Horror and broken hearts in Uvalde
R. Albert Mohler Jr. | Our first response is to grieve and pray as we seek a path forward
Uvalde, Texas, is about as Texas as you can get. Less than a hundred miles from the Mexican border, it is considered to be the southernmost reach of the Texas Hill Country. The town is named for a Spanish governor, Juan de Ugalde, and it has something like 16,000 residents. Uvalde’s most famous citizen was John Nance Garner, vice president of the United States from 1933 to 1941. “Cactus Jack” famously described the vice presidency as “not worth a bucket of warm spit.” He didn’t like being vice president, but he knew Uvalde and he loved it.
Now, all Americans know of Uvalde. Yesterday, a lone teenage gunman entered Robb Elementary School and unleashed death. At least 19 precious children are dead, along with two adults. Others are wounded. Law enforcement officers killed the 18-year-old gunman as they rushed into the school to stop his rampage.
We now know that before heading to the school, the gunman had shot his grandmother. Police were already seeking him when he abandoned his car near the school. At this point, it is not clear whether he intended to head for the school or if he had to abandon the vehicle he was driving and the school was a target chosen at the last minute. The shooter is dead, and some of these questions may never be answered.
The first response of Christians to this news is surely grief. As the Apostle Paul instructed us, we are to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Can we even begin to imagine the mourning in Uvalde? At least 19 little children, each immeasurably loved by family, had their lives ended by a teenage murderer. They went to school and will never come home. An entire community is convulsed in pain and grief. How can such grief be borne?
We surely pray for all those who grieve in Uvalde, as in Buffalo, as in Sandy Hook, as in Charleston—everywhere these mass murderers turn themselves into agents of death. We pray for parents and brothers and sisters and entire extended families, for teachers and school workers whose lives are forever changed, for classmates who must be scared to death, their lives forever altered.
We look for answers to big questions. Thankfully, the Bible provides the diagnosis of human moral evil as sin. But sin is so insidious that it staggers our imagination. All of us are sinners, but how can this kind of sin be explained? The Christian worldview can alone explain the reality of moral evil and the necessity of moral judgment. What took place in Robb Elementary School did not merely look evil, it was evil. And we are no match for human evil, for human sin. Only Jesus Christ can, and did, triumph over sin and death and evil. Victory over evil will not come fully until Christ brings His kingdom into fullness. The vale of tears we know in this life will overcome us but for Christ and Christ alone.
How can a sinner so give himself to sin that he can shoot his grandmother and then enter an elementary school and start killing little children? We know it happens, but we cannot really answer this question. God have mercy.
Political lines form fast in the aftermath of such killings. Any sane person, knowing the intention of that 18-year-old man, would have prevented him from having access to those guns. The problem is knowing what is happening in individual human hearts and minds. Usually, dots are connected only after the massive crime. In our corrupted cosmos, the same guns used by law enforcement to restrain evil can be used by those of evil intent to commit evil. If we were good at reading criminal intent in advance, we could prevent crimes. In most cases, we have no advance knowledge—or are unable to adequately assess it.
Calls for political action are often urgent but formless. This is not just a matter of Second Amendment rights, but of human experience. Many who call for restricting guns as the answer to the problem fail to acknowledge that the problem is not only the U.S. Constitution but also the challenge of legal definition. The federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004 and was not reenacted—not just because of political divisions but also for lack of adequate definitions. Minor changes made many of the banned weapons legal. That does not mean that no actions should be taken, but it does mean that there is no easy answer.
Efforts to pathologize evil as reduced to a psychiatric disorder have also crashed against reality. Many who commit these mass crimes are clearly mentally ill, but others fail to be so diagnosed, at least in medical terms.
But the horror in Uvalde is moral, not merely medical or even criminological. The problem of evil drives deeper than we can reach. We are left mourning with those who mourn and then trying to see a path forward.
I have been to Uvalde, where members of our extended family have lived for generations. That extended family, for whom we are so thankful, includes precious little children. That family also includes a law enforcement officer, who was among the first responders on the scene at the school. I have been honored to preach at First Baptist Church in Uvalde, and I am praying for Pastor Lonnie Moore and all of Christ’s ministers in that city.
Pray for the people of Uvalde, Texas. Pray for wisdom and courage for our nation. Pray for Christ to vanquish this world’s horrors and bring His kingdom soon.
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