Yet another shooting tragedy has befallen us in the United States. Starting with Columbine in 1999, it has become a regular feature of American life in the 21st century. Fast forward to Friday, and we are now mourning the absurd slaughter of 12 people trapped in a theater in Aurora, Colorado. Our reactions cultural and personal are interesting to behold.

Take mine: my first thought as a devout follower of the Prince of Peace was to think, Maybe I should start packing a gun. We live in a broken society in which the police can no longer protect me and my family. It's probably up to me to do that now.

My sarcasm does not signal that I'm for or against gun control. We may be at a cultural moment when more self-defense is called for. Or maybe such a solution would just lead to more useless violence. I'll let political and social scientists sort that out. I'm more interested at this point in my reaction as a disciple of Jesus: it began with fear and self-protection.

It then moved on to vainglory, as I imagined how I would want to act in such a horrific situation. I had images of myself tackling the shooter or throwing my body over helpless victims, taking the bullet for others. This is adolescent, I know, but it's actually what went through my mind. For all I know, at such a moment, I may just as easily pee in my pants. But my pride says I'd play the hero.

At some point, my thoughts finally got around to thinking about others, to those who actually took a bullet, the wounded and dead, and the loved ones left grieving. But then another uncharitable thought immediately rose to the surface: I'd happily kill the s.o.b. who did the shooting.

I suspect my selfish, prideful, and revengeful reactions are not unusual, ...

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SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today and author, most recently, of Karl Barth: An Introductory Biography for Evangelicals.
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