“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us that God is very close to those who grieve, and brings them solace.
Late last night, an assailant opened fire in a popular bar in Thousand Oaks, California, and killed 12 persons, including the first law enforcement officer to respond. Many others were injured. Many of the patrons of the bar were local college students, some from our own California Lutheran University nearby.
It is impossible to express how deeply shocked and saddened I (and all of us) are by this tragic event. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims, and to those who are being treated for their injuries. We are grateful for the care being shown for the victims by members of the community.
Our special care right now is for the California Lutheran University community, which has been deeply affected by this tragedy: as our students and staff mourn their friends, waiting in suspense for word on the condition of the injured, the Cal Lutheran community has itself been wounded, and its sense of security shattered by this violent act.
It may never be possible to know what motivated the person who committed this crime, but tragically, such events are not rare in our nation, and—increasingly—mass shootings have become commonplace in America. What must we do, as a nation, to confront this unacceptable “new normal”?
We live in a culture full of violence, even violence as entertainment. We live in a culture in which mental illness is not recognized for the great problem it is, and those damaged by their experience of violence do not receive the help they need. We live in a world in which, increasingly, selfishness is promoted over the common good. And we are a nation awash in guns.
I call on all Christians, and all who receive this message, to consider how we each can work to reduce violence in our society, to resist its glorification in the public forum, and to care more deeply for the welfare of those caught up in cycles of under-treated mental illness. I call on all of us to join in promoting a more peaceful society by connecting with neighbors and friends so that no one suffers alone.
I ask for your prayers for peace and healing, but I ask also for you to take action in your neighborhoods and communities, in your political lives as well as your lives of faith, to fight the scourge of violence in our midst. Jesus also says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
May God be with Cal Lutheran, with Thousand Oaks, and with all of us in this troubled time; may you find healing and consolation in your friends and your faith, and may you find new resolve to resist the impulses toward violence that threaten to tear us apart.
God bless you all.