How Should Christians Respond to the Oregon Community College Shooting?

Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer

According to early reports, Chris Harper Mercer, the alleged Oregon community college gunman, asked students to stand and state their religion before shooting them.

Stacy Boylen, identified by CNN as the parent of a wounded student, said the killer asked, “Are you a Christian?” He then asked Christians to stand and said, “Good, because you’re a Christian, you are going to see God in just about one second” before opening fire. Others have reported Mercer “hated religion” in his online writings.

Such reports are uncertain and often end up being wrong. And I hope this one is incorrect — although the same general narrative does continue to surface. Regardless, the conversation gives us a moment to consider this reality because, well, it is not that far-fetched.

I’m not one who believes Christians in America are persecuted. I agree with former Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams that Christians in the West who feel they are persecuted need to “grow up” and not claim persecution when they are simply made “mildly uncomfortable.” The alleged “War on Christmas” hasn’t cost any lives.

Yet, there is in fact a disturbing pattern to shootings in Fort Worth, Texas, New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and in Charleston, S.C. Though Charleston was clearly connected to race, in all cases Christians were targeted. We already have a research database for church shootings.

If this report turns out to be wrong, as others have, the tragedy will remain, as will this reality: People of faith, in some cases Christians, have been targeted in mass shootings.

Calls for more gun control resonate with many right now. However, Americans are hardly of one mind on the issue, and less than half want stricter gun laws. Still, understandably, moments like this make us want to do something. Since this involves Christians and society as a whole, perhaps we should ask what, at this moment, Christians should do, and our society must do.

These things can be done now:

First, Christians need to be ready to give an answer for the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15), yes, even if that causes our own deaths. As Christians, we know that trust in the Gospel means hope in a greater story, since Christ came into the world to give life that is eternal, not just temporal.

Second, Christians can follow the beautiful example of our brothers and sisters in Christ in Charleston. When evil came knocking, forgiveness answered. The entire nation was touched by the words of victims’ family members toward Dylann Roof just days after that awful tragedy, offering forgiveness and the Gospel they knew. We saw a picture of grace — a picture that should look familiar to Christians. Even through pain and confusion we can and should do likewise.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Ed Stetzer