58 dead and counting. Over 500 wounded. Worst mass shooting in U.S history. And this happened during an outdoor country music event.
I sat in the quiet morning of my house in stunned silence trying to grasp how this could happen. I looked through various news publications and scrolled through my Facebook feed to see what was out there.
I watched one video that contained actual footage of the unfolding shooting. You could hear booming gunfire as screaming people ran, ducking for cover. It’s a horrifying scene.
I tried processing the scenes, while incoherently asking God how this could happen.
A flood of thoughts began entering my mind: Didn’t Charlottesville happen just a little over a month ago? Wasn’t the U.S. just hit with back-to-back Hurricanes? Now this?
At that moment, I felt a familiar inclination come over me: I wanted to shut it all off.
I wanted to turn off my phone and my laptop. I wanted to shut out the entire world, and just enjoy my day.
I felt tired. Tired of tragedy. Tragedy after tragedy. What’s next? When’s the next shooting? Where’s the next natural disaster or hate crime?
Compassion Fatigue In A Shrinking World
We live in unique times.
It’s not the uniqueness of suffering or pain. No, our world has been hurting for a long time.
What’s unique is that the hurts and pains of our world are brought nearer and more rapidly to us than ever before. The smartphone and the digital world has brought the world’s greatest tragedies, literally right before our eyes, in the snap of a finger.
It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when we couldn’t have access to so much news so quickly. Our hurting world has in a way shrunk.
Yeah, it truly is “a time to be alive.” And yet, I wonder if we feel more deadened to it than ever before.
Perhaps the constant stream of news has left us numb to it all. Some have actually termed this as “compassion fatigue.” It’s where the continual bombardment of negative news has made us too calloused to respond even negatively. Instead, everything has become normalized.
“A natural disaster? Oh, that sucks.”
“A shooting? Do you know if it’s linked to terrorism?”
This has become our knee-jerk reactions to tragedy. And even if we respond as we ought to, we do not respond for long.
Have you noticed no one is talking about Charlottesville? We stopped talking about it after two weeks. I read Facebook updates of people I knew personally affected by Hurricane Harvey. But now, who’s talking about hurricanes? A lot of churches have already taken down relief options from their website if they even bothered to put one up to begin with.
And in a week, sadly, many of us will be over Vegas too.
We see. We write on our Facebook timelines. We get our “likes.” And we move on. And if we want to, we don’t even have to see it. We can just look away and close our browser anytime we want to.
Our world has shrunk and maybe our hearts have too.
Fighting for Passion Because of A Growing Kingdom
The characters in the Bible fascinate me, not just because of how in tune they were with divine things, but because of how in tune they were with their own humanity.
I love how Joseph wept uncontrollably when reunited with his brothers. I love how Israel mourned for 40 days after the death of their leader, Moses. I find prophets refreshing, whether weeping (Jeremiah) or angry (Jonah). Nehemiah wept at the face of circumstances post-exile, while Jesus wept over a socially established but unrepentant Jerusalem.
Whether their world was big or small, their hearts were full. When something good happened, they rejoiced, danced, and sang. When something bad happened, they sat and wept while covering themselves in sackcloth and ashes.
And in a lot of ways, this makes sense. They believed the Kingdom of God (God’s reign) was a true reality. This meant when they saw brokenness, they could truly mourn since it gave evidence of sin’s persisting influence in various spheres. But when they witnessed God move, they could rejoice, since it gave evidence of God’s Kingdom breaking into fallen reality.
Doesn’t this mean the reality of God’s advancing Kingdom should invoke in us real human feelings? Shouldn’t we rejoice with those who rejoice? And truly mourn with those who mourn? Doesn’t this invite and beckon us as the people of God to look, pray, act, and hope?
Being the People of the King
Even as I write this, people on Facebook are marking themselves “safe” during “The Violent Incident in Las Vegas, Nevada”. I sigh a breath of relief. But as the death toll and injury reports continue to rise, I’ll sigh a breath of disbelief.
And maybe this is all part and parcel of what it means to be a citizen of God’s ever growing Kingdom. God’s advancing Kingdom invites me to take in the broken world around me and not turn a blind eye to it.
No, it’s impossible to give full energy to every single tragedy or issue. Our world is too broken for that.
But because we claim to experience the King’s presence in saving relationship, maybe that will be enough fuel for us to look at our hurting world at least for today, at least for Vegas.
Let’s look at our enthroned King and let’s look back again at our hurting world.
The Kingdom is growing and so must our hearts.
Photo courtesy of Time Magazine
Steve Bang Lee is the college and teaching director at Living Hope Community Church. He serves on the editorial team for SOLA digital and blogs at www.bangblogs.org