Is There No Place Safe?

Once again we find ourselves in the aftermath of a horrific event. To call it a crime seems insufficient. To call it tragedy belies the fact that it was a choice. The killing of dozens and injuring of hundreds in the Las Vegas shooting again reminds us how dangerous the world can be, even in the most ordinary of situations.

On the one hand it’s important to know that, statistically speaking, we are much safer in the world than it may feel in the light of a 24 hour news cycle and technology that brings all the world’s tragedies to our attention virtually instantly and incessantly. At the same time, when people are gunned down when they just went to a country music concert we can’t help but wonder: is there any place safe?

As I watched the news on Monday morning before the sun even rose in Las Vegas after that horrific night, journalists were already questioning: what can we do to prevent tragedies like this? Should all baggage coming into hotels be subject to the same x-ray and scrutiny as checking on to a flight? Should background checks be required of everyone checking into a hotel? After all, one commentator said, before the would-be “shoe bomber,” we never used to take off our shoes when going through airport security.

While our desire for safety is normal and healthy, without our Christian faith it can become oppressive and obsessive. Our faith is in our loving God and the hope in the “blessedness of the Kingdom which grows not old” which we describe as “a place of brightness, a place of verdure, a place of repose, where all sickness, sorrow and sighing have fled away.” Without that hope, the lack of safety is much more terrifying than it already seems to be.

But we are not bound to that fear. That is not the fate we’re confined to. We are not destined to obsess over danger until we find ourselves paralyzed. It is not by accident that our Lord’s final victory was the conquering of death, which He trampled down by His own death. Had He conquered all other forms of evil and left death intact, we would have found ourselves obsessing over the need for safety from the prospect of our our death. The victory we celebrate every Pascha – which we continue to celebrate every Sunday – is Christ’s victory over death, and His opening of the way from death to life to us as well. As great a victory as that is, it gets even better. The Resurrection not only frees us from the tyranny of death; it offers us the freedom to truly live. Many Church Fathers and Mothers taught that to one degree or another all sin proceeds from the fear of death. We seek to save ourselves from the horror of death by the distractions and false solutions that sin provides (more on this in a future post). The freedom from that fear, therefore, allows us to live without sin and to embrace life as God desires us to live it. We can live each day and, in spite of lack of complete safety, be thankful for all the blessings that our good and loving God bestows upon us.

Dozens died in the Las Vegas massacre and hundreds were injured. But millions of people experienced miracles on that same day and billions experienced His blessings, ourselves included. And therein lies our choice: we can live in fear, asking ourselves, “Is there no place safe?” Or we can be aware of the power of Christ’s conquering of death and live in peaceful gratitude for the blessings He showers upon us every day. Although there are dangerous situations that we may find ourselves in from time to time, living in the light of the resurrection, we will always find ourselves safe—safe from the terror of our death and safe from a life filled with fear and helplessness. Christ is risen!