The deaths and suffering of all the victims in Las Vegas is heartbreaking. The unanswered question about the killer’s motives and background are troubling. The heartlessness of those quickly advocating strongly for and strongly against gun control are annoying. Those enjoying the fact that human lives were lost and harmed are sick.
We were once a people who honored the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do to you. We have devolved into a nation of vengeance. Too many of us have a thirst for blood. A civilization is judged not by its ability to destroy its enemies, but by the honorable way it treats those whom it has under its control.
Justice discriminates out of caution. It is better that a guilty man should go free or be under-punished than to have an innocent man or innocent people be injured. Punishment of even the worst criminals cannot be cruel or unusual.
Vengeance is indiscriminate. It is a ravenous pack of wolves and its appetite can never be satisfied. Vengeance cares not for the innocent and the severity of the violence is often far beyond the act for which vengeance is sought.
As I scrolled through articles on the massacre, I came across a photo of Steven Paddock. He was dead. It was gory. I quickly scrolled on, paused then scrolled back. As I looked at him, I didn’t feel compassion for him. Justice says that he should die. But my faith tells me that he was created in God’s likeness and image and that God loves him just as much as he loves me. I have prayed for him now, but nothing like the prayers I’ve said for the victims.
Part of me wonders if he was a victim as well. Maybe he was brainwashed or possessed or somehow under the control of someone or something. Maybe he was coerced into bankrolling the whole thing, then executed once he was no longer useful.
After I scrolled away from Paddock’s photo, I came across a video from a concertgoer. The video starts shortly after the shooting stopped and most of the concert area had emptied out. I caught glimpses of lifeless victims, laying in their own blood on the ground as the man checked for pulses and signs of life. As he was shouting for EMT’s and nurses others shouted for help as well.
I know one of the people who was at the concert. I don’t know him well, but I just spoke with him about a week before the massacre. At first, he protected his family, but once the shooting stopped he helped the injured. He brought hope and comfort to the victims instead of running, cowering or losing his mind. Courageous selflessness is something that may wake us up to the fact that vengeance is an infinite battle against ourselves.
Whether Paddock was a white supremist or an antifa doesn’t matter much today. Whether he was a Democrat or a Republican doesn’t matter much today. Whether he was insane or radicalized doesn’t matter much today. Whether he was retaliating for Charlottesville or triggered by Hodgkinson doesn’t matter much today. There will be time for all of these questions.
Now is the time to honor those who died, those who are suffering and those who responded. People need to grieve their losses for at least a few days. The survivors need to begin healing. Investigators need to assess evidence. The rest of us just need to pray, love our neighbors and forgive.
The United States is committing suicide. Tragedies like this expose just how fragile we are as a nation. The way we entertain ourselves, the way we treat each other, the way we try to solve our problems… its all broken. I wish there was a big “reset” button someone could push, but then there would be a fight about whether to push it, who should push it and what may happen once it was pushed.
I say we look to Las Vegas and hit our own personal reset button.
Lord, may I be humble in the face of pride. May I mourn as I should. May I be gentle and not vengeful. May I hunger and thirst for righteousness, not seeking more than is just and not condemning those who fail though they try. May I show mercy to others. May I be pure in my thoughts and in my ways and may I offer peace instead of the sword. I know that these things may expose me to persecution and that I may be ridiculed and suffer scandal, but this is where you want me Lord.