Recently one of the companies I chaplain for went through active shooter training. This was your basic ADD training.
- Avoid – get away from the shooter
- Deny – hide and use attempted to block the shooter’s access to you
- Defend – attack the shooter as a last resort
I believe this was good training for us to go through as long as we understand the actual proportional risk we face of an active shooter. I think the danger with thinking about mass shootings is, as C.S. Lewis describes with the danger of the demonic in his classic work The Screwtape Letters, to think either too little or too much about them. Like a fire drill it is good for us to be prepared. After all there is a risk, though a an almost minusculely small one, that we will one day need this information. Unfortunately our wonderful, God-given instinct to fear danger can go hyperactive and lead us to unreasonably fear things to the point of being paralyzed by events that are extremely unlikely to ever happen to us. That unreasonable fear stops us from not only enjoying our daily lives but also responding in love to the opportunities around us. Fear paralyzes us, love mobilizes us.
For example, your chance of dying in a mass shooting is around 1 in 110,154 (2016 stats). That’s not something that I want to completely disregard but it also isn’t something that I want to shape my life around. To give you some comparisons that chance is close the same chance that you will die from a dog attach (1 in 112,400) or legal execution (1 in 119,012) but more likely than being killed by lightning (1 in 161,856). Whereas much more likely means of death include, obviously, hearts disease (1 in 6), cancer (1 in 7), and motor vehicle accident (1 in 103) but also death by fall ((1 in 114), drowning (1 in 1,117), fire/smoke (1 in 1,474), and death by hornet, wasp, or bee sting (1 in 46,045). I am much more concerned about tripping on one of the cats and falling to my death than I am of Clive the Basset turning vicious and killing me. Both could happen but one is definitely more probable.
I’m not sure about you but I don’t mess around with lightning, I’m not going to go running around in a lightning storm holding a big metal pole, but I also don’t fear it to the point that it keeps me from doing my daily activities or even running while it rains.
So all I am saying is try to let the facts reassure you that you don’t have to live in fear. As horrific as terrorist acts like mass shootings are our chance of being involved in one isn’t very great. Fear is usually what terrorist are hoping for. Be smart enough to know what to do if you are ever, God for bid, in one but don’t live in fear of something that you will probably never personally experience. So you don’t have to respond in fear of crowds and fear of every stranger because you most probably won’t ever be in an active shooter situation. You don’t have to walk around like you are in an active war zone or always sit with you back to the wall in an hyper-aware mindset even when you are out to dinner. You don’t have to live in fear and in my opinion if you are a Christian you shouldn’t live in fear.
I think understanding unreasonable fears is incredibly important for those of us who profess Jesus as Lord because first we were not given a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7) , and second unreasonable fears often keep us from doing the things that Jesus calls us to do such as caring for the foreigners in our midst. For example, consider the Ebola scare of 2014 (I wrote about the church and Ebola here). Remember the fear that was associated with helping people and countries sufferings from Ebola? Many people who claimed to be Christians responded in great fear rather than great love over a crisis that never really ended up affecting us very much. There was a great deal of sound and fury, but in the end nothing really for us to fear. Still that fear led some Christians to act in very unChristian manners toward those in need. When we respond in love instead of fear we tend to do great things. Again fear paralyzes us, love mobilizes us.
Try to listen to the voices of love rather than fear. I think it leads to a more God honoring life.