I didn’t check my news feeds until late this afternoon, so it wasn’t until around 4 o’clock that I saw the news about a church shooting in North Wales, PA. Not only is that just up the road from where I grew up, I have friends who continue to live in the area. Seeing such a headline sent a chill down my spine.
And yet this shooting didn’t follow the normal pattern 1. This death was not caused by some unbalanced person or persons entering a building and unloading bullets. Rather, and this is part which just plain hurts, it was apparently an altercation between church members 2. An altercation which escalated until one person was shot dead, and shooter was himself wounded.
Currently, no charges have been filed because the police are trying to determine if this was a legally justified shooting. I guess this means the shooter had been attacked and feared for his life when he pulled out his legally concealed weapon and fired it. This all happened during the worship service.
I don’t want to pile on 3, or get sunk into stupid partisan political debates – so I won’t. Rather, I will make an appeal from a theological perspective.
Worship is supposed to express the communion of Jesus’ disciples one to another and to the Triune God. It is the mystical moment when the throne room scene of Revelation takes tangible form, and we find ourselves worshipping among a crowd so large our poor minds can’t begin to estimate its number. In general, if we find ourselves driven to an argument where we are come to see an adversary as an inhuman enemy worthy only of destruction 4, this is not an idea which springs from the throne of Heaven. If we feel driven to this already horrible desire during worship, it’s an impulse straight from the pit of hell. Jesus said people will know we are his disciples if we love one another as he loved us. Jesus’ love is most fully manifest through his self-sacrifice on the cross. If we are to love as he loved, shootings and other forms of assault have no business being part our interactions 5.
May we all embrace the kind of compassion, humility, and self-sacrifice which marks Jesus’ kind of love, and may a tragedy like this never happen again.
- If applying the words “normal pattern” to a shooting left a sour taste in your mind, I’m glad. It means you got the point, this shouldn’t be normal – but it has become so. ↩
- The link posted above holds that information. ↩
- It’s good to remember, no matter what your philosophical stance is on a “justified” shooting, this person is as much a human being as the person who was shot and killed. Please don’t turn either shooter or victim into meme fodder. ↩
- Mental, social, or physical. ↩
- I cannot believe I live in a world where that even needs to be pointed out. ↩