About Las Vegas

Dear friends,
Yesterday we woke up to the news that yet another mass shooting had occurred overnight, this one in Las Vegas, and the worst one yet–the loss of life and the number wounded staggeringly high. 
It’s hard to know what to say in response to such a grotesque, large-scale act of violence, especially when it is visited upon innocent people who were simply out having a good time at a country music festival. 
As I said on Sunday about the devastation in Puerto Rico, it won’t do in times like these to resort to easy platitudes or theological clichés.  To do so would be disrespectful to the victims who lost their lives and to the families and loved ones left behind whose own lives will now be changed forever. 
But that raises the question of what we can say.  In responding to tragedies of this scale, I believe we must start with the truth: this event was horrible–beyond tragic–and it is, of course, profoundly sad, almost paralyzingly so. 
It must also be said that it didn’t need to happen. Mass shootings have become so common in America they’ve become a regular part of life here.  It’s no longer a question of whether another one will occur, but when.  And where.
But these shootings simply don’t happen in other industrialized countries, at least not with anything like the same frequency or on the same scale that they occur here.    
Which only adds to the sorrow we’re feeling.  If these shootings do not occur elsewhere, then, surely, we can figure out a way to keep them from happening here. 
Except we haven’t yet.  And that’s heartbreaking and maddening. 
As I wrote on my Facebook page yesterday, I find myself mourning with the families and the people affected by this shooting.
But I also find myself grieving in a larger way for our country at this moment in our history. For so many things. Hurricanes, earthquakes, racial unrest, unprovoked large-scale violence visited upon innocent civilians. 
To me it feels like we are living in a tomb–a place of darkness, where it’s hard to see hope. 
But this is not the last word.  As Christians, our faith is rooted in the good news that death never has the final say in our story. 
And the story of America is of a country that always find a way to fight through hardship and of a people who come together to survive tragedies. 
So I believe we will rise again as a people and as a country, and that we will live into a better, brighter future.
I not only believe this. I know this. Because so many of us — indeed, millions of Americans, from all walks of life and from many different backgrounds — are working hard realize a brighter future.

So, even in these dark days, I believe we have every reason to keep hope alive.   
But that’s hard to do.  I suspect rising again was not easy even for Jesus. The Gospels don’t tell us how he rose on that first Easter morning, exactly.  But I would wager he didn’t do it alone,  that he had help.  Angels to roll away the stone, angels to liberate him from grave clothes in which he was wrapped. 
I think that’s what church is, or rather who the church is. We are those angels.  We are agents of resurrection.  
Yes, it’s hard work.  But we don’t have to do it alone.  We have each other, for starters.  And we’re also members of the Body of Christ; that is, we are connected with millions of our sisters and brothers around the world who are willing to go into those dark places where hope is hard to find, and who will not rest until we walk out again, together, into the light of a brand new day.   

So, join me in keeping hope alive my friends.  Into the darkness, you shine.  Out of the ashes we rise.