Opinion: Response to the Florida shooting

In my Facebook feed I see a variety of responses to the recent Florida school shooting. Some are emotional and distressed, some are mournful but calm and others, the ones that struck me the most, were naïve.

“When will horrible things like this end?” one inquires to the heavens. “This just proves we need more gun control,” asserts another more politically-inclined individual. “I can’t believe that something like this has happened,” another poor soul wails.

All these different responses were responses of shock. People, mostly Christian people on my feed, were shocked that something this terrible had happened.

That annoyed me. It even angered me. “What do you mean ‘How could this happen’?” I found myself grumbling at my computer screen. “You should know human nature better than this. These calamities have happened for as long as humanity has walked the earth! Get a clue!”

That sounded cruel to my ears. I had become numb to the atrocities that come so easily to human nature.

I began to think that there must be a middle ground that Christians can cling to. There must be a line between “How can this possibly happen?” and “Eh, another day, another 20-some people dead.”

I see two philosophies that bring us to these two responses. The first is humanism, which leads us to the “Why God, why?” response. The basic idea of humanism, when boiled down, is basically that all human beings are inherently good. A humanist believes that if you took a group of randomly selected people and dumped them on an island they would all gather and work together as one rather than going “Lord of the Flies” before the second week was up.

Humanism doesn’t work in tragedy. It can lead you to seek the incorrect solutions to certain problems. Gun control, for example, is very steeped in humanist philosophy; the banning of guns in certain areas seems to assume that criminals and the mentally insane will abide by it when they decide to go on a killing spree. Tighter gun control suggests that lack of access to firearms will somehow dissuade criminals from killing people, when likely they would use other means. This approach leads to just as much death when the “solution” fails.

Humanism also carries with it the idea that humanity becomes better with each generation and that someday evil will be eliminated or at least greatly repressed. This appealing belief only leads to heartbreak and shock when there is news of another shooting. This kind of optimism breaks hard and possibly permanently when reality sinks in, changing hope for an ideal humanity into hopelessness.

While humanism leaves one vulnerable to hope-crushing distress and ill-advised solutions to problems of violence, another extremist philosophy leaves one jaded and hopeless from the start. Nihilism projects a fatalistic view of inherent evil in human nature to the point where it asks “Why bother helping? Nothing will change,” making one calloused about the atrocities committed to the point where we can’t muster pity or heartbreak but just say, “What else is new?”

Beyond these two extremes, what is the proper response to evil in human nature — the sweet spot of action and wisdom? Let’s look at Jesus’ example. Christ mourned with those who

mourned. Jesus prayed — a lot — before raising Lazarus, in the Garden of Gethsemane and over the whole city of Jerusalem, weeping for the people who turned away from God.

What else should we do? Look to what Jesus did about human nature — the great task he came to accomplish: he changed hearts. He baptized, He performed miracles, in love he gave people hope of the coming kingdom and begged them to repent of evil.

To truly make a difference in our ungodly society, to prevent such tragedies from happening, the issue is not just about guns or security measures; the issue is in the hearts and minds of America. We need to get out there and make disciples as we’re called to do so that hearts might turn to Christ so they will hesitate the next time they reach for a gun.

Pray for the hearts and minds of the disturbed and broken. Weep with those who have lost their children. And go out and make disciples of this nation. It is our obligation. Our command. Our Great Commission.