It's a bit surreal when everyday familiar places become fodder for national headlines...especially when those headlines are as tragic as the ones that came out of yesterday's mass shooting at Westroads Mall in Omaha.
I live in Lincoln now (hence the God's country west of Omaha), but I grew up in the Omaha area. Actually, my parents' house is bout 3/4 mile away from the shooter's house. And the McDonalds he was fired from (the speculated "straw that broke the camel's back" leading to the shooting)? Well, if you sit in the right spot in the sanctuary of my boyhood church, you can see the Golden Arches of that very restaurant through the big window around the cross up front. I spent more than one Sunday morning contemplating the promise of quarter pounders with cheese, hoping that those around me assumed I was contemplating the promise of justification by grace through faith.
Actually, they've since put stained glass in those windows, so the view isn't what it used to be. But I digress.
When I was a teenager, Westroads Mall was, and still is I believe, the largest enclosed mall in the state of Nebraska. As such, it was a popular hangout, and I spent many a weekend afternoon ot evening there with friends.
It's now a crime scene. And not just any crime. The largest mass murder in Nebraska since Charles Starkweather back in the 50's.
It hits home particularly because my parents were out shopping yesterday afternoon. They were looking for some things for my mom, and had been to a couple of stores without any luck. Von Maur at Westroads--where the shootings occurred--was going to be their next stop. But it was 1:15, and they had an appointment for their furnace to have its fall check at 2:00, so they figured they'd better get back home and maybe go some other time.
The shootings occurred right at the time that they would have been inside the store.
The kid that did this said in a suicide note that he was about to become famous. I'm not going to dignify his attempt at fame by writing his name here, which would then become searchable by Google and Yahoo, and indirectly contribute to any perceived "fame" from the destruction of lives.
I do wonder, however, if in his feelings of loneliness and unworthiness, he was ever invited to a church.
Not to say that "ya gotta have religion to get right with yerself" or anything like that. But it seems to me, in the midst of church battles over liturgy and worship styles and having the right theology and whether the pulpit should be on the LEFT or the RIGHT side of the sanctuary...that the real battle is this: to whom have I shown love? For whom have I been Christ?
And if the answer in our deepest heart of hearts is only "those whom I am comfortable with and are like me," then shame on us.
In the meantime, we mourn. We mourn the victims of a horrible crime. We mourn for all victims everywhere, those in places where eight deaths wouldn't even be newsworthy. We mourn a loss of a level of innocence. We mourn.
May our mourning also be a call to service and a call to love.