In the wake of the unspeakable shooting in Las Vegas, the words of the Biblical prophet Habakkuk seem timelier than ever:
How long, Adonai, must I call for help,
but You do not listen?
Or cry out to You, “Violence!”
but You do not save?
Why do You make me look at injustice?
Why do You tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted. – Habakkuk 1:2-4 (NIV)
Habakkuk’s outcry reflects in many ways our outrage, our frustration, our profound sorrow, and our feelings of powerlessness in the wake of the most recent mass murders. To be sure, people are murdered every day in America. And there are many more multiple murders than our minds will allow us to absorb, lest we be engulfed in sadness all our days. But with the death toll at a record 59 and the wounded numbering past 520, particular attention must be paid! So many times before we have thought, “This time something will be done, must be done so that such atrocities NEVER AGAIN can be perpetrated!” So many times have we shouted “NEVER AGAIN,” and yet… destruction and violence are still before us and the law remains paralyzed.
Our hearts cry for those lives which were cut short – too, too, short – and for the bereaved families, friends, coworkers, and communities who will never be the same. For the wounded, we pray for refuah shleymah – the complete healing of body, mind, and spirit. They, too, will never be the same. Nor will any of those thousands who escaped physical harm but remain scarred for life. No one who was there will ever be the same.
And what about us? Will we remain the same as we were?
The full story of why this happened has yet to be told; and it may never be. But this much we know. Semi-automatic weapons are legal while automatic weapons are nearly all banned. But semi-automatics are easily and inexpensively converted to automatics. How long, God, will that work-around remain legal? How long, Congress, will we be hemmed in by those who prioritize power and prize over the protection of the powerless?
In his vision, Habakkuk accuses God of tolerating wrongdoing. If God tolerates such actions, then it is up to us not to. The prophet wishes to avert his eyes from violence and injustice, but cannot.
How long, America, how long?