Colorado Theater Massacre: Why Now? And What Next?

Wallace G. Smith
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Many are stunned by the images, video, and testimony coming from Aurora, Colorado, where a young gunman strolled into a crowded movie theater on Thursday night and killed 12 people, injuring 50 others.  What is happening in our society?  Should we fear being in public?  What should we do?

By now, you have probably seen the cellphone camera images of people leaving Theater 9 at the Century 16 Cinema in Aurora, Colorado—near Denver—with blood on their clothes and blank expressions on their faces.  An excited crowd had been enjoying the first few minutes of The Dark Knight Rises, the concluding installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman film trilogy, when a heavily-armed individual entered the theater. Wearing a gas mask and a bulletproof vest, he threw a gas canister and began shooting into the crowd.  By the rampage’s end, twelve people were dead and another 50 were injured.

The alleged shooter is a 24-year-old neuroscience student who dropped out of his Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver last month. As I write this, any motives for his horrific action remain unknown.  However, by all accounts he had to have planned far in advance to be so well prepared for his onslaught.  After inspecting the young man’s apartment, Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates told journalists, “We have a whole bunch of bomb techs from a whole bunch of agencies. We have pictures inside the location. We are trying to determine how to disarm flammable or explosive material that’s in there. We could be here for hours. We could be here for days trying to get in there and get whatever evidence there is. The pictures are pretty disturbing. It looks pretty sophisticated in terms of how it’s booby-trapped.”

But even if the killer’s motives were known, they could not relieve us of the terrible sense that, if our world is the sort of place where such terrible plans can be conceived at all, let alone acted upon, how can any of us be safe?  What kind of society produces such people?

The suspect’s upbringing, background and political beliefs will surely be examined. Any statements he has published or placed online will be scrutinized. Analysts will do their best to determine the cause of the massacre.  Ultimately, however, its cause is much deeper than they will find, and it ties together with a common thread all such atrocities—across demographics, ideologies, and political lines.

Jesus Christ said, of this present age, that “lawlessness will abound, and the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).  The Apostle Paul said that “in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves… unloving… without self-control, brutal” (2 Timothy 3:2-3).

We live in a world steeped in “lawlessness” and self-worship.  Our television, movies, music, and video games glorify killing and destruction, sexual immorality and perversion, crassness and cruelty and disrespect for any form of authority—a virtual societal orgy of self-satisfaction in the basest of manners.

Meanwhile, many of our leaders happily remove the Ten Commandments from the halls of government, and even strive to remove any vestige of godly, moral instruction from our institutions of learning.

Whatever attitudes and motives may come to be revealed about the Aurora shooter, we would do well to consider what environment we have created that would nurture such a cold-hearted, selfish and murderous mentality.

And each of us should pray that God will forgive us for any part we may have had in contributing, in whatever small way, to such a society. We should commit ourselves to repentance, giving up any wrong attitudes and motives we find in ourselves.  We should pray that God hasten the return of Jesus Christ to this earth—the only real solution to these terrible tragedies.  The returning Christ will set up a global Kingdom in which such atrocities are unheard of—a safe world where “the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zechariah 8:5) and “no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).

May God comfort those suffering in Colorado, and may His Kingdom come quickly.