Reflections on Tucson and What it Might Mean

January 11, 2011

Like everyone else, I was shocked and stunned to hear of the shocking massacre in Tucson on Saturday, a clear assassination attempt on a gifted public servant, Gabriella Giffords, their Democratic Congresswoman. Typically, as in every national tragedy, the media began it’s typical feeding frenzy, wondering what this story meant, what it said about our culture. I don’t really fault the media, because shock often leaves people searching for answers. People want someone or something to blame, because we want to push a button and fix it.

But I’m not sure this story is a statement on our country. Many on the left were quick to blame Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh for their harsh rhetoric. I think this is patently unfair and wrong. I’m not a huge fan of extreme rhetoric on the right. I’ve warned Christians often about the need to be Biblical in our public words. Words do matter. However, nothing Palin said or Rush said can be blamed for this guy’s evil deeds. Just like when a medical doctor massacred his own soldiers at Ft. Hood. Many on the right were quick to blame the President for perceived softness on terrorism and an unwillingness to confront radical Islam. Many on the right drew political meaning from that. That too, was wrong.

We also need some historical perspective. It is true that we live in politically charged times, when anyone can spout ill-informed opinions. However, politics in America has never been tame. Read some biographies of Adams and Washington. Read about Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Read the papers produced by political parties back then. Today’s stuff is tame by comparison.  As a matter of fact, we may have gotten more secure. In the 60’s and 70’s, we saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy. We saw much more violent riots and explosive situations.

So why did what happened in Tucson happen? Why did Ft. Hood happen? Why did a gunman open fire in a church in 2009 and kill a pastor in cold blood?

Not because of Rush or Palin or Obama or anyone. These things happen because of one singular thing we want to avoid talking about in polite society: the evil that lurks in the heart of man. As Christians, we believe the Scriptures, which tell us God’s creation has been radically infected with the poison of sin. Sin lurks in the heart of every human being. We want to believe there is some higher, deeper reasoning, that if we just stopped all the nasty talk, put all the guns away, and locked our leaders in a glass case, there would be no more assassination attempts. That if we just stopped the bullying in schools, if we just had every kid read the New Testament, if all teachers were perfect, we’d have no more school shootings. Sadly, that’s not the case. Because the human heart is wicked. It is evil. But the good news is that there is hope, that hope began on a lonely hill in Israel, 2,000 plus years ago. On a nondescript Roman cross hung a man unjustly sentenced to death. That man, Jesus, was God and man. His death and resurrection are the answer to the problem of evil. And only when men put their full faith in Christ will their hearts have the potential to transform, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. And only when Jesus returns in power and glory, will the instances of evil be forever eliminated from the earth. When every man bows the kneed to King Jesus, will sanity be restored and murder finally put to death.

This is why the Gospel is more relevant and important than it has ever been. We live in a fallen world. Each of us is one tragic accident or sin away from eternity. Those of us who have met Jesus must declare Him to those who don’t.

We also saw in Tucson, the entrance of God’s grace. There in the rubble of sin, we saw the wonderful heroism of Daniel Hernandez, an intern of Rep. Giffords. We saw the story of a pastor who was present and took a bullet, sacrificing himself to save his wife. We saw the steady, grace-filled leadership of our Congressional leaders and our President.

I think what Christians must do at a time like this is pray and ask God’s grace for the families of those who lost people, to pray for the parents of this shooter, and, to pray for the shooter himself, that he might realize his own brokeness and sinfulness and might find salvation on Christ. We might also pray that out of this tragedy, many might come to realize their own need for salvation.

I do know this. God is still sovereign. He is still in charge. In that we can rest.