A tragic shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the response by Chuck Gastron of DeForest Evangelical Free in DeForest, Wisconsin brings about today’s post at The Wondering Eagle. This looks at the epic fail that the senior pastor committed in light of a horrific tragedy, and what he could have done that could have been unique and brought about some healing to this Planned Parenthood clinic.
“By the fruit the tree is to be known. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.”
“A belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness. “
“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws. “
DeForest in a small town in Dane County, Wisconsin. The closest city would be Madison which is about 25 miles away. Madison is the capitol of Wisconsin. In DeForest one of the church is an Evangelical Free. The church website doesn’t reveal the history but like many other EFCA churches there are core values and vision statements. The senior pastor at DeForest Evangelical Free is Chuck Gaston, who is the teaching elder. Chuck as I understand also served in the United States Army (USA). As to his theological training or other education, that I do not know. When I was working through the Forest Lakes District and calculating the growth of Neo-Calvinism/Neo-Puritanism I came across this blog post by Chuck called “A Search for Answers.” It was something that deeply bothered me and I put it aside for commentary, and a response. Before I get into the post itself, let’s look at a dangerous shooting that occurred in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
A Horrific Shooting and Stand Off with Police in Colorado Springs
On November 27, 2015 Robert Lewis Dear Jr approached the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs with as deadly agenda. Robert began firing an semi-automatic rifle on the outside of the clinic. Robert had shot Ke’Arre M. Stewart in the parking lot. Ke’Arre an Iraqi Freedom vet came inside shot and warned people to get down and lock themselves in rooms for their safety. Inside the Planned Parenthood clinic patients were moved out of the waiting room and tried to barricade the door. The police were called at 11:38 in the morning and the first to respond was Garrett Swasey of the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs police force. Officer Swasey was shot by the gunman and died. He left behind a wife and several children. One of the people who was shot staggered into a grocery store next to the clinic and collapsed in the front of the store bleeding profusely. As the police got involved the area was on lockdown and the people in nearby locations were either evacuated or sheltered in place. Colorado Springs police got involved, as did the FBI and the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). There was gunfire that was exchanged within the Planned Parenthood clinic and police. The standoff lasted for five hours. At 4:52 p.m. mountain time the gunman surrounded to local police. In the end three people were killed and nine people wounded.
Robert Lewis Dear Jr originally came from the Carolinas which is where he lived most of his life. He was a fundamentalist who would later be found incompetent to stand trial. Dear claimed that he was motivated by the Planned Parenthood videos and said in a rambling statement that there will be “no more baby parts that will be sold.” In court after the incident Lewis rambled incoherent statements and also went off about legalized abortion and dead babies. The day after this shooting took place in Colorado Springs an Evangelical Free pastor in Wisconsin wrote a troubling response in my view to the violence that took place. The Wondering Eagle would like to analyze and look at Chuck Gaston’s response. My comments will be below in red.
By now, no doubt, we all have heard of the tragic shooting at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We quickly learned that nearly a score of victims either lay dead or were injured in the wake of the shooting event. Our collective hearts ache for the families of those who perished. And our prayers ascend for the healing of those who survived their wounds.
Just as quickly, it seems, many have begun to search for answers as to ‘why’ and ‘how’ such an event could happen. Others have already answered those questions for themselves and have begun to assign blame.
Those who cling to the assumption that weapons are the problem reason that the shooter would have had no opportunity or inclination to kill IF he had had no access to a gun. Those who champion pro-life causes find fault with the brutal death industry of Planned Parenthood and assume that no incident could have occurred IF the abortion office did not exist.
Here is one thing that I have to get off my chest. I keep seeing it over and over in evangelicalism. And I say this as a guy who owns a shotgun. Why are so many evangelicals obsessed with guns? Why is it when a shooting takes place many flock to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc… to defend semi-automatic weapons and more? Is that part of evangelical doctrine, that you must own a semi-automatic rifle? Is that why Jesus suffered and bleed at Calvary, so that people can own guns? Now I am not opposed to people owning a shotgun and going hunting. But I am deeply baffled why so many evangelicals have a quasi faith that includes semi-automatic weapons. Some evangelicals almost respond as if it is the gun itself that died and suffered at Calvary over Jesus. Am I wrong? But I get that vibe when Chuck Gaston raises a slight critique of the issue when he says that weapons are the problem. The evangelical obsession with guns is one that I have not understood and from my perspective I would state that it is getting worse.
And although each group feels that their rationale is correct and that they can site logical reasons supporting their convictions, both are wrong. On the surface, both appear to be right. But, let’s ask ourselves these questions: 1) Are we to assume that the absence of a gun would have prevented the act of violence of a man against another adult man or woman? And 2) Are we to further assume that the absence of an abortion clinic would have prevented the act of violence of a man or woman against a helpless baby?
No. We know the answer. The perpetrator of the shooting, in the absence of a gun, would have found another vicious way to harm the people he hated. And the propagators and purchasers of abortion, in the absence of a clinic, would have found another vicious way to kill their babies. Of this we can be certain.
As we continue to read Chuck’s post I think we encounter something that I see here in the Washington, D.C. area from time to time. Some people are discharged from the military physically, but mentally they have not separated. Some people do not transition out of the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, etc… and still act as if they are enlisted or an officer. In my lifetime I have heard of situations where someone who was a career Marine will take over a Boy Scout troop and treat young Boy Scouts like they are in the Marine Corps. What I am getting at is from my understanding and background research I believe Chuck Gaston was in the Army earlier in his life. And I don’t think he transitioned out of the military. The tip off to me is what he writes up above in which he has this underlining concern with gun control that comes out in his post about Colorado Springs. Now I am not in favor of gun-control either, but frankly I do question why so many semi-automatics need to be on the streets, and I wonder why gun control needs to come up in this article. That seems to show poor theology from my point of view. The greater issues from a philosophical perspective is why would a loving God allow a gunman to go on a rampage in a health care clinic? I.e. the theodicy issue.
But if these answers do not accurately explain ‘why’ this happened, then what does? What is the real reason this event happened?
Simply this–The shooter and the clinic workers WERE TRYING TO PLAY GOD! Yes, that’s the reason. The shooter felt justified in playing God by deciding who lived and who died AND the clinic workers felt justified in playing God by deciding what babies lived and what babies died. And regardless of the supposed well-intentioned point of view of each, their glaring arrogance prove all that needs to be understood about this event.
Now here is what bothers me deeply as I get more into this article. I am deeply troubled that Chuck equates both the clinic staff with the gunman. In Chuck’s mind all Planned Parenthood does is abortion. And that is not true at all. Yes Planned Parenthood does pregnancy termination but that is one aspect of their medical practice. That is like saying all your dentist does is get rid of cavities, when a dentist can do much more than that. At Planned Parenthood they also do HIV and sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing. They also go cancer scans, and test for breast cancer and perform pap tests. The also do a lot of health education as well. In addition to all that what bothered me is that whether you like it or not, the abortionist was functioning in the confines of the law. The guy waving around a gun and shooting people was well outside the confines of the law. To compare both and put them in the same train of thought is deeply disturbing to me. Maybe this is an oversight by Chuck? Maybe this was something he didn’t contemplate fully? I find the comparison to be sickening to be honest. And I say this is a guy who is not a huge abortion supporter. His lumping of all clinic workers also shows that he has not considered the diverse responsibilities that have taken place at such a medical clinic. In Chucks’ mind its just abortion. Its just tunnel vision which is all that he sees. Chuck should back away from the issue and read his Politico article on the history of the culture wars and see how abortion came about.
IT NEVER WOULD HAVE OCCURRED IF PEOPLE WOULD HAVE LEFT TO GOD THE THINGS OF GOD and WOULD HAVE DEVOTED THEMSELVES TO HIS HONOR AND SOVEREIGNTY INSTEAD.
The shooter AND the clinic workers should have shuddered in fear of trying to assume God’s role as the Giver of life. As it is, they all grossly overestimated their own importance in life and while acting on their own impulses and self-will left on the landscape of our culture another grotesque picture of what we all are like whenever we push God away and attempt to take His place and become the ‘gods of our own fabrication’. And what a wretched sight it is. The gunman’s weapon was wielded over helpless people caught in his sights and helpless babies were pulled from their mother’s womb by doctors wielding a scalpel–both hideous sights are they of the results of ruthless, Godless violence.
I would be fascinated to know if Chuck Gaston hangs on to every word that comes from John Piper. For some people John Piper is God himself and yet you look at what John Piper has done in the context of natural disasters. Is God the author of life? Or is he the bringer of death? What about cancer and other issues? Is God the bringer of life or does he bring about death? I find it interesting that Chuck will talk about such a perspective when other people like John Piper will do the same thing. I will get into it more below but another thing that sickens my stomach is the timing of this post. Evangelicals are awful when it comes to timing, and to continually be off really takes a lot of talent when you think about it. Here is another question that I want to ask. Chuck talks about the sovereignty of God and then in the last sentence talks about the people “caught in the sights” of the gunman. In this evangelical perspective are these people really helpless? Or are they guilty because they were at Planned Parenthood and nothing could be more evil in the end? I don’t find this post by Chuck to be filled with empathy and grace for those caught in the middle of a massacre. Yes if you are going to be opposed to abortion there are times and places to speak about it; but is a day after the event the time to do so? What about the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs police officer, he had no ties to the clinic and was just doing his job and showed up. Officer Swasey could have been killed at a 7-11 that was robbed or a bank robbery at US Bank in Colorado Springs that went awry, Where is the remorse for a first responder who was doing his job? I just really do not see that in this post by Chuck.
But thanks be to God, He can and will have mercy on all who call on Him out of a pure heart for salvation. Let’s purpose to bow before Him, invite Him to be our God through faith in Jesus Christ and follow Him in all His ways, thereby, leaving a better, more worthy picture for others to see when they look at how we lived our lives here–lives lived with love for God and love for those created in His image, both born and pre-born.
The closing of this post by Chuck is just awful. To use such an event to call people to repent is not just opportunistic but inappropriate. Sometimes to me it seems as if evangelicals smile and are grateful when tragedies occur. For some evangelicals they give them a platform to speak, five minutes of fame, and a means to rail against the world. And after all what would honor God in the end? Someone who repented because they came around on their own, and thought the issues through? Or someone who responded in fear and in a tragedy like the Colorado Springs shooting? Chuck Gaston’s post was in-appropriate, out of line and communicated why much of evangelicalism is out of line. I want to spend sometime in speaking about the lack of sensitivity that many parts of evangelicalism has.
The Issue of Evangelical Christians and Poor Timing
Here is one of the major issues in evangelical Christianity that I see playing out in the senior pastor of DeForest Evangelical Free’s blog post. Evangelicals have a real talent of being able to communicate the wrong message, in the worst manner, in the worst time in the most disturbing fashion. When you stop and think about it, its a real skill that they have. It takes a lot of talent to be able to do such a thing. And it happens on both sides of the issue. On the non-Calvinist side you have Pat Robertson who was famous for what he said about hurricanes. On the Neo-Calvinist side you have John Piper who is always shooting off his mouth when a tornado occurs. In the case of the Colorado Springs shooting look at what Chuck Gaston said. This was not a time to talk about people’s sinfulness. It was not a time to talk about how they should fear God. It was not a time to put both the shooter and the activity inside the abortion clinic in the same line of thought. It was not a time to call people to repent. What the Colorado Springs shooting is about is a time to mourn, weep and grieve the loss of life. And not go any further and say anything about abortion since it was also an abortion clinic. There are times to discuss the issue of abortion and this is not one of them. In the wake of what took place abortion should not even have been on Chuck Gaston’s mind. This post by Chuck in my opinion illustrates why many parts of evangelical Christianity are profoundly broken, and perhaps broken beyond repair. But if you really want to show how insensitive this post is, stop and imagine how this would have been read by the families of the victims in Colorado Springs. If someone related to Ke’Arre M Stewart or Garrett Swasey read Chuck’s post could it have led them to reject Christianity especially in light of how this tragedy happened? You had someone who killed several people in the context of fundamentalism. Yes he may have had mental health issues, but stop and consider what he was also ranting about as well. Is it possible that the behavior of the senior pastor of DeForest Evangelical Free could have led some people disillusioned with the Christian faith.
What DeForest Evangelical Free Should have Done
Now having said all that this is what that Evangelical Free church and others should have done. They should have been concerned of the loss of life and in this situation not focused on the abortion component. Leave that out for another time. They should have fasted and prayed for the families who lost their lives. They should have mourned for the hit that Christianity took because of how and where this happened. After all Colorado Springs is the Mecca of evangelical Christianity especially with Navigators, Focus on the Family, and Cru being located there. I wonder how many minstrels missed opportunities to bring about healing in this tragedy? Would they have been to fixated on the fact that this was an abortion clinic and been silent? But getting back to DeForest Evangelical Free they should have been concerned about the people that lost their lives or were injured in the Planned Parenthood clinic. They should have realized that some people lost a father, a friend, a son or daughter and grieved that this happened. They should have raised money and offered to help the Planned Parenthood clinic and explained that they were concerned for their well being. Could you imagine how the director of that clinic would have reacted if that happened, and an Evangelical Free church reached out and said, “We want to help you, no strings attached, without any agenda and say that we love and care for you.” How many conversations could that have started not just in Planned Parenthood organization but also Colorado Springs, Colorado. That is what should have happened. I think Chuck may have meant well when he wrote that post but I don’t think he realized how the problems that took place because of it. I hope my response to this post is a learning opportunity for Chuck to grow and develop. That is it for the day. I hope you guys have a great day!