BreakPoint: Mourning in the Wake of Las Vegas

Weeping for the Suffering, Calling Evil by Name

Our nation is faced with another act of horrific evil. This time, a mass shooting in Las Vegas. What do we say? What do we do?

For the third time—by my count—since Eric and I became the voices of BreakPoint, I find myself using the phrase, “the worst mass shooting in U. S. history,” this time to describe the massacre of—at the time of this recording—58 people, with an additional 500 people wounded, at a country music concert in Las Vegas.

It’s horrific. What can even be said?

In today’s politically divided landscape, we’re tempted to simply retreat to a standard list of explanations to try to explain what happened or to assign blame—like on guns or mental illness or “them”—i.e. those that are across the political or religious aisle from us.  But this gut level response misses the core issue at hand.

Back in 2007, after 32 innocent people were gunned down at Virginia Tech, Chuck Colson talked about the importance of acknowledging the reality of evil. He started by describing a visit to a prison in Norway:

I witnessed an extreme example of this therapeutic thinking during a visit to a Norwegian prison years ago. Throughout the tour, officials bragged about employing the most humane and progressive treatment methods anywhere in the world. I met several doctors in white coats.

That prompted me to ask how many of the inmates, who were all there for serious crimes, were mentally ill. The warden replied, “Oh, all of them.” I must have looked surprised, because she said, “Well, of course, anyone who commits a crime this serious is obviously mentally unbalanced.”

Stated differently, there’s no such thing as sin and evil, and the only reason why people might commit serious crimes is that they’re mentally ill. Thus the best—and perhaps, only—response to crime is behavior modification and all those other up-to-date psychological techniques.

While the Norwegian approach would strike most Americans as very naïve, the difference between them and us is one of degree, not kind. We also blame crime on external factors, like mental illness, culture, dysfunctional childhood, and the like.

We’re uncomfortable attributing events like this to human evil, much less to a kind of evil that seeks to undo God’s creation—what Christians call the demonic.

Yet without this idea, events like this massacre can never be understood.

You know, Chuck is right. Evil is real and it resides—not just “out there” in the world, or the culture—but “in here,” in the human heart. Seeing it played out so hideously in Las Vegas leaves us only at the place of saying, with other followers of Christ throughout history, “Kyrie Eleison,” or Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy upon us.

And how might we, as Christians, respond?

First, as Ed Stetzer wrote in Christianity Today, prayer is a powerful response to suffering and evil. So pray for the victims and their families, for civic leaders and first responders. Pray that Christians in Las Vegas will be effective in their ministry and service.

Second, God’s people must remember the exhortation to “mourn with those who mourn.” Facebook and Twitter might tempt us to forget that there are very real people mourning the death of real people, and to offer lines of political agenda or ideological simplicity or even to offer Bible verses wrapped up in a nice little bow. Better than all of that is that we join our tears with those who weep.

Third, we run into, not away, from this brokenness. Whether it’s in giving blood, providing care, or jumping into that conversation with our neighbors that we’d rather not, we emulate Christ by—like Him—joining the suffering of those around us.

And finally, we cry out with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?” Groaning together with all of creation for that day when God Himself will “wipe away every tear,” and “death shall be no more.”

Mourning in the Wake of Las Vegas: Weeping for the Suffering, Calling Evil by Name

As John has urged, please pray for the victims in Las Vegas, the first responders and medical personnel, and especially for the churches there. May God use His Body to bring hope, healing and new life to an area that has experienced such a horrific tragedy.


Something Horribly Wrong: The Reality of Evil
  • Chuck Colson | | April 19, 2007

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  • James

    I suggest that we not be so quick to dismiss the idea that the hardened arch-criminals are all “sick in the head.” Paul the Apostle did say in one of his epistles that certain wicked people are turned over to a “reprobate mind.”

    Strong’s says this: ”
    ÅAdmivn Adokimos (ad-ok’-ee-mos); Word Origin: Greek, Adjective, Strong #: 96
    not standing the test, not approved
    properly used of metals and coins
    that which does not prove itself such as it ought
    unfit for, unproved, spurious, reprobate
    KJV Word Usage and Count
    reprobate 6
    castaway 1
    rejected 1

    The root word is defined thusly:
    dokimavzw Dokimazo
    (dok-im-ad’-zo); Word Origin: Greek, Verb, Strong #: 1381
    to test, examine, prove, scrutinise (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals
    to recognise as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy
    KJV Word Usage and Count
    prove 10
    try 4
    approve 3
    discern 2
    allow 2
    like 1
    examine 1
    So, if we think of a sick mind as one that does not pass the test of a sound mind, then, technically, they are sick in the head and mentally ill. Of course, the Bible points to a spiritual cause for the mental infirmity, at least in the cases being referred to in Romans 1.

  • Mileaway In todays face of evil Vice President Pence asked us to pray. I have prayed. We all have prayed. We all are still praying. But to the Vice President I say, No.

    For far too long we have humbled and we have forgiven. Now it is time for us to stand with God and Country for God and Country. Christian Warriors for the rights of those oppressed by the evils of those that wish to oppress, harm or kill us. The time for compliance and capitulation has passed. We have turned all of our cheeks and now the justice of his swift sword needs to be dealt; but if we allow religion to become politicized we become no better than our enemies. We become the part of those that oppress and suppress. We would become more like the evil society of Islam with each passing day. Yes, we should pray for strength and guidance but not for coexistence with evil.

    • Just One Voice

      Where did he say to pray for co-existence with evil?

      And bro, your words sound a little aggressive (warriors, no compliance, enough humility, enough forgiveness, time for the justice of his swift sword). Can you back these words up with the Bible? Since when is it our place to deal the justice of God’s swift sword?

      Don’t get me wrong, I get tired of just feeling like I’m repeatedly turning the other cheek. But I just re-read Ephesians 6:10-20, and Romans 12:14-21.

      Let’s sow a gospel of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentlesness, faithfulness & self-control!

  • Russell Farrell

    Sheen (Bsp.) of all people (and I am from Gallup NM), said 40 years ago that there are no Sanctuaries left after the 50s.

  • It’s worrying that you guys are so quick to dismiss mental health as a concern. It sounds like you would rather go “the devil made me do it” line of theology. Wouldn’t it be kind of both. The fall made things like mental health an issue. Evil is the cause and taking care of ones mental health is one of the practical ways to deal with it.

    • gladys1071

      i agree their is a lot of mental illness out there, and yes i agree, the fall affects our mental health too. I don’t dismiss it at all, I have a sister that is an addict due to her mental disorders. We need a lot more resources put in for mental health.