this war of all against all, my faith tells me still to love God and love people. Not fear, but to love, since love casts out fear. And when faced with violence, to resist the temptation to respond in kind. These are all things I find in the wisdom of the church in the Bible. These are not words of personal faith, solitary piety, or individual self-help buoyancy. These are words of creation to remake the world. To create new cultures and societies in the reign and realm of grace, peace, and love.
Maybe that's a big hope. But, what's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?