Another heartbreaking mass shooting happened late Thursday evening, in Lafayette, Louisiana. As of now it appears two victims have died, and another nine are injured. The gunman also killed himself.
Numerous calls for prayer have been issued, including from the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. This natural response to tragedy has not gone uncontested, however. Rachel Zarrell, an editor at BuzzFeed News, said on Twitter of the tragedy, “Don’t pray. Push for gun control.” She later said that this was “reactive” and that it was the “wrong thing to say.”
Nevertheless, her reaction reflects an all-too-common notion in the media: tragedy must be followed immediately by a call to action. But, sadly, it’s not that surprising. We are a nation dominated by the 24-hour news cycle. We are also a nation of causes. Rahm Emanuel famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Rush Limbaugh thinks everything is political.
Even though Zarrell’s response to the event is not entirely surprising given our culture, it still demands correction. This shooting is not primarily a political event, and it does not demand a primarily political response. It is a tragic, human event that cries to God for justice—an event which would call for earthly justice for the gunman, not possible through the courts because of his suicide.
In Charleston, South Carolina, when those innocent people were shot during a bible study, the eloquence of their difficult words, “I forgive you,” spoke more directly to defeat the evil perpetrated by a tortured man than did the ensuing media firestorm which brought down one Confederate flag.
Gun laws may indeed be part of the answer to prevent tragedies such as this, but no law can prevent evil deeds outright. The “Jack the Ripper” killings, Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, and other tragedies throughout history did not involve guns, but they all involved hate. There is only one antidote to hate, and that is Christian love, which must always include both prayer and working for justice. If either is removed, the other suffers. It is only in this way that we can unite ourselves to the suffering of the victims and to the suffering of Christ. This is the response—not laws, not politics—that can look evil square in the face and rise above it.
Image adapted from Flickr.
Dominic Bouck, O.P., is a Dominican brother of the Province of St. Joseph and a summer intern at First Things.