Free Falling in Las Vegas - Devotional


Dr. Mark Hatfield, Calais Congregational Church

Hiding on the 32nd floor of a fancy hotel, a wealthy 64-year-old coward sets a record for murdering innocent people. Then, in a final act of self-indulgence, he avoids taking responsibility for his actions by killing himself.

Around the same time, one of my favorite musicians, Tom Petty—who just happens to be my age—dies from a heart attack.

Just mentioning a few examples, to me the carnage in Las Vegas, along with the dangers of North Korea and the effects of devastating hurricanes feels overwhelming. To quote a Tom Petty song, I feel like I am Free Falling.

Maybe you do too.

Am I saying I have stopped trusting God? No, I’m just grieving. Feeling alarmed. Trying to figure out how we managed to become such an angry, violent nation. As I struggle to find answers, I wonder if the effects of our ever-expanding media technology may be playing a stronger role than we imagine? 

Could the 24-hour news cycle be a factor?  For example, what’s the psychological effect of repeatedly seeing the same pictures of a real life tragedy?  Doesn’t that start desensitizing us to actual trauma and pain of those events?  In addition, if all the news channels seem hell bent on promoting a specific political agenda and arousing their viewer’s anger, then how does that encourage We the People to compromise and work together? 

On the other hand, the same Jesus who warns us that a house divided against itself cannot stand  also provides this encouragement. Even in the darkness, the light never stops shining.  Therefore, thanks to the 24-hour news technology I was just bemoaning, we have all witnessed—amidst the carnage in Las Vegas and the hurricanes—multiple examples of just how much compassion, courage and generosity people can muster in such moments. 

That’s because, to quote another Tom Petty song, when good must be done, most of us Won’t Back Down.