Crassness in the Wake of Tragedy

Like everyone else, I woke up to the horrific news of the shooting in Las Vegas today. Before we even knew how many shooters were involved or how many casualties there were, the internet was inundated with the hottest of hot takes – spurred in many instances by even hotter tempers. 

As the day wears on, we all are left to sift through the deluge of information and opinion in order to find answers. Most of us are still waiting, but we have managed to check on our friends and family members in the area. Some of the news we’ve received, personally, has been a great relief, but some of us are grieving and hoping that modern medicine will find a way to make our loved ones whole again. While news and opinion pieces rush out into the web at the speed of type, for many people the world has ground to a screeching halt.

It is always at times such as these that you can count on two sureties: there will be an outpouring of compassion and prayer, and there will be those using the tragedy to elevate themselves. 

It goes without saying that any shooting will be politicized aggressively and immediately. Before we have even the slightest clue what kind of weapon was used or how many laws were broken to acquire said weapon, there will be those demanding more laws, standing on the still warm bodies of the victims and demanding “justice” by means of “doing something.” It’s an easy position to take, bolstered by shock and emotion. It will inevitably elicit the kneejerk response of “terrorism” and “mental illness,” as if a perfectly sane person could never choose to do evil. 

While politicizing a tragedy is crass and crude and cheap, it is perhaps in some small way slightly more altruistic than the other kind of sneering in the wake of tragedy – that of the atheist.

I was not surprised but still disappointed to see responses to the call for prayer in the aftermath of the shooting were mocking and snide. A simple post on Facebook, which did not name a god or religion, devolved into the most vile attacks on people of faith. 

As a Christian myself, I have often asked for prayer during difficult times and sometimes my atheist or agnostic friends will instead offer “positive energy and good thoughts.” This does not offend me. It’s wonderful that they care enough to think kindly toward me, and I believe they are closer to conversing with God than they realize. 

Hannah was presumed to be drunk because her grief over not conceiving made her prayer more the sound of silent agony and thought than a clearly spoken appeal to the Lord. If someone is sending positive energy, God hears the desire of their heart. Is that not better than apathy? Is it not a thousand times better than condescension?

I’m not saying we must agree on the politics or see eye to eye on religion, but in the wake of something so terrible is it asking too much to simply hold our peace and give our thoughts to the victims rather than puff ourselves up with our own importance? Especially when people are offering thoughts and prayers for those affected and grieving, can you not accept that putting positive energy out into the world is better than sneering at the efforts of those who would? What has your condescension and pride done for the victims, and how is it any better than a solemn and sincere offer of prayer?

Clearly we are not lacking the sort of characters who would look down on their fellow man as a thing deserving contempt. That is, after all, what started this mess.

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