On Mass Killings and Respecting Life

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I want to help build a culture of life.

My vocation, I believe, is to inspire and foster respect for human life, compassion for every human being, and recognition of everybody’s inherent, indissoluble dignity.  No matter how small or seemingly useless a person may be, each and every one of us is supposed to be here, each and every one of us is intrinsically sacred and beautiful in the eyes of the Creator Who brought us into existence.

Sometimes, though, my conviction in the core worth of every person gets tested.  On Sunday, October 1, 2017, celebrated on the Catholic Church calendar as Respect Life Sunday, a man perched in a high-rise in Las Vegas, Nevada fired upon a crowd of over 22,000 people, injuring nearly 500, and killing 58 before ending up dead himself.  This man had no history of mental illness, appears to have been a “normal guy”, was a wealthy, older man, and has no apparent ties whatsoever to any kind of terrorist group, foreign or domestic.  So… Why?  Why did he do it?  What was wrong with him?  Something must have been wrong with him… right?  I am asking these questions because I don’t have the answers….  Perhaps, there is no definitive answer.

Perhaps, he did it because he wanted to.  And isn’t that a chilling thought…?  His father had been imprisoned for bank robbery, maybe he, too, wanted to commit a crime – but one that would put his name and face in history books.  The documentary, Tower, which chronicles the 1966 mass shootings from a Texas clocktower, was released last year to much acclaim….  I often wonder how many of these mass killings are inspired by an evil craving for fame.  Or even for thrill.

And that’s all the time that I want to spend on thinking about the newest murderer to grab headlines.  He is certainly not worth more than his victims.

Love and Being Human

Human beings are capable of violence.  We know this.  I’m capable of being violent and so are you.  Although I lack physical strength, sometimes my words have a cutting edge and I use them to lash out at people.  Sometimes, I may get so frustrated and infuriated with someone that I imagine doing a physically violent act to them, like punching them in the gut or slapping them in the face.  Are there times when you, too, say cruel things or have violent imaginings?  If we are honest, then we will recognize that naturally occurring anger or frustration can well up inside of us and can even get beyond our usual will.  We aren’t out of control or mentally ill, we might not even, necessarily, have anger management issues, we’re just human.  And we’re usually sorry for our outbursts or unkind thoughts afterward.

But, what about when people go beyond normal expressions of anger?  This scares us.  Thinking that someone “normal” could suddenly, or even gradually, develop a thirst to kill and have the will to carry it out is horrifying.  Planned mass killings, be they through bombings, shootings, or even stabbings, have occurred far too frequently in the United States and have left all of us feeling less safe and more wary doing things that we have taken for granted.  Evil acts of violence have been committed in schools, churches, movie theaters, shopping malls, and concerts.  Have I left any place out?  Oh, yes, marathons, too.  And office buildings, even ones that have day care centers inside of them.  Sadly, I keep thinking of more… but, I don’t have the heart to list them right now.

So… What do we do?  What do we do with our fear and uncertainty?  What do we do with our anger at horrifically cruel and despicably evil acting people?  I don’t know.  All that I know is that we don’t give in to the violence, we don’t give in to destructive anger and fear.  As a Christian, I think that my answer to every question of what I should do is this: love.

Those who have died are loved by God and God will, in justice and mercy, take care of them.  Those who have survived violent attacks need our active love, here and now.  I can’t physically do much, but I can pray.  Let’s pray for those whose loved ones were murdered, pray for the physically injured, pray for those who have been mentally and emotionally wounded by terror.  Pray also for the surviving loved ones of those who commit such horrendous evil – for they must be terribly distraught and bewildered.  And pray for those who may be in harm’s way, who may be contemplating or planning acts of terror, acts of violence.  Pray that we may be healed!  Pray that vengeance and thirst for violence may be converted into mercy, compassion, respect for life, and generosity of heart.

Be Not Afraid

This week, I was going to write a reflection about October being Respect Life Month.  Recent events have changed my post – but not entirely.  The theme for Respect Life this year is “Be not afraid.”  And isn’t that a good message to hear right now?

Respecting life isn’t just about one political issue, like abortion, it’s about being human and not giving into willful destruction of human life.  It’s about not seeing intentional death as a solution to anything.  Death is not entertainment.  Death is not the answer to a problem.  Death is the natural end of earthly life.  By respecting life, we are not afraid of death – but we respect it as natural.  That is, we respect death enough to let it come naturally – not to willingly inflict it upon others or ourselves.

Being human, we naturally seek reason or rhyme for things that happen.  We want to “make sense” of terrible and terrifying things, either through logic or poetry.  But, when someone so evilly goes against God’s will by wreaking so much horror and shedding so much blood… then, there is no rhyme or reason.  There is just evil.  And what our reaction to it will be.  Let us proceed, not out of fear, but with love and respect for one another.

And may God give us courage so that we may not be afraid.

© 2017 Christina Chase


Photo by James Barr on Unsplash

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