War at home: Former Army officer aids Texas massacre victims, seeks God’s healing
ALLEN, Texas — A female in the bushes still felt…
ALLEN, Texas — I was home in Oklahoma City watching a Texas Rangers game Saturday night when I saw an update on the death toll at the Allen Premium Outlets.
Nine killed, counting the gunman.
Related: War at home: Former Army officer aids Texas massacre victims, seeks God’s healing
Hundreds traumatized by what they experienced while simply trying to shop or eat and enjoy a leisurely weekend afternoon.
In other words, more of the same in America, where mass shootings have become a way of life — and too much death.
My journalistic instincts kicked in, even though it was after 9 p.m. I decided I needed to drive to this suburb north of Dallas early the next morning — the Lord’s Day — to report the tragic news for The Christian Chronicle.
I had no doubt the Greenville Oaks Church of Christ — an Allen congregation I’d visited previously — would be offering special prayers and grieving its community’s tragedy.
I texted Matt Mazza, Greenville Oaks’ executive minister, and his wife, Kristen, to confirm what I presumed. I wanted to make sure it would be OK for me — as a reporter — to show up. They assured me I’d be welcome.
Just after 4 a.m. Sunday, I headed south on Interstate 35.
It’s a familiar 3½-hour drive that I made in 2016 after a sniper killed five Dallas police officers. And in 2018 after the inexplicable shooting death of Botham Jean, a beloved member of the Dallas West Church of Christ. And in 2019 after a gunman opened fire during the Lord’s Supper at the West Freeway Church of Christ near Fort Worth, claiming the lives of two devoted Christians.
Beyond Dallas-Fort Worth, I’ve covered mass shootings from California to Arizona to Oklahoma to Illinois to Virginia. I’ve assigned fellow journalists to report on other mass shootings from Texas to Tennessee to New York.
I arrived at the Greenville Oaks church about 30 minutes before the 9 a.m. service.
Two of the first people I met were Chris and Paula Macon. They were friendly, so I asked if they’d mind talking about the mall shooting.
Given the long list of massacres our country has experienced, I struggled with what to ask.
“Is it even shocking anymore?”
“Is it even shocking anymore?” I heard myself saying.
The deep emotion in the Macons’ voices — the tears in their eyes — assured me that it was shocking for them.
I found myself jolted back to reality. Of course it’s shocking. For heaven’s sake, three children — ages 3, 8 and 11 — were among the victims. If it’s ever not shocking, then we’ve got a bigger problem.
But is it surprising? That’s maybe a different question.
That afternoon, I covered a community prayer service at an evangelical megachurch about two miles from the outlet mall where so many died.
While thousands prayed inside, a few dozen protesters outside carried signs such as “Thoughts and prayers are useless” and “We have an epidemic of gun violence.”
As Christians, we certainly understand the importance of thinking and praying. But what about action to curtail gun violence?
Later, I interviewed Steven Spainhouer, a Dallas-area Christian who helped aid victims of the Allen shooting.
The former Army officer owns guns, but he’s exasperated by our nation’s lack of action on what he calls “people-killer weapons” — those with no purpose but to shoot up shopping centers and schools and churches and Fourth of July parades.
Chris Seidman serves as the lead minister for Spainhouer’s home congregation, The Branch Church of Christ.
I talked to Seidman about our response as Christians.
“When you pray, move your feet.”
“I think that, on one level, everyone is tired and cynical of the ‘thoughts and prayers’ phrasing,” he replied. “The reality is, thought and prayer is needed. And some kind of action is needed.”
Seidman refers to an old African proverb: “When you pray, move your feet.”
And he points to Micah 6:8, where the Bible says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
“There is the issue of what is just for our society and what is merciful,” Seidman said. “To get to the real practical answers … it’s going to require us to walk humbly with our God.”
Related: Prayer and protest: Nation’s latest mass shooting highlights competing messages
Walking humbly might require a reassessment of our emphasis as Americans — and often as Christians — on individual freedom.
Valuing lives from the womb to the tomb, Seidman said, “requires everybody looking beyond their own right to individual freedom and considering what God’s calling us to do and what’s best for the whole.”
Do we agree?
Our response might depend on our answer to a different question: Have we had enough?
Well, have we?
BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].
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