With 58 people killed and 515 injured, last night’s attack in Las Vegas is the most deadly lone-gunman shooting in modern United States history. The carnage and senselessness of this attack renders us simultaneously angry and virtually speechless. Why? How?

To this first question, we will soon know more. At this moment, we do not know much about the gunman, Stephen Paddock. Undoubtedly, we will discover exactly how lost this man was. We will discover the many demons which led him to arrive at a moment of unspeakable evil. Thanks to our 24/7 news culture, we will know all the details as they emerge and to a depth that is almost voyeuristic.

All of this knowing, however, will not solve the questions facing the family members of those 58 people who died at his hand. No explanation of mental sickness or deranged psychopathy would solve the burning question of why. Why my son? Why my daughter? Why my spouse? Why not me?

There is no good answer to those questions, just tears. To the families and communities affected by this atrocity, we grieve with you.

As for the second question of how, there is a clear answer, though it will be accused of being “political.” Mr. Paddock lived in a society that allowed him to procure weapons which when used effectively (as they were) should be regarded as weapons of mass-destruction. Under the semblance of 2nd Amendment rights and hunting hobbies, our society enabled this man to assemble a veritable arsenal which he then used in a way that no one with a permit to carry could prevent. In short, we live in a society that celebrates the ownership of deadly instruments of violence.

This deadly shooting is not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last unless our society chooses a different way. How these atrocities continue to happen is a question that all of us should wrestle with. No amount of game can make up for the human lives lost to gun-violence. No amount of “personal safety” can justify the masses of innocents lost to a “lone gunmen” in a society of gun lovers.

We have failed these 58 victims, the 515 injured. We have failed you families of the same. We can only pray that you will forgive us.

These questions will continue to be asked, continue to be answered or ignored, but we have faith that the God we see in Jesus is big enough for these questions, that God through Jesus knows the pain of death, and that we are never alone in our suffering and brokenness.

To that God, we go in prayer:

Loving God,
our hearts are broken,
and we are overcome with questions
that have no answers.
Fifty-eight bearers of your image 
were taken from our human family.
They were stolen from us,
and not regarded as worth the price you paid.

Lord, have mercy and send your Spirit.

For the families of those who were taken:
May you send your Spirit of comfort.
May you meet them in their pain,
not with trite answers, but with
a heart that is also broken.
We know you are bigger than our pain,
but in Your love you are not above it.

Lord. have mercy and send your Spirit

For our nation which is struck dumb with
tragedy upon tragedy:
May you give us words to speak
that will bring courage and hope. 
May you give us a love for peace that
transcends our fear of the other. 
We know that we must change for the better,
help us on this path towards true justice.

Lord, have mercy and send your Spirit.

Note from the Editorial Team:
Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.

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Mark Burnham
Mark Burnham
5 years ago

First, I must address how incorrect your opening statement is. Without any qualifiers, the Las Vegas attack doesn’t even come close to being the most deadly. Your opening statement will most assuredly offend people of color. The Los Vegas attack might have been the most deadly where Caucasian people were killed but it, without a doubt, was not the most deadly in history. A casual perusal of American history of white against Native American or White against African American will show you unspeakable atrocities much greater in number than Los Vegas. The point of your article is so very valid,… Read more »

Alex Mayfield
5 years ago
Reply to  Mark Burnham

Mark, you are correct and thank you for bringing a voice to that history. The language was sloppy, and we’ve updated it to better reflect what we meant and to be more historically accurate. Unfortunately, we have a long history of domestic gun violence with far too many casualties.