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The Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooting: Moving Forward by Not Moving On

Note from Dr. Denison: While my wife and I are on vacation, our oldest son, Ryan, is writing The Daily Article. Ryan is an MDiv graduate of Truett Seminary currently completing his PhD in Church History. He has written The Daily Article in my absence in the past and was the co-author of our latest publication, How Does God See America? I am honored to share this ministry with him. 

What more is there to say? 

The news is once again headlined by reports of a mass shooting, complete with essentially the same statements of remorse, promises of prayer, and debates about gun laws we’ve heard countless times before. 

As of this writing, details continue to emerge regarding the latest attack, this time at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California. Three were killed, including a six-year-old boy and a thirteen-year-old girl, while another twelve were injured. Police also shot and killed the suspected shooter.

The gunman, who has since been identified but will remain unnamed in this article, bypassed security by entering the festival grounds via a nearby creek and then cutting a hole in the surrounding fence. 

He started shooting around 5:41 on Sunday evening, and, by the grace of God and the accuracy of festival security, stopped shooting less than a minute later.

Yet that was all the time it took to forever alter the lives of countless individuals. 

So, where do we go from here?

Keep the focus on the people rather than the issues

We could spend this time debating our nation’s gun laws and what guidance we can find in Scripture. The former has been at the crux of most comments coming from those in the political sphere. And, while the latter is always helpful, we’ve been there before

We could look at the mental health aspects of the discussion. We could examine the degree to which the most sustainable solutions will focus on who is allowed to wield guns rather than how the guns are acquired. But that too seems like a topic better saved for another day. 


Instead, I think it’s best for us to just spend some time owning the fact that four people are dead and countless others injured, physically and emotionally, before we hurry off to try and fix it. 

The time for discussion about those other issues will come, but that discussion will be better served if we’ve actually grappled with the gravity of the situation rather than sought to escape it before it sinks in. 

The families grieving over the deaths of loved ones and the people who will have a panic attack the next time they hear fireworks because they sound so much like gunshots don’t get to just move past this. 

We shouldn’t either. 

When Jesus encountered those who were suffering, his first reaction was not always to try and fix their problems. He typically started by listening to them (Luke 17:11–19), taking their hand (Mark 1:30–31), or simply weeping with them (John 11:33–35). He would get to the healing and bigger issues eventually but usually not before he’d taken the time to empathize with them and understand their pain. 

Empty platitudes and hollow debates typically stem from a place of shallow empathy. We may genuinely want to help those who are hurting, but if we’re unwilling to bear at least a bit of their burden in the process, then how much can we really hope to achieve? 

The best prayer we can offer

Today’s article is shorter than normal because the basic point is simple: something horrible happened, and people God loves more than we can possibly understand will be forever scarred as a result. 

Your prayers will be stronger and your heart more in line with God’s when the words offered to our Lord come from a place of shared pain. 

Own that, and don’t promise thoughts and prayers to the hurting until you have. 

Your prayers will be stronger and your heart more in line with God’s when the words offered to our Lord come from that place of shared pain. 

And if the deepest cries of your heart in that state consist of nothing more than “God, please help them,” then maybe that’s for the best.

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Publication Date: July 30, 2019

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images/Mario Tama/Staff

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