Yesterday, Nikolas Cruz entered the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, FL – a school he was expelled from – murdering seventeen innocent victims and injuring at least fourteen others. The press is already reporting there were “red flags” – expulsion, social media posts, strange behaviors, etc. He doesn’t seem to have friends. Apparently Cruz has experienced significant loss and grief.
As yesterday’s events unfolded, I asked, “What broke him? Who broke him?” This wasn’t the act of a “normal” person choosing wrong. This was not the act of a “normal” person suddenly overcome with evil. Yes, what he did was unspeakably evil! But, this wasn’t the act of a “normal” person. Only a “broken” person could do something this horrific.
“What broke him? Who broke him?
We could ask the same every time one of these tragedies occur.
Perhaps some people are born evil. Some would make that argument. I can’t accept that. I believe God doesn’t make broken people. I believe God creates us in his good image. I believe this world breaks people. And, today, I wonder what broke Nikolas Cruz, and others like him.
Inevitably, many are already debating the need for better gun laws versus better mental health screenings. Though I firmly believe some kind of law should have prohibited Cruz from purchasing a semi-automatic weapon, my point is not to enter that particular debate.
I’m wondering when Cruz’s brokenness began, who might have recognized it early on, and who failed to intervene? I’m wondering what might have saved Cruz – and, now, all of his victims – closer to when his brokenness began? I’m not looking for someone to blame. I’m wondering about how Cruz, and others like him, might have been helped before doing such unspeakable harm? I’m wondering who the next Cruz might be?
And, I’m wondering what the Church’s role is? Obviously, the Church is quick to offer aid following tragedies. We hold special services. We offer comfort, counsel, and prayer. But, I’m wondering, if we are called to be salt and light in world, how we could – must – address the widespread brokenness in our world? Where was the Church for Nikolas Cruz?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming the world, the Church, or anyone else for Cruz’s sin. Cruz made that evil choice. I’m just wondering why, and what might have stopped him.
I confess I am struggling today. These aren’t just theological ponderings. I’m wrestling deep in my soul. I’m torn between knowing there is darkness in our world, and feeling an immense responsibility to stop playing “Church”; to actually do something substantial and assertive, to drive back the forces of evil in our communities and our world. I’m torn between believing in the free-will that allows for evil choices, and believing God’s will ultimately prevails. I’m torn between feelings of hopelessness in the face of so much despair, and an outrage-driven conviction to do more about it. I’m torn between utter hopelessness, and knowing we have the power of almighty-God at our disposal. I’m torn between wondering if the Church is making any difference in this world at all, and knowing Christ, working in the Church, is the only hope we have.
I watch as society drifts further and further away from God. I watch as families senselessly decay. I watch as more and more die of drug overdoses. I watch as so many “Christian” families are less and less involved in Church, and more and more drawn away to other worldly distractions. I watch as woman after woman after woman comes forward to bravely confront men who’ve assaulted them. I watch as our country grows more and more divided. I watch as age-old-racism seems to be rekindled. I watch as the constant threat of war and nuclear annihilation looms on the horizon. I watch as we literally throw away our lives on the smallest, most petty, trivial pursuits.
Friends, what are we doing? Yes, Cruz is broken. But, maybe Cruz is broken because we are broken? Maybe Cruz if broken because the world is so broken. Maybe the world is so broken because we – the Church – are doing so little about it.
And I’m thinking a lot about Jesus today. I’m thinking about Jesus coming to heal our brokenness and rescue us from sin. I’m thinking about the trivial ways we talk about sin, without confronting the sin that leads to yesterday’s massacre. I’m thinking about the terrible weight Jesus bore on the cross, dying to save us from all of our sin and brokenness.
I’m wondering what Jesus is calling his church to do?
I don’t know who broke Nikolas Cruz. But, I do know who could – who can – heal his brokenness. I know who can heal the brokenness all around us.
So, here’s my question, to the Church. Are we going to keep playing Church – with nice worship services, cozy fellowship, shallow religious programs, and petty squabbles over silly, unimportant, irrelevant disagreements? Or, are we going to get to work, with all of the courage and conviction we can muster, driving back the forces of darkness that lead to death and destruction, in Jesus’ name?
Isn’t the correct answer obvious?
What broke him? What are we going to do about it?