Sin in Sin City

What are we to think about mass murder in Las Vegas? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

America is still in shock over a mass murder that took place in Las Vegas earlier this week. It’s natural for us to mourn and to have some fear hanging over us, but this raises the specter of evil. There are Christians who I saw wondering how there could be a good God in charge of all of this.

That aspect is kind of surprising. The early church faced persecution of all sorts directly and did not say anything about how God isn’t good that I know of. If anything, their trust increased. Could it be part of our world in America is we’ve got so used to safety that we find it out of the ordinary when any kind of suffering comes?

I have also seen Muslims trying to say this was a Christian terrorist. There is no hard evidence I know of that shows that. The only criteria they seem to have for this is that he’s a white man and he’s not a Muslim. Color me skeptical. In fact, I’m skeptical of a lot of claims about who he was and why he did what he did until we have some hard evidence.

The evil about it is something we can talk about. How is it that someone could do something like this? All sides seem to agree that this was a great evil that took place and we just don’t understand it. Most of us have no desire to enter a hotel room and gun down a bunch of people that we don’t even know. At least, I hope a bunch of us don’t.

Yesterday I was driving and listening to my usual talk radio when I heard Trump speaking about the police officers that have been shot in this event. Now I don’t care what you think about Trump good or bad at this point, but he did say something about them. He said that many of them were good fathers and were loving husbands. I am sure he is right. Many people who died and were injured were and are good fathers and loving husbands or the appropriate terms for women who were shot.

Here’s the thing. You know who else is often a good father and a loving husband?

A serial killer.

Many times after something like this happens, neighbors are shocked. “We had no idea. He was such a good neighbor!” Many of the Nazi killers were in fact quite excellent at home in their family life. They just went to work and killed Jews instead.

It’s also easy to do what I saw done and say this is mental illness. Of course, it could be some people who do these things are mentally ill. Some people are just evil though. Blaming it all on mental illness sadly makes the entire community of people with mental illness potential time bombs and could ignore the real problem.

We all know in reality that it’s not the case that we live in a brave new world where if we just give people all the right medication, then we can banish evil from our midst. For most of us, we know this because we can look in the mirror. We can see the reality of evil before us.

One example of this is the Milgram Experiment. Two people would come in. One would be the teacher and the other the learner. The teacher would have to punish the learner for errors that were made. The learner would be hooked up to an electrical system that would supply shocks. An authority figure would tell the teacher to shock the learner and would keep telling the teacher to up the voltage. Some of these would be lethal voltages. The teacher would do this anyway and watch the learner feel the shock every time.

Except the learner wasn’t. The learner was a plant and an actor who was supposed to act shocked every time. The point of the experiment was that good people would go all the way up because an authority figure told them to do so. I seriously doubt that it’s the case that only people with mental illness did so.

So what’s it going to take to end these kinds of events? It’s not going to be more laws. Criminals already disobey laws and don’t care about them. It’s going to have to be a commitment to return to the goodness of virtue. We live so much by our feelings today that we don’t pay attention to virtue. More of the emphasis is helping us to feel good about ourselves instead of to be good. Much of what we talk about is dealing with negative feelings we have instead of negative vices that we have.

It will involve an education, but a moral education. There’s an old saying that if you catch a man stealing parts from a railroad and send him to college to be educated, at the end of his education, he will steal the whole railroad. If a person has an evil heart, knowledge devoid of moral substance will just enable him to be more evil.

And dare I say it, but maybe, just maybe, we need the Gospel. Maybe we need the good news of humans being in the image of God and this being the world that God is reclaiming for His own. Maybe we need Christians to really be Christians and really be the salt and light they’re supposed to be. Radical thought I’m sure, but maybe that is what we need.

Evil is indeed in our world, and one of the first places we need to start to look for it is within. It’s easy to want to go and fix our neighbor. It’s harder to know we need to go and get our own problems taken care of. While I am not going and shooting up a concert from a hotel room, am I in my own way making the world worse or better morally? Am I loving my neighbor as myself truly and loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? How can I improve in those two commands?

Pray for those involved in the shooting and be doing what you can to deal with evil where you find it, especially in your own heart.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts on Orlando

What do I think about the recent massacre? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I do not watch much news, so I was surprised when I kept getting Facebook notices yesterday about people marking themselves safe in Orlando. As I checked, I found out about a shooting that had taken place. In a massacre that had taken place in a homosexual night club, around 50 people were left dead. Many of us were quite horrified. Now I will say I am not one strong in empathy. My wife is that one. Still, I know that something is wrong.

It’s interesting to see the responses taking place. The shooter was someone who swore allegiance to ISIS. Still, despite this being a Muslim who swore allegiance to a terrorist group, it is amazing that Christianity is still getting the blame. We are getting the blame because we have enabled something like this supposedly with “anti-LGBT” laws.

Islam doesn’t need our help. Islam already has a number of pronouncements against homosexuality on its own. I think instead this leaves a lot of moderns in a state of confusion. On the one hand, they want to say Islam is a religion of peace. On the other hand, they want to condemn anything that they think goes against homosexuality. Here in America, we who are Christians disagree with your lifestyle and say we don’t want to see the government endorsing it. In Muslim countries, they will drop walls on you. Try to go to these Muslim countries and have a gay parade and see what happens.

Also, passing laws against behaviors does not equal a hatred towards the people. We disagree with a behavior. It does not mean in any way we hate the person for we can often disagree with our own behavior. We all do things we know that we shouldn’t. Part of the freedom in our American society is the freedom to disagree, but so few people disagree and discuss the issue any more. They instead discuss the persons who hold to the opinion.

I found it interesting to hear of people who were saying that this is why they left the church and Christianity. Again, this was still a Muslim loyal to ISIS who did this, but somehow it got back to the church. Unfortunately, people quote Leviticus in an incorrect way. Now I think there’s a powerful argument to be made that the holiness code of Leviticus 18 and 20 can still apply in large part, but that gets into a lot of reading of Scripture and hermeneutics that can be difficult. It’s an argument that we can make, but perhaps there is a better way.

After all, this assumes that no one would have any problem with homosexuality were it not for the Bible. This is just false. Even long before Christ it was seen as wrong to accuse someone of taking part in a homosexual relationship. In many cases, it was a man allowing himself to be treated as a woman which was seen as shameful. In the Greco-Roman world, there were mixed opinions, except on lesbianism. Most everyone condemned lesbianism. These condemnations were from people who were not following the Bible at all.

In fact, a common practice of the day was pederasty. This was a sexual relationship between a grown man and a young boy until the boy came of age. The man was not necessarily homosexual as he could have a wife as well, but this was seen as normal and according to nature in many ways. Today, most of us would look at something like the North American Man-Boy Love Association and condemn it. It would be considered as pedophilia today. (Although give it a few years and we’ll see what happens with pedophilia in the world) This was for the most part accepted and today, we would not share that opinion.

You can remove the Bible and still have a case against homosexual practice just like some of the ancient Greeks did. Unfortunately, too many growing up and leaving the church never consider the case against homosexual behavior. They just have a stance they don’t question and then say “Well if the Bible is against that, then it must be wrong.” (Unfortunately, this ties in with inerrancy as well as it is thought that if the Bible is wrong in this, can we take it seriously on anything else?) Of course, I don’t think the Bible is wrong, but the debate is not about the Bible even. It is about a practice.

If there is one thing that I found sad about it, it was in telling Allie last night that so many Christians were saying we are against the violence that took place. Now why would that be sad? Is it because I am in favor of the violence. No! Not at all! This was a wicked and evil act! What was sad is that we think we need to say it. It’s as if we are in a position where unless we come out and say we condemn the violence, that the world will look and think that we automatically support it. Is it a fault with how we are living Christianity or a fault of how we are explaining Christianity or both?

To go political, I also see that Obama made a statement. I have done a search of this statement. Nowhere in it is ISIS or Islam mentioned. I find it sad that our president is willing to speak out against people who are not wanting to allow transgenders to use the opposite bathroom, but when a shooting like this takes place, he cannot speak out against ISIS at all. ISIS is responsible for this. Why are we so hesitant to name the enemy?

It’s also easy to blame the guns. I happen to support the second amendment. Guns are not the problem but evil people with guns. I have no fear of a law-abiding citizen carrying a gun. It’s my contention that if you set up an area and declare it a “gun-free zone” you might as well put up a sign that says “Sitting ducks.” If an evil person wants to get a gun, they will get a gun. No law will stop them. If a law against murder is not stopping them, why would a law against guns?

No. The problem is we have lost our drive toward virtue and character. We live in a world where we seek the best for ourselves only and pleasure is the highest god. We don’t think seriously about being a good citizen. Most of us do not know how to engage in moral thinking. In fact, most of us don’t know how to engage in thinking. We talk so much about our feelings and we say so little about our thoughts. It has reached the point where if we feel it, then it must be true without really considering that our feelings could be wrong.

So in conclusion, what can be said? Yes. This was evil. I hate to have to say it because I shouldn’t need to, but we do condemn this. Some of you might use this as an excuse to avoid Christianity, but I urge you to look at the historical case for the resurrection instead and then decide. No. Changing gun laws will not make this less likely to happen. Finally, we need to name our enemy. ISIS is a threat and they are destroying societies in the Middle East and persecuting Christians and they can train people over here just as easily right under our noses.

The solution again is the same. It’s time for the church to be the church.

In Christ,
Nick Peters