Last night I watched Batman: The Dark Knight Rises – the third leg of a brilliant trilogy. It was wonderful. I don’t want to get into the details about the movie because for one thing, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. For another, something far more important happened while I was enjoying the movie.
In Aurora, Colorado, an armed man walked into a theater of people awaiting the same movie I was watching, tossed teargas into the crowd, and started firing. He killed 14 and injured 50 others. I found out on Twitter when I first woke up this morning.
Initially, I thought it had been some sort of school shooting – that yet another student took matters into his own hands and went off on people he hated. But then I found out it was in a movie theater where hundreds of people had gathered to watch The Dark Knight Rises. Like me, these people – these 64 people – bought tickets, arrived early to find a good seat, eagerly awaited for the lights to dim, and then got annoyed at the endless movie trailers. Unlike me, however, those 64 people – and everyone else in the theater – had their lives permanently changed.
14 were killed, 50 others wounded, but everyone in that theater, the theaters nearby, and the surrounding communities were scarred for life. For many of them, attending movies on opening night might never happen again. Heck, attending movies in a theater might never happen again.
In that moment I had realized it was a theater much like the one I sat in, I immediately pictured the gunman coming in through the exit signs in the front, tossing the can of teargas into the 6th or 7th row, and then firing round after round into the crowd of people. I tried to imagine the sound of the gun as it emptied and reloaded. I tried to see just how nervous and rattled I’d be in the heat of the moment. For someone who had just been at the theater not 4 hours prior to finding out about what happened, it wasn’t hard to do. In a small way, I got a taste of what Aurora felt – a very, very, very small taste. And it was still enough to give me chills.
In these types of events we are prone to draw out the similarities and make up cliché phrases like, “It’s the quiet ones you’ve got to watch out for” or “This is why guns shouldn’t be sold to the public” or whatever else we can think of. And while the human condition is very similar from person to person – that there is always some kind of flaw in each of us – this was a different situation. It was a different shooter at a different location with a different agenda in mind – even if he didn’t have an agenda. It would be wise for those of us far away reading about the story online, watching it on TV, or hearing about it on the radio to exercise a little empathy not just for the victims and their families – rest assured, they most certainly need it – but for the shooter and his family.
No, what he did was horrifyingly wrong. I’m not defending his actions in any way shape or form. But I personally believe that he once had a mother who once believed he’d be something good in this world. Her heart, after hearing about what her son had done, must now be broken. Her parents and distant relatives might now be looking at her differently – conjuring up rumors that she apparently can’t raise kids very well when the real reason might be because this kid didn’t have a dad or had a chemical imbalance or any of a thousand different reasons. What this person chose to do hurt a lot of people he didn’t know and a lot of people who cared quite a bit about him.
Before we pull the trigger of judgment on this shooter, his parents, guns, or anyone or anything else, let’s remember that God shines His light on the good AND the evil, righteous AND unrighteous, rich AND poor.
Pray for the victims and their families most definitely. But, if you have the courage to do so, pray for the shooter and his family also. In cases like these, everyone’s hurting and only a few are helping. Choose the way of Jesus by being one of the helpers.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly for the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'” – Matthew 9:36-38