It was hardly the most deadly mass school shooting. Only three adults, three children. “Only.” Yet, it is still depressing. It is gut-wrenching. These things happen far too often. But this time, something was different… for me.
After the news broke last month about the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, for about a day and a half I was outwardly numb. I went about my business, actively pushing the reality from my mind. “Another school shooting.” Yet, inwardly, my heart was slowly breaking, specifically for two of the tragic figures of the day. Two who had never known each other in life, now linked forever in death and pain.
The first was Hallie Scruggs, the precious, nine-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor (the school is part of the church). And I know she was precious simply because she was nine—a father’s beautiful child—not unlike my own youngest: pure, innocent, precious… nine. A personal coincidence, yet it began the process. The agony Hallie’s parents will forever experience would have instead been mine had that brutal murder been perpetrated upon my own young, priceless son. Unimaginable. The emptiness. The void. The loss of my precious Asher would be unbearable. I felt it for Hallie’s dad as one father to another. “It was my job to protect you. I failed, honey. I’m so sorry.” I also felt it as one man of God to another. “These halls were dedicated to the Lord. You were here because of who I serve. You were supposed to be safe.” If he could have only held her one last time. If he could have gazed upon her face and told her he loved her. If he could have shielded her fragile body with his own.
But as brokenhearted as I am for Hallie and her family, it was my brokenness for the second tragic figure that caught me completely off guard. Because this time, something was different.
It isn’t “normal” for a 28-year-old woman to shoot up a school. But this one did. When someone does such a horrendous act, we always ask “why”… how much more so when it isn’t “normal.” But the initial reports were confusing. It was uncertain whether the shooter was, in fact, a man. Women don’t do these kinds of things. But what wasn’t “normal” about this woman-shooter was that, recently, she had “identified” as a man.
It was watching the body-cam footage of those brave, amazing law-enforcement officers—seeing her lying there at the end, breathing her last—that I lost it… realizing perhaps the deepest tragedy of all. She was there that day—vengeful, terrorizing, murdering children—not because she was hopped up on testosterone, not because she was mentally ill, but because she was a fractured soul, she was hurt, irrationally afraid, profoundly confused, radicalized by an unnatural and destructive ideology, and indoctrinated as a foot soldier into a war that she—and so many like her today—was always destined to lose. It is unthinkable to characterize a mass murderer as a victim, though many are trying to do just that. But the tragedy and reality is that she was also someone’s daughter. And we failed to protect her from the mind-virus that drove her there that day.
Romans 15:1 says, “And we ought—we who are strong—to carry the weaknesses of the weak…” (MJLT). The tragedy of the Covenant School is more than just the loss of Hallie, her classmates and teachers. It is also that all our nation’s daughters (and sons) are in harm’s way because of the gender-bending radicalization that our nation’s fathers have failed to protect them from. Bullets don’t need to fly in order for others to be in mortal danger. Through evil indoctrination, even our precious nine-year-olds are already—slowly—dying.
If only we fathers would find the strength to shield them…