Making Sense of Senselessness

Words seem insufficient in response to Sunday night’s shooting in Las Vegas. Still we want to make sense of senselessness. We want to make the inhumane, humane. In the absence of explanation, I’ll speak to response. How do we think? What do we do?

How do we think?

  1. There is no excuse for senseless violence. Any kind. Anywhere. Since the shooter killed himself we will never fully know why he did what he did. Investigators will try to put the pieces of the puzzle together and find answers. Whatever they discover, we must hold fast to the reality that senseless violence of any kind is reprehensible.
  2. Words kill like weapons. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus raised slander to the level of slaying. Words don’t just hurt, they kill. When 70,000 fans boo a bad kicker in a football game, something in that kid dies. When politicians and journalists throw verbal daggers at one another, someone dies. Whoever said sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me was denying reality.
  3. Enough is enough.  We are becoming desensitized. Push notifications bombard phones. Cable news reports violence all day, every day. Video games turn killing into competition. Music celebrates murder. Even too much news of the Las Vegas tragedy can desensitize. Overexposure deadens the conscience.

What do we do?

  1. If you see something, say something. Yes, this is Homeland Security’s slogan, but it belonged to Christianity long before the government trademarked it. Don’t tolerate any form of bigotry, hatred, or violence. Jesus called us salt and light. Salt and light do the same thing: they reveal. Salt is a cook’s friend–when the right amount is put in a recipe, it reveals the flavor of the food. No one has ever said, “The salt in this casserole tastes good.” Light is a photographer’s best friend. People don’t look at a portrait and say, “I love how the light is coming in from the front.” Rather they talk about the subject of the photograph. As salt and light we flavor the world without drawing attention to ourselves–rather we reveal Christ.
  2. Choose your words carefully. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” His statement is both counterintuitive and countercultural. Our culture is quick to anger, quick to speak and slow to hear. Proverbs 18:21 adds, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Peter wrote, “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” (1 Peter 3:10)
  3. Filter what comes inExamine your intake of violence. How much do you see or hear in a given day? Resolve to reduce it. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” What goes in will come out. Kevin DeYoung writes, “Having a conscience is one mark of being a sentient human being. Scripture sometimes speaks of people “who do not know their right hand from their left” (Jonah 4:11), or of “children, who . . . have no knowledge of good or evil” (Deut. 1:39). Knowing right from wrong is what makes us functioning adults. To have a malfunctioning conscience is to be less than human.”

Perhaps in DeYoung’s statement lies the explanation for the shooter’s capacity to cowardly and mercilessly kill 59 people: he was less than human. Something happened to his conscience. Scripture says our conscience can be seared (1 Timothy 4:2) or defiled. Titus 1:15 says, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.”

Only Jesus can clean us up and clear our consciences. John said, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Only Jesus can turn senselessness into salvation and make the inhumane, humane.