We as a nation and as individuals go through stages as we come to grips with tragedy. Here, I wish to speak only of the emotions of those who have some distance from a tragedy and not those directly involved.
-Shock, when the information is still vague.
We gather information and details.
-Sadness, when the information becomes real.
We pray, we mourn, we try to make sense.
-Anger, when the information becomes clear.
We come face to face with evil.
When I try to imagine what it takes to kill so many normal people, the closest I can get is one coming in and spraying kind of haphazardly. But no, what we had in this tragedy was way worse, he specifically targeted his kills of children, women and men. The fact that almost all in the church were either killed or wounded testifies to that. Well, he must have had anger, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” But anger seems to be an insufficient motive for such an act. A soul full of violent hate comes closer to giving us a motive. “He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” But even hate seems a weak explanation for what took place in Sutherland. The only explanation is evil at its vilest. Evil incarnate. “Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve”. “Numbered among the twelve!” What is scary is that evil is not very far from us.
His act was a very spiritual act. He was literally spewing his hate of God. But by doing so he testifies that those people are near to the heart of God. For he specifically attacked them for that very reason. Though they were struck down in violence, truly, they rest in peace. And for that reason, he hated them. I know that I am speaking before all the facts are in and speaking of things that take place in the heart of another man, but for me the main facts are adequate. The systematic targeting of children in a place of worship is sufficient to draw some conclusions. And though the place in some regards is inconsequential, it is significant to speaking to the core nature of his act.
-Gladness, not the happy type, but a form of resolution to the anger felt.
I am glad he is dead.
I am glad he was shot and stopped by citizens.
I am glad we don’t have to go through a trial.
The Bible says that God does not rejoice in the death of the wicked. And neither do I. But the resolution gives end to the anger. Anger towards a dead person is senseless and quickly loses its place. Are these emotions wrong? I do not believe so. They are natural responses to things happening. How we manage them is key to our emotional, physical and spiritual health. And, yes, there is an anger even towards this perp that is very wrong, a sin. Likewise, there is a type of gladness at his death that is wrong. But that doesn’t disqualify all forms of anger. And, yes, I am sad at his death, his act, his choices, his life. What does God feel? Well, shocked He is not, for He knows what is in the hearts of men. But sadness and anger are emotions that naturally flow from His love and His righteousness.
And for those who have kept themselves from being emotionally affected by the tragedy it is perfectly acceptable, normal and probably healthy. We as humans aren’t capable of bearing the myriads of tragedies that happen each day around the world. From car accidents to abused puppies. Each tragedy affects everyone differently depending on how close, how awful, or just what our mood is when we get the news. We live in a numbing news cycle world of media that amplifies the worst of mankind. Emotions are powerful and dangerous. But they are also an important part in the healing process and, more than that, they in many ways define what it means to be alive. Emotional stability is crucial all the more in times like these. We must take care to not become insensitive or overwhelmed due to the over-stimulation of our emotions. We must often disengage emotionally. Sometimes we can do that with our mind, but often we need to just push in the clutch by physically turning off the TV, radio and internet.
For those that are able, we now mourn for our brothers and sisters at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. We likewise pray. And we are more mindful of our place in this world of pain.
Thomas, Nov 6, 2017