My heart goes out to the families of those affected by the senseless tragedy in San Bernardino, California yesterday. According to the latest news, 14 people were killed and 17 more were injured. Possibly 31 families whose lives have been forever altered by this senseless violence. I add my voice to the voices of the multitudes who cry out, “Enough!” This evil must stop. Seven mass shooting events in the last five months. By some counts, over 350 such events have transpired in 2015 with hundreds killed and hundreds more injured. And sadly, the battle that is raging in the press and amongst the politicians of this great nation boggles the mind. Criminal act or act of terrorism? Maybe workplace violence? Stricter gun control laws or need more guns on the streets? And if you are adding your voice to any of this, then you, like the rest of these people, have totally missed the point.
Now to be fair, I must admit to you that I am a pistol-packing preacher properly permitted by the State of Alabama and Morgan County. I grew up hunting. Guns were just part of our lives, and I am a member of the NRA though I think I haven’t paid my dues lately. Add to that the fact that I am a conservative Republican and you begin to get the picture of where I stand on all of the issues above. But in this case, many, if not most, of the voices raised in anger following this latest incident are exactly wrong.
Based on the reports that I have read in the news, the shooting in San Bernardino was not an act of workplace violence, and it goes beyond the scope of a typical criminal act. Pipe bombs, long guns, and body armor sound a whole lot like terrorism to me. Add to that the fact that the husband and wife duo have Middle Eastern names that lend themselves to Muslim ideology, and you have to say, “If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it probably isn’t a turkey.” However, even though every terrorist act that I can call to mind came at the hands of Muslim radicals and while Islam is not a religion of peace and truly calls for the annihilation of infidels like me, it is wrong – even sinful – to say that all Muslims are guilty and should be banned from our country. Many do not have any idea what the true teachings of their religion demand, and many more are guilty of remaining silent in the face of these horrific acts. And I will add to this that common human decency, forget what the Quran teaches, demands that they stand up and condemn loudly both the actions and the ideologies of these perpetrators. But that is true of most of us when it comes to confronting our own people. As a pastor, I have witnessed this many times in the church setting: well-meaning people who sit silently while a few wrong-minded people force their wills on the majority. It is human nature, but Christian men and women are commanded to set aside that human nature. Muslims are not. So how can we expect non-Christians to behave like Christians when many Christians don’t even behave like Christians? So let’s not compound our sin by adding to it the sin of hypocrisy. Let’s be honest and let’s be Christlike as we lovingly stand against these actions and teach by word and deed that if we are going to protect life, we all must speak boldly and condemn that which is evil.
And as for the arguments about gun control, more laws will not change what is going on. You see, these people who are committing these terrible acts don’t care about the law. They are breaking dozens of laws that are already on the books, so why do we think that more laws will change the situation? Criminals will always get guns, and if they can’t get guns, they will find machetes, and if they can’t find machetes, they will pick us rocks. And the violence will continue. On the same note, arming the citizens of this great land will probably do very little to stop the situation either. I fear that most people who legally carry guns today do not practice enough to maintain what is a perishable skill – meaning that, as my dad use to say, “They couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn if they were standing inside.”
So what is the answer? You have probably guessed what I am about to say, but that’s good because it means that you are already thinking. The only answer to the horrible terrorism/crime problems mentioned above is the same answer the Bible gives for the sin problem that grips us all: a life-transforming, heart-changing, mind-renewing encounter with the grace of our Holy God. Those who are not in a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ need Christians to live and breathe that grace every moment of every day. They need to see us walk the walk of the Christian life following in the footsteps of Jesus, but they also must hear us speak the words of salvation as we share with them the good news of God’s love, of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for their sins, and the hope that comes through repentance. And that is only going to happen when we experience revival in the church of the Living God. Not a revival service – true revival that changes us from the inside out, that returns us to our first love when we met Jesus and were changed.
So I pray for the families in San Bernardino who are grieving. It is especially sad to think that they are going through this in the season we call Christmas, but our God is able to turn this tragedy into a true Christmas miracle if His people will let Him use them to speak truth into this situation.