Hell Is Portable. You have heard me say that before. I thought it again after the events last week in Las Vegas. Words simply fail when trying to make sense out of something that is so completely senseless. After a week, this is what we know—58 people were killed and nearly 500 injured. The shooter had some 23 guns in his hotel room. His brother is dumbfounded by the shooter’s actions. The shooter’s girlfriend claims he is a gentle and caring man. So far no one can locate a motive for any of it. Not one person has stepped forward to offer one piece of evidence that this man was considering such a heinous act.
So let me try it again and see if it resonates today. Hell Is Portable. It was portable that day for the shooter. It’s hard to conceive that he was in his right mind when he did it. Somehow or another he was carrying some level of Hell inside himself.
It was portable for the victims. None of them asked for this. None of them deserved this. They simply showed up to listen to a concert and all Hell broke loose.
Could this have been prevented? We’d all like to think so. We’d all like to think that this man was leaving clues lying around and if we had just been paying attention . . . But there’s no reason to believe that. A very peculiar and powerful kind of evil was unleashed that night. You can rarely plan for such an event. That’s part of what makes it all the more terrifying.
So for a while, the best I can do is to embrace the reality that Hell Is Portable. Events like this have happened before. They will happen again. Many innocent people will suffer and there isn’t much we can do to stop it—short of locking ourselves inside a fortress and become prisoners, ourselves. If that is the price for “security”, no thanks.
But Hell being portable isn’t the last word, either. Because I believe just as strongly that Heaven Is Portable, too. How do I know? Because when strangers lie down on top of strangers in order to protect them from bullets, that’s when I know all Heaven broke loose, too. When a small army of first responders arrived to bring comfort and healing to the injured, that’s when I know God was on the scene.
I had a young friend ask me this week the question that has rolled off all of our tongues at one time or another: “Why would God allow such a horrible thing to happen?” In earlier years that question was posed in a book by Harold Kushner—“When Bad Things Happen To Good People.” And much earlier than that the writer of the Book of Job plays out a drama between one faithful man and the God of the Universe asking this very same question. It is a question of Theodicy that has troubled human beings for all of history.
Here’s the best I can do: I believe it has to do with God’s greatest gift to us—human freedom. You and I are free to believe or not to believe. We are free to love or not to love. We are free to do unimaginable acts of goodness or unthinkable acts of madness. To step in and prevent such acts of madness would strip away the profound goodness of that gift. If suffering from time to time a tragedy like the one in Las Vegas is the price of our freedom, then sign me up.
And so from this day forward if you wish to make the world a better place, then remember that Heaven is also portable. Go out and BE that Heaven every day.