The cross that stands at the heart of Christianity is a potent reminder that humanity is vulnerable to violence – cruelty so fierce that it can end an earthly life.
We’d like to think that our species has outgrown the kind of bloodshed that defined the Roman Empire where Jesus was crucified. In many ways, in fact, civilization has come a long way.
But what happened on Sunday at a small church in Texas reveals how much darkness still dwells among us centuries after the rule of Caesar Augustus. What we know is that a troubled man entered the First Baptist Church in Sutherland, Texas and shot 26 worshipers to death, including children. What we cannot know – what we can never fully know – is what would bring a person to do such a thing.
The mass murderers among us look for crowds because that’s where they can find the most lives to shatter. America gives these evildoers plenty of opportunity because, even in a time lamented as the great age of social isolation, we remain a hearty tribe of gatherers. We assemble to celebrate, to eat, to hear music. We get together to watch movies, as some theatergoers did in Lafayette two years ago, when a crazed gunman shot up a cineplex, killing two people and injuring nine others.
And yes, we gather to worship. That is how, on Christianity’s most sacred day of the week, a man consumed by anger was able to snuff out more than two dozen lives.
Louisiana residents know what it’s like to suffer the shock of mass shootings. Sadly, they’ve become so common that no corner of the country seems untouched.
The horror of it all might drive us inward, behind the locked doors of our homes, resolved not to mingle unless we really have to. But that’s not what happened in Texas, as crowds gathered this week near the First Baptist Church of Sutherland to offer support.
And although these kinds of things are hard to track, we suspect that church attendance this Sunday across the country, including Louisiana, will be up, not down.
Christianity recognizes that violence violates the human experience, although it doesn’t define it. That idea resonates in all major religions, and even among many of those who claim no particular faith at all.
It’s what will sustain us in these troubled times, as we look toward a higher strength no murderer can ever extinguish.