What happened in Nashville that didn’t happen in Uvalde?
Nashville police bravely fulfilled the responsibility God has given them
I sat in my office this week and watched the bodycam video of Nashville police raiding the Covenant School in search of the shooter. In no statement of hyperbole, it may be the most surreal (but very real) video I have ever seen. It was so jarring that I could barely concentrate enough to go into the classroom and teach just a few minutes later.
As one looks on in shock and horror at what we know happened—the slaughter of six people, including three children—a flood of emotions rolls on. I was awestruck at the sheer valor and heroism of the police officers who went in searching for the shooter with reckless abandon, risking their own safety. They had a job to do.
Suppose you have the constitution needed to watch the video (fair warning: its contents are enough to jolt adrenaline throughout your body to get your heart racing). In that case, you see police officers working in tandem with one another to sweep through classrooms to eliminate the threat and protect the innocent. All this with sirens and alarms blaring in the background to heighten the intensity of their search. As police sweep through the halls, they hear gunfire on the second floor and run toward, not away, from the sound of firing rounds. Unlike any previous school shooting I’m aware of, citizens can look on as officers turn a corner and, upon seeing the shooter, immediately take her down with marksman-like precision.
Obviously trained for tactical situations like this one, the police officers’ actions are a demonstration of professionalism par excellence. Of course, one might reply, “but that’s their job.” So it is, but it is no small thing to see a job performed well regardless of the job’s calling. God has made us, after all, to recognize what is excellent concerning the thing or task being performed such that we can say, “This was well done.” So it was with the Nashville Police, whose actions assuredly reduced the number of fatalities.
And to that excellence, we must confront another truth—that our nation has seen this job done poorly. The heroic actions of the Nashville police officers stand as a stark rebuke and refutation to the failure of Uvalde’s police officers, who stood by for an appalling 77 minutes as children were killed. The aftermath of Uvalde seemed to focus almost as much on the disbelief and shock of how police stayed outside the line of fire, allowing teachers and children to face the shooter.
But the focus of this column is not on Uvalde’s police. My main focus is on Nashville. Everyone with a conscience can look on and recognize the excellence and bravery displayed by the police there. This is also an occasion for Christians to rejoice at why God has ordained government in the first place: to secure justice. One way justice is secured is by the lawful elimination of threats to justice. In Romans 13:1-7, we read from Scripture how political authorities “are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad” (v. 3). We read that government is “God’s servant for your good” (v. 4). Government is also tasked with retributive justice and “does not bear the sword in vain” as “God’s servant” (v. 5). As Paul writes, the government is an “avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”
What the Nashville police did in response to this horrible situation is in direct accordance with what God has designed the government to do: to administer just and righteous judgment, which in this situation, warranted the just death of the perpetrator. While Christians take no delight in the death of anyone, we can say with biblical assurance that the shooter’s death was just. All we can do in response is praise the Lord for first responders who are God’s servants to do good.
To speak of doing “good” is chalk full of moral meaning that we cannot gloss over.
In what I consider to be the most important volume of Christian ethics in the 20th century, The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis delivers a historic and stinging indictment of modern philosophy’s turn toward moral relativism and its denial of absolute truth. In one section, Lewis draws attention to modern society’s inability to provide an adequate moral foundation. He famously writes: “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” In Nashville, we saw the police demonstrate rare courage. A sane society is thankful for that courage and honors it.
We cry out for deliverance and justice, knowing that while God is the deliverer of both from an eternal perspective, He has ordained political authorities to oversee both from an earthly perspective. What we saw with the bravery of Nashville’s police is the glaring reminder that our eyes see what is true despite our society’s rejection of truth: Yes, we saw objective evil in the shooter’s monstrous actions, but in the adult leaders of that school and in the responding police, we saw objective bravery and honor, too.
These daily articles have become part of my steady diet. —BarbaraSign up to receive the WORLD Opinions email newsletter each weekday for sound commentary from trusted voices.