By Mike Ruffin
The Bible begins with these words (I’m quoting from the New Revised Standard Version): “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). In other words, at its beginning, the world was chaotic. Then God went to work on the chaos, step by step bringing order to it. When God had finished God’s creative work, the Bible says that God judged everything that God had created as being “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
And indeed, at the conclusion of the seven days of creation as outlined in Genesis 1:1-2:4a, one gets the sense that everything is in its place. The world is sound and orderly. There seems to be no chaos.
But one might well wonder if the chaos is still lurking beneath the surface. And in fact, in the story of Noah’s ark, the storm that causes the flood is more than just a big rainstorm—it is the return of the chaos: “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” (Genesis 7:11).
God promises never again to destroy the world by a flood (Genesis 9:11). But that doesn’t mean that some chaos can’t burst forth here and there from time to time.
All too often in our nation, the chaos bursts forth in a hail of bullets.
According to a National Public Radio story, the independent data collection organization the Gun Violence Archive reports that there have been 198 mass shootings—defined as an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, excluding the shooter—in the United States so far in 2022. There were 693 mass shootings in our nation in 2021.
It is a sad fact that we have become accustomed to hearing news reports about such incidents of mass violence. It is a further sad fact that most of us will give such incidents little thought after the news cycle moves on to some other story. It is an even sadder fact that most of us will not feel compelled to try to do something—and to try to get our leaders to do something—about the epidemic of mass shootings in our society until one results in the death or injury of someone we love. I hope that none of us ever have experienced or ever will experience such a tragedy. But I also hope and pray that we will come to care more about those who have experienced such a terrible loss.
The Bible teaches that one of these days, God will permanently eliminate the chaos. When that day comes, there will be no more sickness, sorrow, sadness, or grief. There will be no more mass shootings. Until that day comes, we have to deal with the eruptions of chaos. It is natural for humans to do what they can to try to keep the chaos at bay.
One way people respond to the chaos of gun violence is to advocate for putting more guns into the system. I’m not sure they would put it that way, but that seems to me to be the practical effect of opposing any and all efforts to place any kinds of limitations on gun ownership rights. The irony is that having guns available to just about anyone at just about any time increases rather than decreases the possibility of gun violence and of mass shootings. (That at least seems logical to me, although I guess it is impossible to prove.) Anyway, advocating for more guns as the solution to gun violence seems to me to be illogical and counterproductive.
There is a sense in which, when it comes to guns in America, the toothpaste is out of the tube. According to the Pew Research Center, four out of ten Americans live in a household with a gun, and three out of ten Americans personally own a gun. According to that same research, sixty percent of gun owners cite personal protection as the main reason they own a gun. To put it in the terms I’ve been using, they own a gun in an effort to protect themselves against the chaos.
By now, some of you are thinking that any new or additional gun regulation will not address the real problem. The real problem, you would say, is a mental, emotional, or even a spiritual one. Until people’s hearts change, you would suggest, we will have tragedies such as mass shootings. Until people’s minds change, the chaos will continue to burst forth. And some of us would add, only God can bring about such a change.
I’ve already said that God will one of these days bring an end to the chaos. I agree that people need to have their hearts, minds, and spirits changed by God here and now if we are going to see any meaningful reduction in the chaos. I would like to suggest one way that we can be open to the change that God wants to bring about in our hearts.
Racist and white supremacist beliefs don’t motivate all mass shootings, but they clearly motivated the one that recently occurred in Buffalo, New York. Racism and white supremacy are wrong and sinful ideologies. If we want to be open to the changes that God wants to bring about in our hearts, minds, and spirits, we should avoid racism and white supremacy, but we should do more than that. We should also disavow and repudiate them and anyone that practices, promotes, or advocates for them. Perhaps in so doing we can contribute to a world in which racially motivated mass shootings are less likely to occur.
It would at least be a step toward lessening the chaos.
Mike Ruffin is a Barnesville native who lives and works in Macon. His new book, Praying with Matthew, is available at helwys.com and at Amazon.