- - Sunday, July 29, 2012


Culture Challenge of the Week: When Evil Enters

The nation is still in shock over the rampage in a Colorado movie theater that killed 12 people and injured 58 others. The physical destruction was massive, but the shooter’s actions scarred the psyches and hearts of many more.

Those who escaped will never forget the bloody terror of random bullets and choking smoke. Nor will the first responders who faced carnage and chaos in the murderer’s wake. As families absorbed the news of death, critical injuries and emotional wounds, Americans across the country sent prayers, comfort and practical help.

Even as James Holmes, the only suspect in the shooting, was arraigned, ordinary Americans continued to wrestle with the question, “Why?” We struggle to understand how one person could inflict mayhem and suffering on so many other human beings — and appear remorseless. While mental illness may have played a part in the suspect’s behavior and most likely will form the cornerstone of his defense, it cannot fully explain the horrors unleashed that early Friday morning.

What happened was nothing short of evil.

Evil is real. And it roamed the aisles of that Colorado theater. Scripture tells us, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12, King James version). Evil is not an abstraction, an idea or a catchall phrase to describe bad things. Evil is as real as the bullets flying around that theater. It enters where God is absent — and flourishes most when its presence is denied.

Liberals have been quick to condemn guns as the source of the Colorado evil, but the evil began in one man’s heart, fueled by Hollywood fantasy and the increasingly violent world of entertainment.

So where does the presence of evil leave us?

In need of God.

How to Save Your Family: See the Power of God

Even in the midst of such depravity, the power of God and his goodness were on display.

Consider the heroic, split-second decisions of boyfriends who shielded their loved ones from death — and absorbed the fatal bullets instead. Selflessness like that is not a calculated decision. It’s the result of years spent practicing smaller acts of selflessness, building a heart capable of such supreme love. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, King James version).

Consider too, the reaction of a man named Pierce. Though he was shot three times, his overriding concern was for his family — that they not succumb to hate and anger. His message: forgiveness, made possible by the power of God.

And finally, consider the miraculous story of Petra, a young woman in the theater that night, as recounted by her Christian pastor in a blog entry in the days following the shooting.

Petra suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including a terrible shot to the head. The shotgun pellet entered her face, traveled through her brain and lodged against her skull on the opposite side. Doctors operated, fully expecting that, if she lived, she would suffer life-altering brain injury from the pellet’s trajectory. But in a miraculous turn of events, the pellet entered her skull in the precise spot that would save her life.

Like a marble dropped into a chute, the pellet coursed through her brain along a tiny channel — a previously undiscovered congenital defect — that wound through her brain and functioned as a protective tunnel, shunting the pellet away from healthy brain tissue.

Only the God who created Petra could foresee the lifesaving function of that apparent defect. A miracle, yes. But even more powerful is the faith and witness of her family, pastor and church family through the hours of prayerful waiting — before they knew the outcome.

Our prayers should continue for the families affected by the Colorado shootings. But my prayer is also that each one of us will place our trust in the overriding power of God. I pray that, following Christ’s example, we will cultivate the power of selfless love, day by day, decision by decision. Because in the end, love does triumph over evil.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at [email protected]

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