Parkland Florida has now been added to a horrible list of mass shootings in the U.S.A. That list includes Columbine High School, the recent shooting in Las Vegas, in the Orlando night club, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, at Sutherland Springs Church in Texas and more. Whether it is in a church, a gay night club, a public school or an open public square, mass shootings are becoming commonplace in the U.S.A.
It is my belief that making semi-automatic weapons easily available for purchase is surely a very large contributing factor. In Canada, as I understand it, semi-automatic weapons are limited to a capacity of only five rounds. Some pistols allow for a 10-round capacity. For my part, I am an advocate of limiting the number of rounds available, thus making it very difficult for a gun to be used in a mass shooting.
But that matter put aside, I find myself overwhelmed at the frequency of mass shootings. One can only imagine the pain of a mother or a father discovering that a son or daughter has been killed in such an event. The sheer scope of the loss with its subsequent grief is overwhelming.
Is there any counsel the Bible might have? I can think of at least four things.
1. Is there a place for self-defense? Luke 22:35-38 is often used to justify this approach. In that passage, Jesus tells his disciples to buy a sword. It is quite likely that the sword could be used in self-defense. But when the 12 tell Him they have two swords, He tells them that is enough. I conclude therefore that Jesus did not allow His disciples any more than a minimalist use of weapons. That might be good counsel today. For those who argue for guns, we might argue that even while the Gospel allows for it, it seems concerned that their use is limited.
2. We must insist on peaceful disagreements. James 3:17 reminds us that the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Often the Internet and other means of public communication is harsh, vitriolic, mistrustful and filled with intense emotions. We do well to communicate James 3:17. When we disagree, we should resort to calm tones. We should listen carefully to the viewpoint of others. We should resort to reason, not to emotion. We should remind a world in which harsh words have become common, especially on social media, that this method of communication only leads to violence.
3. We must look for ways of ending isolation and marginalization. Almost always, those who do the shooting are angry, lonely, frustrated and filled with hate. Human beings were created to live in healthy, loving and truth-filled community. When human interaction takes place primarily through electronic means rather than accountable community, evil is allowed to flourish. For this reason, the church must serve as the place where healthy community, accountable to one another and to God, must be seen as the normal human experience.
4. Christians must look for ways to reach out to those who have been harmed by ever-increasing incidents of violence. By standing with the grieving, we tell those who have suffered horror that they do not stand alone.