In a society marked by tragedies, it cannot be surprising that another lone gunman has let loose on a crowd (last week it was a mall, this week it was a Church and a Missions Center). More alarming was the reported “rant” that the young shooter posted on the internet in between the shooting at the Missions Center and the Church. Most of his anger was directed towards Christians, who were the source of all the bad things in the world.
No one can use the rants of someone who is clearly psychologically troubled as a philosophical point. But with the continued mixture of religion and politics, these misguided conclusions were bound to arise. For many in our culture, right or wrong, President Bush is the evident source of evil in the world. Of course, even if they were correct that he was a bad president, making poor choices, he could not rise to the source of all evil in the world. He’s outclassed in that department.
But as the political battles heat up, in this election cycle, just as Bush will be pilloried, so will 30% of his support which is identified by the mainstream media as “Evangelical Christians.” For Christians that is a specific identifier. For non-Christians it simply means all Christians. And thus at some extreme edge that crosses the boundaries of sanity, a young man acts out the logical conclusion of the political screed he has been fed. Of course, the boundary has been at the other end. Martyrs of lone gunmen (or clinic bombers) have come from the entire spectrum of American politics. Targets are equal opportunity events.
But such madness is fed by the madness of the world in which we live. Of course, people have always killed other people (Genesis does not hide this fact). And if all the sane people in the world ceased to demonize the other sane people in the world gunmen (or their kind) would still occur. They have been with us always in some form.
But something in me was moved to hear on the news today reports from the latest incident that the madness had seen “Christians” as the specific target of his rant against evil. He is not alone. There are those who think the Church (some Church, one of the Churches, all of the Churches) is a specific cause of evil. Novels and movies now substitute organized religion for its bad-boys, since Russians have made peace with us, and Islamists are becoming too trite. As Christianity becomes a minority in many places where once it was the majority (as in Europe) we can expect to see its demonization accompanied by little public censure. It’s like attacking 19th century America in 21st century America. Of course we were bad then.
All the more reason for Christians to get on with being the Church and eschewing the tools of the State. As my Archbishop once noted, when asked a question on Orthodox Christianity’s attitude towards being a state Church: “On the whole we’ve never seen it work out.”
The Kingdom of God is the specific content commanded of our preaching. That Kingdom is not to be confused with the Kingdom of man. If the preaching of the Kingdom of God runs counter to any prevailing political sentiment then we must let the chips fall where they may. We are commanded of God to preach. But we must think very carefully about the difference between a call to preach the Kingdom of God and various opportunities offered to us to bring about some earthly shadow of that Kingdom by the means used by the State. For make no mistake, at the end of the day, the state will use the gun and the gallows to enforce its will (whether in the name of the majority or the name of an ideology). There can be no Christian utilitarian arguments (the greatest good for the greatest number) for we are not placed in charge of the good, much less the outcome of history. We are commanded to preach the gospel and leave history to Christ who brought it to an end in His Cross and Resurrection.
Should Christians vote? Of course, and I plan to if given half a choice. Do I expect to change the world? Never. I have received no such promise from Christ. But I plan to preach the gospel, for this I have received a command. I have no specific promise on the matter of my preaching other than to know the Cross is not for Christ alone – it has been shared by many. I pray for the victims of senseless shootings this month in America. May their families be comforted by Christ and may the departed find rest in the bosom of Abraham. May God forgive the shooters and have mercy on mankind. May God protect Christians and non-Christians alike from the madness that infects our world and give us peace. May the gospel of Christ be preached unhindered.