TV gives it wall-to-wall coverage — with breathless, wide-eyed reporters using the most sensational language. (It's good for ratings.) Talking-head experts give their theories of what might lie behind it. (He must have felt powerless, angry, disappointed, frustrated, or mistreated. Okay, that's about 98% of us. Right?)
Therapists and laypersons affirm how "sick" the murderer must be, explore the "symptoms" family and friends must have missed, and outline the "treatment" that might have prevented the tragedy.
Layered through all these are the folks who say it is a mistake even to wonder about the shooter's personal issues. It is all someone else's fault — a working mother, a tough-grading math teacher, or simply "The System." Why, we should expect this to happen almost daily because we don't give everybody free housing, free graduate education, free health care, free food, and free King Solomon or King Midas bank accounts. Oh, yes — and free perpetual therapy!
Okay, you're smart. You've figured out by now that I am cynical about our commonplace and stale responses to the latest mass murder among us. And I don't know the solution that will keep it from happening again. What about prayer in public schools? Making every kid go to church? Criminalizing divorce? Melting down all the guns? Forbidding studios to make more Batman or other "dark" movies? Free therapy and donuts for all of us? No, no, no, no, no, and nah!
From Cain's murder of Abel to those awful minutes in Colorado, there is no way to stop human beings from using our greatest and most truly human possession for negative and evil purposes. Our freedom to make unforced choices means we can both do and become evil. Just as the discovery of fire was a wonder that created the possibility for brutality, so too with our freedom.
So stop, arrest, and sequester the person. If there is serious and obvious mental illness, protect others from him; if not, hold him strictly accountable.
Reserve the bulk of attention for the victims and their families. Give them the lion's share of attention, support, and — yes! — free therapy. Help onlookers grasp that acclaim in this culture comes from decent people who care about their neighbors, step up to assist victims of earthquakes or violence, and otherwise make the world a little better. We can even learn to pay attention to the oddball next door or at work who may just need a friend more than extensive therapy.
The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9 NLT).