By now most everyone has probably heard the news of another shooting spree in Colorado. (What is it with that state and its senseless shootings??) Last night, during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, “A Dark Knight Rises”, a 24-year-old man walked into a packed theatre, released a tear-gas laden smoke bomb and opened fire on the crowd. From all reports, he was heavily armed. By contrast, his victims were not. As of now, 12 are dead with over 70 injured. Some are still in critical condition, clinging to life. Those that manage to survive will never be the same.
It’s difficult to watch the news coverage of such a tragedy. Most of us watch it from our sterile environments and remain a safe emotional distance from the pain. But last night, someone lost their son or daughter. Someone’s Mom or Dad was killed. They didn’t die in Iraq or Afghanistan. They died in Suburbia. They didn’t die protecting our freedom. They died enjoying one. Dozens and dozens of families are forever changed because of a 45 second act of selfishness.
It seems like once a month, someone, somewhere is opening fire on innocents. Because this shooting was located in Colorado, it rips the scab off the Columbine wound we are still recovering from. Obviously, everyone with a soul is heartbroken about the loss of life. Everyone is outraged at the shooter and looking for swift justice to occur. And as the media pundits over analyze every aspect of this tragedy, the blame game is about to begin.
- The anti-gun people will blame the gun for this shooting.
- Someone will blame the store that sold the killer the weapons. (By the way, he was a legal gun owner)
- The pro-gun people will use this to promote our Second amendment rights and that everyone should carry a weapon.
- Anti-gamers will talk about how video game violence is the root cause of this evil.
- Someone will blame his parents for raising a killer.
- I’m sure it will come out that the killer was bullied in 3rd grade and a new law will come out banning 3rd grade bullying.
- Someone will use this tragedy to say how we need to install metal detectors in movie theatres.
- Others will say we will need to implement security checks (similar to what occurs at our airports) before entering such public places.
- Others will say that it is Hollywood’s fault because our movies are too violent.
- Some will say we need more police protection in public places.
There is no shortage of people we can blame.
While some (or all) of those points may be valid, it still ignores the deeper issue of why the Dark Knight rises as often as he does.
The problem is not guns or the lack of them. The problem is not the lack of police or the lack of metal detectors in public places. The real problem cannot be pinned on Hollywood or Xbox or our government school system. The real problem is a lot closer to home. The real problem is not what lies without – but rather what lies within.
The story is told of a newspaper who posed a question to its readers. The question was simply, “What is wrong with this world?” One reader, a well-known English writer, submitted his succinct, honest answer:
Sincerely Yours, G. K. Chesterton”
It is easy to blame “the system” for such failures. It is easier to put the focus on someone or something else for our national problems. It’s easier to create a new law than it is to address a human heart. And that is why the problem will never be fixed. That is why these shootings will continue to occur. That is why our media experts and articulate politicians will continue to suggest ineffective solutions. A new law cannot change the heart. It merely shows us how wrong the heart really is. A metal detector cannot detect evil intentions. A strip search cannot find malice in your pocket.
Almost 2,700 years ago, the Prophet Jeremiah penned the following words about the human heart. Apparently, in almost three millenia, our condition has not changed.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Though we are the most modern, sophisticated, technologically advanced country in the history of the world, our problem still lies in our chest. We cannot create an app to fix it.
We like to villanize those that fall and create a safe moral distance between them and us. But is there really a great chasm between us? How many married men read about the latest celebrities indiscretions with disgust while they flirt with the office secretary? How many divorced women took their ex-husband to the cleaner in the divorce because of his pornography addiction but justifies her recent viewing of “Magic Mike”? We would press charges against the thief who robbed our home but do not see a connection between the time we steal at the office. It’s easy to throw the book at people like Jerry Sandusky or Bernie Madoff. The truth is, the only difference between “them” and you and me are a few bars and a lot of grace. As G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “There is but an inch of difference between the cushioned chamber and the padded cell.”
King David was a mass murderer and adulterer. His sins are infamous and horrific. No one knew his depravity more than he did. And from that knowledge he penned the following Psalm,
“Be gracious to me, O God, according to your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (51:1-2, 7, 10)
The truth is, the Dark Knight lives within us all. We all have the capacity for great evil, and absent the grace of God we are all capable of the unimaginable.
We should certainly pray for the victims of this latest tragedy and do whatever we can (financially, emotionally) to help their families rebuild.
We should also pray for the 24-year-old man. He’s obviously very troubled and will very likely wake up one day in prison gripped with the reality of what he alone has done.
Pray for your own heart as well and spend some time today thinking about the hypocritical rooms in it. Chances are, the Dark Knight is alive and well in there. He just hasn’t risen yet. And by the grace of God, he won’t.