If all behavior has meaning, what does the violence in Las Vegas say? A commentary about behavior should not detract from expressions of grief, lament, and support for all affected. The violent act itself may be interpreted as a statement to which the church responds. While nothing changes the tragic outcome of violence, what distinguishes a shooter assuming a sniper’s position over a gathering of innocent people from a perpetrator carrying out violence within a crowd?
Physical distance between killer and prey creates emotional distance between them. A distant sniper does not experience the same emotional connection as one wielding a knife or other forms of close quarter combat.
The horrific event last weekend could be interpreted as a middle aged man expressing rage, sadness, and an attempt to regain a perceived loss of power. This emotional outburst turned to targeted violence. What makes this event so disconcerting? In our culture, many people struggle how to express emotion; some assume a “sniper’s position” using words on social media as weapons. In Las Vegas, words became bullets.
Why did Jesus meet a violent death in Jerusalem? He encountered groups of people who conspired to kill “from a distance” not unlike a sniper who cuts off emotional attachment to the prey. The enemies of Jesus could not meet him in the open—they withdrew to a safe physical and emotional distance.
What is the call of the church following acts of random or systematic violence? Key to comprehending all behavior is a relationship with the biblical texts. Most books in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, were written in or about seasons of violence. To listen to biblical authors express lament, outrage, demands for revenge, and appeal to God is life changing. We are invited into deeper insight about our own day through the lenses of Ancient Israel and the Early Church. From exploration of scripture, the church engages the spiritual practices of prayer and discernment. Building on scripture and prayer, the church is led to mission. The great distance between people becomes closer. We are drawn into beloved community, where all emotion, including anger and grief, can be used for healing rather than violence.
Please pray for all affected by violence. Please join us in church as we continue the Apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.