There are no words to describe the scene last night. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is a marketing offer; it has no enforceability this morning. What happened when Stephen Paddock – at this point, known only as an apartment manager in a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada – unleashed hell on the Route 91 Country Music Festival in an open lot adjacent to the Mandalay Bay Resort Hotel will be told and retold today, and the days to come.
Holed-up in a 32nd floor room at the Mandalay, Paddock became infamous for the carnage in the crowd last night. On a warm autumn evening, over 22,000 people were enjoying the last act of the three-day festival when the first shots from the automatic weapons were – at first – mistaken for fireworks by the audience.
Las Vegas police SWAT eliminated Paddock in his hotel room, where he had established his orchestrated and well-supplied vantage point, 400 yards from the killing field where he sprayed hundreds of rounds, killing at least 58 people and injuring hundreds more. Stories of valiant concert goers and first responders will be told as the on-scene reports find their way into the media.
Paddock may have left a manifesto… or, we may never know the real motivations behind his sinister yet strategic behavior last night. How does society defend against the unimaginable? What will we “learn” that will change the trajectory of future madmen whose vision is to create a nightmare for a culture founded on the very freedom that allows the nefarious acts that will preoccupy the nation’s attention today?
“Darkness” is the metaphorical description of the mindset that allows a mass assassin to construct a plan that will inflict death without discretion. Who is capable of that kind of aberrant behavior?
Paul recognized that darkness can only be suppressed by light. His mission – and, ours – removes the conditions that can lead to evil outcomes: “…since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6)
Commentators and talking heads with advanced degrees will offer their perspectives on prevention as they fill hundreds of hours on cable and satellite channels, dedicated to deconstructing tragedy. Most will have no touchpoint in truth; their contributions will be made with no evidence that a society in which spiritual darkness is embraced and advanced can resolve its deepest deficiencies.
The only, ultimate solution: darkness is, at its core, the absence of light. The light of the Gospel unleashes the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the sole expression of the Eternal God available for mere humans – capable of death and destruction, because of darkness – to be transformed.
Radical? When faced with radical evil, radical redemption is the only real antidote. What happened in Vegas will not stay in Vegas; may God comfort the grieving… and bring His light into the darkness.