If you know me then you are not surprised that I love movies and I love comic book heroes. I have always found the movie theater a great place to escape. While I complain about the over priced tickets and expensive snacks I still love to go watch a good movie. The few hours I can spend in a theater has always been a haven for me. For those hours I feel away from life and able to just let a good story take my imagination captive. And I love comic books. As a child I enjoyed reading about the adventures of heroes who come to save humanity from ourselves. I grew up enjoying the heroes found in the pages of both DC comics and Marvel.
Having said all that I like the rest of the country find the shootings in Colorado to be so very very sad. Fans of Batman flocked to see the blockbuster premier all over this nation. I did not do so but that is due to having small children. But many fans went. And they had every right to do so. Batman is about a good guy who defeats the darkness. And in a world with so much darkness we need to know evil doesn’t win. Batman has been doing this for a long, long time. Since May 1939 he has fought the good fight to keep people safe.
And again another place has been rocked by an angry and demented person with a gun. We have seen this time and time again. School shootings robbed us of the safety we felt in our schools. Colleges have suffered as much as public schools. VA Tech just down the road from me has had its own mass shooting. Churches and religious gatherings have had mass shootings. Other public gatherings have experienced the horror. And now a movie theater joins that sad list.
Folks will point fingers. Should our movie theaters be more safe? Some will point to violence in the movies and mass media. Others will point to the easy access of weapons and military items. Others will point to the mental health issue. In all of these shootings we wonder about missed signs regarding the shooter.
The US has something around 10,000 gun deaths a year compared to mere hundreds in most western nations and this might make us wonder why this is and what can be done about our death rate. There are eight times as many gun deaths in the US than to our neighbors from the north- Canada. I realize mass killings have shown up in those other nations but we are still sadly far beyond those countries in violent killings.
So we ask why and wonder if there is any kind of answer. If he had done this as an act of terror or revenge against someone in the theater we might be able to at least feel some understanding of why (though still horrified because nothing excuses killing people). It may be months or longer before we know for sure if there is any concrete reason. But more than likely this shooter will be like those in other places and there will never be a real answer. And the answer will not bring back anyone or erase the horror the survivors must live with and endure.
As a minister it reminds me that we do live in a fallen and broken world. Darkness is everywhere. There are no dark knights coming to save the day or men of steel to fly out of the sky to stop the madness. Yet we can not hide and refuse to leave our homes (and violence does invade even homes) but we must live in our communities. After 9-11 New York citizens had to return to work, play, and school. They could not give in to the darkness and didn’t. Yet no one there felt the same again. And nor will any of us when we go to a movie, concert, ballgame, or shopping. We need to notice where the exit is, have an escape plan, and and realize life is fragile.
But as a believer I wonder if we as Christian churches can do more to confront some of the issues of our day. What are we doing in our own communities to support the mental health needs? How can as believers learn more about those who may be a danger to themselves and others? What can we do to teach safety and how to deal with dangerous situations? Our church has sponsored children safety events dealing with abduction. Are there more issues we should discuss?
And the gospel we preach does offer a message of hope and love rather than anger and hate. If there are those who are angry and rage filled then our message of love and grace needs to be even clearer. We might not be able to prevent those who have serious mental conditions but there are other situations where people react in ways that express anger and a culture of vengeance rather than love and forgiveness. We might not be able to stop a shooter but we might be able to help someone who uses words, and other means that only add to the pain of the world rather than bringing healing and wholeness.
Like you I’m still wrestling with all of this. I wonder still why. I wonder what we can do. I wonder.
But I know that even in the darkness there is a light that is shining. May we pray for those who are hurting in Colorado. Pray for the faith communities there who will be ministering and reaching out to those hurting. Looking for answers may not work but we can address what we will do in response to such tragedies.
I saw a powerful scene on the television today from Colorado. A young man left a hospital with a bandage around his head. He was a survivor of the shooting. He was in his 20s. Several of his friends of the same age greeted him in front of the hospital and embraced him. I’m sure they were celebrating his survival. You could not hear a word being said. The camera was filming from far away. He knelt on the grass with his friends and they held hands and were praying.
Words simply can’t capture how we feel at a time like this. We can simply be the presence of Christ to those who hurt. We can pray. We can pray in silence if words simply can’t come.