Mourning in the Wake of Las Vegas

Weeping for the Suffering, Calling Evil by Name

By John Stonestreet Published on October 3, 2017

Our nation is faced with another act of horrific evil. This time, a mass shooting in Las Vegas. What do we say? What do we do?

For the third time — by my count — since Eric and I became the voices of BreakPoint, I find myself using the phrase, “the worst mass shooting in U. S. history,” this time to describe the massacre of — at the time of this recording — 58 people, with an additional 500 people wounded, at a country music concert in Las Vegas.

It’s horrific. What can even be said?

In today’s politically divided landscape, we’re tempted to simply retreat to a standard list of explanations to try to explain what happened or to assign blame — like on guns or mental illness or “them” — i.e. those that are across the political or religious aisle from us. But this gut level response misses the core issue at hand.

Back in 2007, after 32 innocent people were gunned down at Virginia Tech, Chuck Colson talked about the importance of acknowledging the reality of evil. He started by describing a visit to a prison in Norway:

I witnessed an extreme example of this therapeutic thinking during a visit to a Norwegian prison years ago. Throughout the tour, officials bragged about employing the most humane and progressive treatment methods anywhere in the world. I met several doctors in white coats.

That prompted me to ask how many of the inmates, who were all there for serious crimes, were mentally ill. The warden replied, “Oh, all of them.” I must have looked surprised, because she said, “Well, of course, anyone who commits a crime this serious is obviously mentally unbalanced.”

Stated differently, there’s no such thing as sin and evil, and the only reason why people might commit serious crimes is that they’re mentally ill. Thus the best — and perhaps, only — response to crime is behavior modification and all those other up-to-date psychological techniques.

While the Norwegian approach would strike most Americans as very naïve, the difference between them and us is one of degree, not kind. We also blame crime on external factors, like mental illness, culture, dysfunctional childhood, and the like.

We’re uncomfortable attributing events like this to human evil, much less to a kind of evil that seeks to undo God’s creation — what Christians call the demonic.

Yet without this idea, events like this massacre can never be understood.

You know, Chuck is right. Evil is real and it resides — not just “out there” in the world, or the culture — but “in here,” in the human heart. Seeing it played out so hideously in Las Vegas leaves us only at the place of saying, with other followers of Christ throughout history, “Kyrie Eleison,” or Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy upon us.

And how might we, as Christians, respond?

First, as Ed Stetzer wrote in Christianity Today, prayer is a powerful response to suffering and evil. So pray for the victims and their families, for civic leaders and first responders. Pray that Christians in Las Vegas will be effective in their ministry and service.

Second, God’s people must remember the exhortation to “mourn with those who mourn.” Facebook and Twitter might tempt us to forget that there are very real people mourning the death of real people, and to offer lines of political agenda or ideological simplicity or even to offer Bible verses wrapped up in a nice little bow. Better than all of that is that we join our tears with those who weep.

Third, we run into, not away, from this brokenness. Whether it’s in giving blood, providing care, or jumping into that conversation with our neighbors that we’d rather not, we emulate Christ by — like Him — joining the suffering of those around us.

And finally, we cry out with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?” Groaning together with all of creation for that day when God Himself will “wipe away every tear,” and “death shall be no more.”

Mourning in the Wake of Las Vegas: Weeping for the Suffering, Calling Evil by Name

As John has urged, please pray for the victims in Las Vegas, the first responders and medical personnel, and especially for the churches there. May God use His Body to bring hope, healing and new life to an area that has experienced such a horrific tragedy.


This commentary was co-authored by David Carlson.

Originally published on BreakPoint Commentaries, October 3, 2017. Re-published with permission of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

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  • Linda

    WASHINGTON—Expressing a sense of guarded optimism that the latest incident of gun violence that left 58 dead and 500 injured in Las Vegas would be a turning point for the nation, Americans across the country confirmed Monday they were hopeful this would be the last mass shooting before all such occurrences stopped on their own for no reason at all. “After something as horrific as what happened in Las Vegas, we’re all just hoping that now these terrible shootings will stop once and for all without circumstances changing in any way or any of us taking even the slightest amount of action in response,” said Harrisburg, PA resident David Snyder, echoing the sentiments of tens of millions of citizens from coast to coast who told reporters they were confident that, after living through the most deadly mass shooting in modern American history and taking no material steps to change gun laws, reevaluate safety standards, increase access to mental health care, or even have a national conversation about how mass shootings could be avoided in the future, tragedies of this kind would at long last come to an end. “Having seen acts of violence like this happen over and over again for years now, I’m really holding out hope that, despite every single factor that allowed them to occur remaining exactly the same, we won’t have to live through another day like today. I know everyone’s praying this will finally be the time this issue just disappears forever entirely by itself without anyone doing anything.” At press time, Americans nationwide agreed that years of taking no measures whatsoever to prevent mass shootings may finally be paying off.

    • Charles Burge

      Instead of posting satire, why not make a specific policy proposal that would have prevented this specific tragedy?

  • LYoung

    Amen dear brothers. We must not weary of praying or helping our neighbors in times of suffering. Thank you for the exhortation.

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