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Hello, fellow wayfarers. What the terror in Nashville means for all of us … How we become numb to all this carnage … With a broken heart for my city, this is this week’s Moore to the Point.

Russell Moore

Nashville in a Time of Blood and Hate

Over the past few days, my city, Nashville, has been grieving and suffering after a terroristic murderer attacked a Christian school and slaughtered six people—including three children.

Whenever a school shooting happens in America, our country is shocked and pays attention for a time. But within a matter of weeks, most people add these events to other names on a list of horrors—Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook, Uvalde, and so on. But as others can attest, it’s different when such a tragedy happens in your backyard.

Some of the boys and girls fleeing for their lives are children of dear friends, and almost everyone I know is connected—closely or loosely—with the victims. We all know the church, the school, our neighbors in the Green Hills neighborhood. Things will not be the same here for a very long time.

And yet Americans—especially Christians—should ask just how much we have adjusted ourselves to this kind of horror. How numb to it all have we become?

While I was still in the haze of this awful news, a friend who is an expert in domestic terrorism texted me to warn about people calling for the release of the murderer’s reported “manifesto.” My friend pointed to research showing that publishing these sorts of documents can fuel more incidents like it—as seen by the way that past mass murderers have cited those who came before. I trust this leader that such best practices are right.

Yet I wonder about all the “manifestoes” we have seen. I’m referring not to the deranged screeds of mass murderers but to the hate and rage that have become so commonplace in our society that we barely even notice them anymore. How long can we live like this and pretend we are powerless to change it?

Regardless of our good-faith disagreements on the meaning of the Second Amendment, can we not all agree that something is seriously wrong when a person with this many “red flags” can purchase multiple weapons of that capacity without anyone noticing? And every time these atrocities happen, we reassure ourselves by noting that the person is unstable and out of touch with reality.

But can we seriously believe that such derangement is not influenced by a culture that now seems to be in a permanent state of limbic distress—a society in which hatefulness is so “normal” that the only question seems to be which group of people we should hate?

Many leaders—no matter their ideology or political or religious category—have decided that what “works” in this present moment is to convince people that we are in a constant state of emergency. And the emergency is so great that all the norms, manners, and habits that have kept a country like this together for so long are no longer operative.

After all, the goal is neither to persuade nor even to get anything done. Instead, it seems the objective is to label one’s opponents as not just wrong, not just stupid, not even just evil—but as an existential threat to everything “people like us” (however that’s defined) hold dear.

Many ideological leaders don’t believe in such rhetoric themselves. They’re just bringing in the crowds, counting the clicks and follows, and cashing the checks. And most regular people don’t act out of this mindset when they talk with people in line at the grocery store or welcome new families into their neighborhoods—that is, when they are not disconnected from other people and submerged in an online world of rancor.

But in a culture so thoroughly characterized by this kind of hatred—and even violent imagery and symbols about the “other side”—is it so surprising that some twisted, depraved people actually believe such lies to the degree that their consciences become dulled to even the most basic compassion for other human beings?

Jesus taught that murder doesn’t begin with the act of killing; it begins in a psyche that turns toward hate, rage, and anger (Matt. 5:21–24). This kind of hatred is not “only human,” although it seems so to us in the only broken world we’ve ever known east of Eden. Rather, such hate is animalistic and demonic (John 8:44; Rev. 13:4). In other words, it is not “normal,” and we should never make it so.

Even those who don’t believe in God or accept his revelation should be able to see that Jesus is right in saying this sort of hatred and violence never leads where we think it will—to a vanquishing of all of our enemies and to a victory for us, whoever “us” is. Instead, it only fuels more and more violence (Matt. 26:52).

Such hatred can consume a soul, and eventually, the wicked take advantage of every justification they can find to lash out at the innocent—whether they be Jewish synagogue members, gay nightclub attenders, evangelical Christian schoolchildren, or any others.

The baffling senselessness we feel at a time like this—which lasts a few days for the world and years for those close to it—should not lead us into resignation and cynicism, where we shrug our shoulders in an attitude of “What can you do?”

Instead, it should bring a flash of recognition that this is not the way it’s supposed to be. What we are seeing is a mystery of iniquity so great that it should rattle us—prompting us to put aside our theatrical hatred of one another long enough to ask, “How can we stop this?”

But that will require genuine discussions on public policy, justice, and safety. It will also mean asking ourselves why so many people will forget about Nashville—and the terror faced by those children and teachers—in a matter of days, just as we’ve forgotten all the other towns and cities that have been torn apart by this kind of murder.

The time we live in is not normal, and it is not leading us anywhere we want to go. The first step to stopping these hate-driven crimes is to recognize that fact. It’s right to grieve. It’s right to be angry. It’s right to feel afraid. But it’s never right to assume this is just the way things must be.

Lord, have mercy.

When I Recognized How Numb I Had Become to Terror

This past week I was lecturing at Baylor University and was driving, along with the dean of the Honors College there, from Waco to Dallas for another event Tuesday night. As he and I talked about the 30th anniversary of the Branch Davidian compound conflagration in Waco, we passed a sign for the little town of West, Texas.

My brain lit up, knowing that I should remember something about West. “Wasn’t there a shooting there a few years ago?” I asked. The dean reminded me that it wasn’t a shooting but the explosion of a factory, killing many people. I realized that I had confused the incident with a shooting because there have been so many of those.

I remember right where I was all those years ago—at a Southern Seminary trustee meeting—when the school murders happened at Columbine in Colorado. It seemed to be a singularly evil and unrepeatable event, like September 11 or Pearl Harbor. Now, as I wrote above, the list of such incidents is so long that sometimes we cannot even remember whether we know a place for that kind of mass shooting or for some other tragedy.

Contrast that with the sense of terror I felt when my plane landed and I turned on my phone to find dozens of texts about what had happened in Nashville—with how panicked I was to check on my friends and loved ones and how I will never forget that moment.

When it seems more distant, and when it seems constant, we forget. We “move on.” We become numb. I don’t think I’m alone in that, and I believe it’s a sign of something that’s gone very badly wrong—with our society and with our souls.

Desert Island Bookshelf

Every other week, I share a list of books that one of you says you’d want to have on hand if you were stranded on a deserted island. This week’s submission comes from reader Linda Stoll of Eastham, Massachusetts.

Linda says, “I’m a first-time reader of Moore to the Point … and quickly pulled a very random selection of favorites off my shelves without even thinking how appropriate these would actually turn out to be for an extended desert island experience. Here are eight volumes to keep you sane, anxiety-free, and focused till your ship comes in…”

Welcome aboard, Linda! Here’s her list:

Thank you, Linda!

Readers, what do you think? If you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life and could have only one playlist or one bookshelf with you, what songs or books would you choose?

  • For a Desert Island Playlist, send me a list of 5–12 songs, excluding hymns and worship songs. (We’ll cover those later.)

  • For a Desert Island Bookshelf, send me a list of 5–12 books. If possible, include one photo of all the books together.

    Send your list (or both lists!) to, and include as much or as little explanation of your choices as you would like. (And be sure to list the city or town where you live.)

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