With the raging debates of public policy, cultural tolerance, political correctness, and all the other arenas that suck up the oxygen of what our media and attention tend to be saturated with, we seldom have the chance to see with such clarity the separation of truly what is good, and the horrors of absolute evil.
Friday morning at 12:39am Colorado time was one instance in which the curtain was pulled back and we were given that unfiltered view.
The troubled sketch that has been revealed of the shooter from that event is filled with conflicting stereotypes. He was described by officials from his undergraduate school as the "top of the top" academically. Friends from his high school years described him as someone who was very much involved in his church's youth group. His own mother--when initially confronted with the crude facts of the shooting--responded somewhat instinctively, that authorities, had "the right person" when suspecting her own son of such violence. He felt lonely, even desperate with a profile on an "adult" hook-up site. He loved science. He often rooted for the bad guys in comic book stories--likely emulating one in this very attack. And like so many, regardless of his intellect or his qualifications, struggled mightily to find work in the current economy.
There were also things about him that defied the stereotypes. He had no criminal past--his worst previous offense being a traffic violation. He even legally owned or purchased all of the firearms used in the Friday morning attacks.
In the end, we may yet find out a great number of additional things about the struggles, hurts, or inadequacies of his life. Yet nothing we will learn will answer the question of why he chose--this evil outcome--to inflict suffering and carnage on so many. (Some of which we are still figuring out. He gave up without a struggle, suggested to police that they go look for his other stockpiles in his apartment--fully expecting them to walk into his booby-trapped home and perhaps blow away an entire city block.)
Given that he injured and killed 71 people at the theater, with a goal of blowing up perhaps hundreds more, practical issues of justice emerge. I'm sure most decent Americans would have a hard time arguing against the death penalty for someone who was guilty of all this.
Other practical questions also haunt us. Questions like, "If theaters weren't considered a gun-free zone, would more people have survived?"
Yet at the end of this day, my thoughts return to the larger picture of what we saw--evil in it's rawest form.
So what do we learn, and how do we respond?
One of the common sense responses I am reminded of is that "in order for evil to succeed, all that is required is for good people to do nothing." For this reason alone, conceal carry laws should be the law of each state, each city, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. If a law-abiding person is able to disarm a maniac--if necessary through the taking of his life, would not society be a safer place?
One of the most touching reminders I saw in great abundance is the heart of American compassion in action for their fellow man in light of such harsh tragedy, shock, and paralyzing realities. The stories of heroism are just starting to emerge, but those who kept their heads and helped calm those who were trapped in theater nine--who did not panic--but instead encouraged folks to get low, and remain calm--no doubt saved lives. In the days to come, as we learn even more about the friends and family members lost, from those who mourn, an entire nation will mourn with them. Church groups will bring food to their homes, friends will pray, hug, and weep with them, and healing will only begin the long process of recovery.
Lastly one of the most important truths I am forced to realize in light of this week's events is that the only thing that overcomes evil, is the overwhelming reality of good.
It is in all honesty the best argument there can be for the existence of God. God is good personified. And while there may be some who seek to blame Him for the individual choices of the shooter, there are already dozens who are telling their stories of nearly miraculous salvation from the shooter who got off dozens of rounds without reloading, and walked out without a scratch. He was in the aisle of the theater with them as bullets flew. He was on the floor with those who were shielding small children with their own bodies, and He was very near to the heart of the reported six year old girl who perished after enduring wounds in her knee, shoulder, and chest.
On the scale of human understanding there is no explanation that suffices to comfort those of us left behind.
But if good exists (which we have seen being poured out since almost the moment the shots began to be fired) then we must also recognize that there is a day of justice for the evil and those who advance that evil with no ounce of remorse.
Hopefully we observed the advice of President Obama and Governor Romney this weekend and held our children closer. Perhaps we darkened the door to a church for the first time in years.
Ironically we may have equally questioned God's ability to be in control, and simultaneously may have been more curious as to His existence all at the same time because of the tragic shooting.
Yet none of those things alter the very real existence and unchangeable reality that evil exists--we've seen it on our television screen for days now.
The equally true and verifiable reality is that good does as well.
Ultimately our society will suffer most when we no longer can differentiate between the two.
I pray and hope for that day to still be quite far off.