The morning after hundreds of country music fans were shot at a Las Vegas festival, President Donald Trump called on God to comfort grieving families and victims.
“Scripture teaches us the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” he said, referencing Psalm 34:18. “We seek comfort in those words, for we know that God lives in the hearts of those who grieve.”
The psalm he quoted ranks among the top verses that Bible readers turn to after mass shootings.
Bible Gateway analyzed search patterns surrounding Sunday night’s concert shooting as well as 18 other major incidents of violence over the past decade, including Virginia Tech in 2007, Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, San Bernardino in 2015, and Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016. Among the site’s 150 million-plus visitors a year, the four verses that saw distinct spikes in readership around those shootings were:
- John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
- Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
- Romans 12:19: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
- Psalm 11:5 “The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.”
Overall, these go-to verses address God’s deliverance from the brokenness of the world—a condition many onlookers feel acutely during times of national tragedy.
Passages from the Psalms in particular regularly appear among the most-searched and most-shared verses in Scripture, and they take on particular significance as Christians look to the biblical text to express laments and frustrations.
Pastor Louie Giglio and Christine Caine shared Psalm 34:18 in response to the Vegas attack, while David Platt ranked it as his top prayer for families and victims. Elsewhere in the Psalms, Beth Moore referenced Psalm 7:9, Kari Jobe, Psalm 9:9; and Anne Graham Lotz, Psalm 23:4.
Several verses associated with the end times also trended on Bible Gateway after the mass shootings.
“After a tragic event, some people turn to apocalyptic verses. For example, after the Dallas police shooting in July 2016, the top topics on openbible.info were ‘violence,’ ‘signs of the end times,’ and ‘end of the world,’” said Bible search guru Stephen Smith. (He noted that a Christian website called “End Time Headlines” was even featured on Facebook’s own crisis response page after the attack.)
White evangelicals worry less about being caught up in a mass shooting (38%) than other life-threatening events like a terrorist attack (66%) or a violent crime (61%), according to Pew Research Center data released earlier this year. Along with mainline Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated, evangelicals were less likely than Americans on average to worry about being a victim in a mass shooting.
Pew also found that about a third of white evangelicals favored tighter gun regulations, compared to half of Americans overall. Earlier research by PRRI showed that evangelicals were the only religious group “in which a plurality (40%) say that putting more emphasis on God and morality in school and society is the most important thing that could be done to prevent future mass shootings.”
Evangelical leaders feel more strongly about gun legislation, according to a survey released by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) last month. Among denominational heads and ministry presidents (most of whom own a firearm themselves), 55 percent said gun laws should be stricter.
“Evangelical leaders have nuanced views on guns,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president. “They accept the Second Amendment, but also deeply grieve when weapons are used to take innocent lives.” Anderson tweeted on Monday to offer prayers and condemn the violence in Las Vegas.
At least 58 people were killed, and more than 500 wounded, in the Vegas shooting. Victims include a 29-year-old graduate of Union University, a Southern Baptist school in Tennessee, who died saving his wife.