All right-minded people would share Jessica Redfield’s sentiments over her experience at the Toronto killing when she said, “That’s when it really hit me. I felt nauseas. Who would go into a mall full of thousands of innocent people and open fire? Is this really the world we live in?”
But of course, this is the world we live in, isn’t it? We read of these things happening around the world, not just in Iraq or Afghanistan, or Libya or Syria, or other war zones. It happens in so-called civilised democratic societies.
Mark Galli of Christianity Today writes, “Yet another shooting tragedy has befallen us in the United States. Starting with Colombine in 1999, it has become a regular feature of American life in the 21st century. Fast forward to Friday, and we are now mourning the absurd slaughter of 12 people trapped in a theater in Aurora, Colorado.” He doesn’t mention the 58 injured, some seriously. It’s already being called the worst mass shooting in American history: 70 people shot by a gunman, 12 of them killed, while they were watching the midnight showing of a new movie.
With no NHS and some victims with either no health insurance or inadequate health insurance, may face a long recovery due to the nature of their injuries. Private donors and local private hospitals have to come to the rescue of the injured. The Associated Press reported that “Just days after the massacre took place, three local hospitals that treated victims of the Aurora shooting said they would limit or completely wipe out victims’ medical bills. Then last week, a fourth hospital said it would waive co-pays for shooting victims, according to 7News.”
When I heard the news of the massacre at Aurora my mind recalled immediately the statement made by the school head at Dunblane: in March 1996: his words were quoted in the press at the time; said the head,“Evil has visited us today”. What else can we call it? Dunblane, Hungerford and Cumbria are considered the worst gun crimes experienced in the UK. Norway had its worst gun crime a year ago.
But why does it happen? Following Aurora Christian leaders in the US have been addressing what is a difficult subject. John Stonehouse of the Christian website, Breakpoint, asks, ‘Why Evil? Why This Evil?’ And then he provides some ‘Thoughts on Aurora’.
Says Stonehouse, “Ignoring evil is a fundamentally wrong approach for Christians. Christianity is a worldview that claims to explain the world as it actually is, and the only world you and I have ever lived in is the one that is deeply and broadly impacted by evil.
“In the face of His weeping friends whose brother had just died, Jesus wept too. In fact, He wept despite knowing that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead and turn the family’s weeping into celebration. Why would He weep if He knew all this? Because it was the world He had made and the people He had fashioned in His own image that were broken.
To paraphrase the title Neal Plantinga used for his book on the impact of human sin, this world is Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be. And because we live in a world that often veers so distinctly from the good design and order given it by God, trying to offer a tidy explanation for this evil or that evil is futile.
And at the same time, says Stonehouse, it’s quite valid to ask why we recognize evil as such. Why do we recognize the actions of the gunman as disordered but honor the three men who lost their lives by shielding their girlfriends? Or 21-year-old Stephanie Davies, who chose to apply pressure to her friend’s severe wound rather than save her own life?
You see if ours is merely a world “red with tooth and claw” — that is, if ours is a creator-less world that arose by chance, and nature has no rhyme or reason — then heroic acts would be indistinguishable from despicable ones. But no. Our ability to recognize evil as evil reveals something about how we are made. And still the final word we Christians can offer is one we must offer: God is not absent. He is present in the world of human suffering, and He Himself suffered too.
Says Mark Galli of Christianity Today, “we are kidding ourselves if we think we have within our national grasp an educational or psychological or political solution to evil. There is no solution or explanation for evil. Evil is fundamentally irrational; it simply cannot be grasped by means of our intellectual categories. Evil is the very denial of rationality, because it is a rebellion against the Logos, the very principle of the good, the true, and the beautiful who created and sustains the universe, and who has redeemed the universe. The Christian hope in the face of evil is not to explain it or cure it. Our hope is absurd in its own way, turning absurdity on its head.
Says Galli, “We proclaim that evil has already been dealt the decisive blow. And that blow was delivered, paradoxically enough, at a moment when evil seems to have won—on the cross on which Jesus Christ died. Christians “make sense” of tragedies by acknowledging that they are in fact senseless, and that their absurdity is little different than the absurdity of the Cross. And that’s precisely why, when we talk about the gospel, we begin with the absurd. As Paul notes, our preaching is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. (1 Cor. 1:22-23 , NLT)
And the content of the preaching is this: absurdity has been defeated by absurdity, death has been defeated by death. The Resurrection, especially in the preaching in Acts, is mostly about the vindication of Jesus” “The apparent failure of the Cross was, in fact, a victory—a victory over the irrational principalities that currently wreak havoc in the world, . . .”
Addressing the problem of tragedy and suffering the following Sunday following Aurora Lee Strobel quotes what Jesus said in John 16:33. “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. But be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
“In other words, he offers us the two very things we need when we’re hurting: peace to deal with our present and courage to deal with our future. How? Because he has conquered the world! Through his own suffering and death, he has deprived this world of its ultimate power over you. Suffering doesn’t have the last word anymore. Death doesn’t have the last word anymore. God has the last word!”
And as Christians, that is what makes sense to us, isn’t it? Here is the best in Christian belief. We know there is a sin problem in God’s world. The world isn’t as God intended it to be. But because Christ has come into the world and has conquered death (1 Corinthians 15:51-57), we can know God will have the last word. Whatever takes place in our world this side of the kingdom, we know we can trust him. And this is something to share with all who are willing to stop in the serious moments of their lives, to share with them the Good News that things are not going to continue as they are. Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and for all who put their trust in him will have eternal life. (John 6:40). Lee Strobel’s Sunday Sermon is titled, ‘Why Does God Allow Tragedy And Suffering‘.