One of the growing concerns I have as a pastor attempting to lead and love in this current era is what seems to be a nation’s fading capacity to be shocked.
Events and realities that would have left us aghast even one generation ago have tragically become normalized as a part of the daily news cycle.
We have come to expect the drama, the vitriol, the violence, until gradually, gone unchecked, unexamined, unchallenged, the soul is numbed, desensitized to how far away from center we have slipped.
Then, occasionally, something happens to stretch the bandwidth of our tolerance. Vegas.
From 32 floors up, a sea of 22,000 concertgoers are sprayed with relentless gunfire. Chilling video captures 10 to 15 minutes of gunfire at a rate of nine rounds per second. When the smoke clears, 59 people will have been killed with 527 more injured.
Though taken admittedly (and brutally) out of context, my loss for words compels me to borrow a verse from Jeremiah: “Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord (Jeremiah 2:12).”
Is there shock left in our system? Enough soul to be appalled? I believe there is.
But the question is, what will it matter? (This fact that we may be appalled.) Will it result in anything other than the predictable way of things?
First, the tragedy du jour.
Second, the well-meaning memes and hashtags: #VegasStrong, #RememberOrlando #PrayForChattanooga and so on.
Third, the public statements from leaders, politicians and even pastors about how all of our “thoughts and prayers” are with …
Fourth (and perhaps most fundamentally flawed), the deluge of images, media commentary and pundit interpretation, wedging the world once again to its predictable corners, from which we rehearse the same weary and circular arguments about who’s to blame and what can or can’t or will or won’t ever be done about it.
Is there enough shock left among us to be appalled? Probably.
Is there enough wisdom and resolve left within us to do anything about it? I believe there is.
Why? Because there are still peacemakers among us. And it is they who will be called “children of God.”
But this kind of peacemaking will require a change in the rhetoric, a shift in the conversation.
We all know the script when it comes to the present dialogue on gun violence in America. We know it well. And thus far, all of the entrenched convictions, fueled by emotional fervor have left a nation stalled out, in a state of inaction.
When will we become appalled enough to mobilize our “thoughts and prayers” into just and righteous action?
What new thought, what unspoken word, what unpredictable and non-defensive perspective will be required of us? Of you? Of me?
The prayer of this pastor is that a real and actionable way forward will emerge from among the peacemakers; a way that may actually have a chance at shaping a less appalling world.
Because until that happens, what happened in Vegas is not likely to stay in Vegas.
Shaun King is the senior pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. A version of this article first appeared on the John’s Creek staff blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @PastorShaunKing.