I learned about the shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX while having brunch with my wife after church. Currently, 26 people have lost their lives representing over half of those in attendance including a woman who was pregnant, several children, and the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter. Those killed and wounded ranged in age from 5 to 77-years-old. At least 19 have been hospitalized.
My heart dropped. It is unfathomable to consider what goes through the mind of a person who does something that is so reprehensible. It is sheer, unadulterated evil.
How should Christians respond? Here are three ways.
“Thoughts and prayers” have been mocked by those who push gun control. I decided not to share examples to spare you from the bowels of Twitter. A whole community is grieving. Families have experienced tremendous loss. The wounded need healing.
We need to pray for God’s comfort and care. We need to pray for His healing (both emotional and physical) for those impacted. We need to pray for wisdom for those investigating. Pray that through this horrific act God would be glorified and that people will come to know Jesus. Pray for His Church, especially those in the local area, to rise and come to the aid of their fellow brothers and sisters. Also, pray for those who persecute Christians and who used this event as an opportunity to mock (and there were more than a few).
2. Don’t spread false information.
I saw numerous people spreading links from websites that are notorious for fake news. Wait for facts, ideally facts provided by the authorities investigating the shooting. We should care about the truth, so it is vital we refrain from spreading false information.
Here’s an example from the right:
Gun control advocates also spouted off before knowing pertinent facts about the case as well.
Yesterday on social media I saw that Devin Patrick Kelley, the Sutherland Springs shooter, is Antifa, a former VBS teacher, a Muslim, a Marine (and Air Force), an atheist lover, someone who knew the church members well, as well as, someone who had no connection to the church.
We do know a little more than we did yesterday.
Here are some pertinent facts about the shooter and shooting:
- Wearing all black, tactical gear, and a ballistic vest Kelley started firing outside the church at 11:20a (CST) outside the church before entering the church. Twenty-three people were found dead inside, two people outside the church and another person who was transported from the scene died. The Washington Post reported that Joe and Claryce Holcombe lost eight members of their family in the shooting, including children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
- He is a 26-year-old who was from New Braunfels, TX.
- He served in the Air Force, and in 2012 was court-martialed and convicted of domestic assault at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where he was a logistics readiness specialist. He was sentenced to 12 months’ confinement and given a bad conduct discharge. He was married to his first wife in 2011 but divorced in 2012.
- He married again in 2014, and the Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackett and Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that Kelley’s mother-in-law attended First Baptist Church, but was not present on Sunday. “We know that he expressed anger towards his mother-in-law, who attends this church,” Freeman Martin, a regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said.
- He bounced around at several jobs after his discharge from the Air Force, including working as an unarmed security guard.
- Martin said Kelley was armed with a “Ruger AR assault-type rifle.” Sheriff Tackett said he did not use an automatic weapon and it did not appear that his rifle had been modified.
- A resident, Stephen Willeford, grabbed his rifle and engaged Kelley as he left the church. Willeford reported hitting Kelley, but it’s unclear whether he was wounded or if round hit his vest. Kelley dropped his rifle and fled in his SUV. Willeford and another resident Johnnie Langendorff chased Kelley who later swerved off the road and stopped. Police found him Kelley dead but were not sure if it was from Willeford or a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Multiple weapons were found inside the vehicle.
- Texas Governor Gary Abbott said Kelley applied for and was denied a carry permit.
3. Be prepared.
We shouldn’t live in fear, but we should be prepared. Churches are, unfortunately, soft targets. Churches should consider a security plan that includes an active shooter scenario. Many church buildings have sanctuaries with few exits and multiple “choke points” that make it difficult to escape. Understandably, situational awareness is typically low because people are there to worship.
Some churches are blessed to have law enforcement officers who attend. If so, they should develop a security plan and seek out training with those individuals, as well as, those in the congregation who are licensed and trained to carry a firearm. Churches should also provide training, such as ALICE training, for members of their congregation whether they are part of the security team or not.
We need to jettison the “it can’t happen to us” mentality.
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