Once again our country was plagued by a mass shooting last week in Oregon. A 26 year old man, Chris Harper-Mercer, walked into Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR and killed 9 people and wounded 7 more. Although this is another in a long line of senseless tragedies in a nation that has clearly lost its moral compass, what makes this particular tragedy feel closer to home is this: The victims were singled out for confessing their Christian faith. Apparently, Harper-Mercer asked student to stand up and state their religion. If they answered “Christian” they were shot in the head. If they failed to answer or answered in another way, they were shot in the leg.
Of course our media and our politicians are ignoring that fact (imagine the uproar if he had only killed Muslims!). Instead, all they want to talk about is gun control, which may bring them campaign contributions, but is nothing more than putting a band aid on a tumor. Rather than play politics, perhaps our leaders should pay close attention to this misguided murderer’s own words. Writing on a website forum, Harper-Mercer expressed sympathy for Vester Flanagan, the TV reporter who shot and killed another reporter and her cameraman during a live broadcast in Virginia last August. Harper-Mercer wrote, “People like him have nothing left to live for and the only thing left to do is lash out at a society that has abandoned them.” When you read those words you realize that guns aren’t the issue here. People who feel they have “nothing to live for” and seek to “lash out at society” will use whatever means they can, whether it’s a gun, a knife or a bomb. Would it have made any difference if he would have used a machete or rat poison instead of a gun?
Passing more laws is not going to change people like Harper-Mercer. No, his problem was stated in his own words – he had nothing to live for. Yet, there’s more. USA Today wrote, “Harper-Mercer’s disdain for organized religion was evident in his social media posts and profiles. He used the screen name “IronCross45” and had a dating profile at the site spiritualprofiles.com where he listed his interests as the “internet, killing zombies, movies, music, reading.” Regarding the person he would like to date, he wrote on the same site, “Not Religious, Not Religious, but Spiritual…Pagan, Wiccan, Not Religious, but Spiritual.”
Harper-Mercer’s hate for religion shows his ignorance of Christianity. If he had read the New Testament, he wouldn’t have found anything there that would inspire him to kill people. Instead he would have found a Savior who said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30,31, ESV) and who also said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Loving others and praying for enemies is the solution to what happened in Oregon last week, not the cause. If people in our nation spent more time reading God’s Word and less time on the internet, playing violent video games and seeking answers from false gods and religions, we wouldn’t have to argue over politics because we wouldn’t need to. Loving and praying for others doesn’t lead to mass murder. The truth is that knowing God and following His Son gives a person something to live for.
Of course, the church can’t and shouldn’t wait for politicians to address this problem. It’s our commission, not theirs, to share Jesus with the world. Paul asked important questions in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” How indeed? The answers to Paul’s questions point to the responsibility we have as Christians.
It’s past the time that we stopped allowing the world to change us and instead, we start changing the world with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. More laws won’t change our immoral culture. Only God, His Word and His people can do that.