It’s been nearly three weeks since the awful shooting in Las Vegas that left 59 dead, 489 reported injured, a wake of unanswered questions, and a dramatic lack of closure. Since then, there was a truck bomb attack in Somalia that killed more than 300 people. And this week in our country, there has been a loud and can’t miss response to the Harvey Weinstein scandals in the form of the “#MeToo” campaign that has been as eye-opening as it’s been heart-breaking. It was indeed, a brilliant display of courage to literally say the least.
For this and more, we lament, we grieve, we discuss, we comfort, and we also must create and contribute to our culture in the needed ways we see fit. Which brings me back to the tragedy in Las Vegas.
In addition to the dialogue it generated, it hit home for many of us for one reason or another. For my family, we grieve that one of the victims is from our town in Tewksbury. The woman that was killed leaves behind a husband and a child. This little one attends the same school as two of our own children. We don’t know them, but naturally, your prayers shift a little when there’s a sense of connection.
Whether this affects your town or not, we all ask ourselves a host of questions when such tragedies strike: We ask on behalf of the grieving, “How are they supposed to live now?”
We ask on a societal level. “How can we avoid such violent episodes and needless tragedies?” And amongst the question, we quietly ask on a personal level, “What if that was me? What if that happened to us?”
In this tragedy, the name “Las Vegas” is no longer just a city centered on entertainment and gambling but now it’s included in the vernacular of similar tragedies. When people say, “What happened in ‘Vegas’ no longer exclusively implies the city’s tag-line. It’s been marked by a new tragedy. Similar to how we read “Columbine” or “Sandy Hook” or “Charleston”, “ we connect the death-toll, the murderer, and the entire narrative to it.
From here, the debate rolls: Guns, the ethnicity/religion/ideology of the shooter, the history/nature of similar attacks. If it hasn’t happened yet, there will be a tv evangelist or a social media personality, declaring that God allowed this to punish Las Vegas or the nation for a specific sin he or she will mention. Predictably, it won’t be their sin but someone else’s, and most likely, the set of sins that displease their giving base the most. Dismiss them. Scripture tells us that God punishes his children but we only know this through Scripture; we certainly don’t receive this revelation through a personality being transmitted through broadband or cable.
Distraction and outrage are what these tragedies tend to give us. And they wear us out frankly. We grieve the tragedy, we yell at each other, we might even donate some money or some blood and all of this has a context and some of this has great merit. And then a few days later, there will be a set of posts, tweets and hashtags saying you are not grieving, speaking out, or giving correctly. All of this takes a toll and the tragedy on top of the real tragedy is that we get lost in distraction and outrage.
Again, ignore these type of distractions and resist the outrage. I cannot emphasize that enough. And channel that energy toward more redemptive and healing ways instead of allowing the tragedy of Las Vegas to be objectified and politicized.
Sadly, The next “Las Vegas” could very well be your city or mine. The next tragedy, whatever form it takes, will be different to some degree, but many things will be the same. Until then, may we resist the outrage and pray to God, lament the pain of others, serve people, and take action in the ways we can. May the Lord be with us all.
In the next set of posts, I want to share a bit more on Jesus’ take on violence and give a few more words on the role of prayer in such times. If this is your first reading of the Tragedy in Las Vegas, you can read Part 1 here.