On Thursday evening, local police officers went to an apartment to serve a felony warrant. Having determined from the neighbors that the fugitive was there, they went up and started to enter the apartment. Someone inside opened fire on the police, hitting one officer in the head. The police returned fire, got the injured officer out of harm's way, and summoned SWAT and negotiators. After several hours of failed attempts to make contact with the shooter, the police sent a bomb squad robot with a camera into the apartment. The shooter lay on the floor, dead of what at this writing appears to have been a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The officer who received a bullet in the head survived, and is even reported to be conscious and alert. The dead shooter, Patrick Green, was wanted for failing to appear at his sentencing on a felony possession charge. The media have interviewed a member of his family who paints a picture of drug abuse and jail time. The very description of her relationship to him -- her stepbrother is the shooter's father, making her his "aunt" -- hints at a broken home with tenuous family ties that no doubt set the stage for this dissipated life. "He just had trouble living life on life's terms," she said.
But what really captures the attention is the following, casually tossed out, almost as an afterthought (emphasis added):
She gives her thoughts and prayers to the officer that was shot, and even though she's grateful that Patrick is no longer suffering, she calls the events of Thursday night - a tragedy.
This is an incredible statement. After a life of drug abuse, criminality, and pretty much doing as he pleased ("trouble living life on life's terms"), capped off with an attempt to murder the police officers who came to pick him up after his failure to appear on a felony charge, and then ended violently at his own hand, what rational basis is there to assume that Patrick is no longer suffering? What must one believe in order to be able to arrive at such a conclusion? What must the reporter believe in order to receive and pass on that conclusion so casually? What must be the state of a society in which such a statement raises no eyebrows?
One certainly hopes and prays for some miracle of mercy for this man, however poor his outlook appears to outsiders: Christ shed His Blood to save him, too. But salvation requires our cooperation. What, then, must the aunt believe in order to take it for granted that Patrick Green's suffering is at an end? It must be one of two things. Either she believes that there is no immortal soul, and no afterlife, and consequently, no heaven and therefore no God -- in which case, to what is she directing her prayers for the officer who was shot? -- or, she must believe in universal salvation, where we all get hoisted up to heaven and plunked down at God's right hand, regardless of what we have done and how we have lived. In that case, nothing we do matters; and if nothing we do matters, then we ourselves do not matter. Therefore, it was pointless for Christ to shed His Blood for our salvation, since we were never worth it, even in His eyes. Moreover, a moral order is pointless -- and is not license the true purpose of a belief in universal salvation?
But how false is a hope that leads us to count on a one-way, non-stop ticket to heaven at the end of a dissolute life. On the contrary: we will die as we have lived. We have no right to presume otherwise.
We must pray for the soul of Patrick Green, who has now been stripped of all delusions, and pray that if he is suffering, it is, by some miracle, the expiating suffering of the saved and thankful.