I had gone to a midnight premiere before, but never one that was so crowded. A close friend was in town, and my wife and I were looking forward to the release of The Dark Knight Rises. We were excited about seeing the biggest Box Office release of the summer, even if it meant waiting in a long hot line.
Arriving an hour and a half early was not early enough. The only available seats were on the first and second rows of theater 9. We sat on the second row fairly close to the exit door. I initially thought we had terrible seats, but it was really best being that my wife is almost 8 months pregnant.
I do remember feeling uneasy with the large crowd. It was a combination of the Batman costumes, rowdy young people, the dark theater, a heightened sensitivity to terrorism, feeling protective of a pregnant wife, and the fact that there were no theater ushers or security guards.
I thought to myself, “Did we make a mistake? Maybe we should have stayed home.” I trusted that the crowd would settle down when the movie started. And it did settle down, until the roar of applause that came at the end of the movie. The movie was a fitting finish to the triology. We enjoyed a late night at the Cinemark Tinseltown 17 in The Woodlands, TX.
It was the next morning that we learned about what happened in Aurora, Colorado. Our hearts have been heavy since learning of this horrific event. We have been praying for all of those directly involved in the mass shooting that took place in theater 9 at Cinemark Century 16.
Many of the questions that follow events like this one are rather predictable. Why did this happen? How could anyone do this to other human beings? What can be done to insure this doesn’t happen again? And the most pressing question for believers and skeptics alike, Where was God when a young man shot a room full of innocent people?
I don’t believe these questions can be answered sensitively with talks of “total depravity” or threats of hell for the wicked, nor should they be reduced to careless clichés (e.g. “God is in control” or “Everything happens for a reason”), or treated carefully with a reckless rendering of Scripture to support a “God can do whatever he wants” theology.
No, we can only come close to real answers when we recognize Jesus as the full expression of God. Jesus is God in the flesh (Jn 1:1-14). He is God’s desire for humanity. God has acted once and for all in Jesus.
Since Christ is the “exact representation” of God (Heb 1:3), it is theologically and biblically accurate to say that God was not responsible for the shooting in Aurora. Jesus doesn’t shoot up movie theaters, fly planes into buildings, or cause miscarriages.
God doesn’t do these things nor does he desire these things, regardless of how much good may come of these tragic events. We can rejoice that God is able to bring good out of evil without attributing the evil actions of others to a divine plan and making God out to be a moral monster.
Let’s be crystal clear about this. Whatever the Lord did in the OT, or however you may interpret the conquest narratives of ancient Israel, in the NT God has been made fully known in Christ… period.
Instead of perpetuating violence, Jesus (the full and final revelation of God) confronted evil in the cross and resurrection. He defeated evil by overcoming it with good. The cross of Christ is God’s response to evil. Evil doesn’t belong. It’s not a part of his Gospel program.
Therefore, he still confronts this evil today with the truth of the cross and the hope of the resurrection. In every act of Christian love, the Lord is speaking truth to the darkness. We are his vessels.
Christian theology offers the only reasonable and satisfactory explanation for evil. God is love fully expressed in Christ. Evil is a result of human and angelic beings (demons) misusing their God-given freedom—the freedom that makes love possible.
Evil is only presently “allowed” in so far that it testifies to the nature of God’s free universe—a universe that will be judged and transformed in the return of Christ for the consummation of heaven and earth. It will not be the end of this world as we know it, but a new age upon the earth where evil is finally struck down and cast out with power from on high (Rev 21).
To be sure, the war is a real one that continues to be waged, but the Lord has determined that there is victory for those who believe in this good news and choose to confront evil with cruciformed living.
Resurrection and renewal is promised to us who persevere in this way and usher in God’s new way of being human on the earth. In the meantime, we must continue believing that God is right here in our pain and suffering.
While God is capable of acting on his own, the social Trinitarian God mostly chooses to act through humans and angels. We may never know the many decisions that were made which led to the evil acts in theater 9, but we can rest assured that God does not sit idly by, nor does he arbitrarily answer our prayers. As we learn from Dan 10, there is a real battle of the wills.
This should prompt us to be proactive against the evil that is alive in our communities. Pray without ceasing against the spiritual evils around you. Love the lost, the brokenhearted, the confused, the depressed, and the forgotten… even enemies. Heal the sick and cast out demons.
Don’t stay home. Take the light of Christ into a dark theater. And make no mistake… the Lord is there with you.
Where was God at approximately 12:39 am on Friday July 20, 2012? I believe the Lord has answered in Christ, “I was in theater 9.”
D.D. Flowers, 2012.