"Me, the gunman, and God"

Security guard? That's not quite accurate. Jeanne Assam, the former police officer whose fearless shooting halted the massacre at New Life Church on Sunday, was first of all a church member, a Christ-follower. She was one of those voluntarily standing watch during the late service after having worshiped at an earlier service. She brought her gun to New Life that day in readiness to risk her life for the protection of others' lives, and for the defense of fellow believers' right to practice their faith unmolested. Good thing she did. Matthew Murray, the deranged killer, wanted Christians dead and set his own life at no value toward that end. Jeanne Assam wanted Christians protected and alive and safe -- and set her own life at no value toward that end. She advanced on him like David against Goliath, and with the same result. How instructive it is to read their contrasting accounts in today's Denver Post (see the foregoing links).

And how utterly backward, in light of all this, is Tuesday's letter to the Post by Robert Tiernan of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Though he condemns Mitt Romney for having "pandered to deists" and "ignored the rights of atheists," that's not what the Massachusetts Republican did in last week's speech. Rather, Romney explained precisely why an America where faith flourishes is a far better country -- a place where the self-giving typified by Assam can overcome the self-destructiveness tragically manifested in Murray.

Violence and bloodshed and lives on the line in places of faith, such as our state experienced this weekend in Arvada and Colorado Springs, are not as incongruous as they may seem. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah, concluding today, commemorates a desperate fight for survival 2100 years ago by believers in the biblical God. The Christmas story, retold in churches this month, includes soldiers slaughtering infants as one family flees for its life.

The newborn son of that family, Jesus of Nazareth, would grow up to tell his followers, "A time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God" (John 16:2). His own execution was carried out soon thereafter, with that very motivation.

So the deadly hatred voiced by Matthew Murray is nothing new after all. "You Christians brought this on yourselves," he wrote on a website in the midst of Sunday's killing spree. "All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you as I can, especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems of the world."

Peter and his fellow apostles would not be surprised at this syllogism of evil, in the first century or the 21st. Robert Tiernan would no doubt disavow the murderer's conclusion; but would he completely reject the premise? As for Jeanne Assam, Christ-follower and armed churchgoer -- she, thank God, left home on the morning of December 9 fully aware of the risks that faith involves, and fully prepared to face them.