10 October 2017

The Curious Case of Stephen Paddock

Ten (10) days ago, 20,000+ concert goers from across the United States, gathered in Las Vegas for the Route 91 Harvest, an annual country music festival.

On the third and final day of the festival around 10pm as the headlining country music artist was closing out the show a man opened fire with automatic weapons upon the crowd indiscriminately from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel that towers just 500 meters away from the concert ground.

With all the excitement going on, it took a while for the crowd to realize that bullets from an automatic weapon were being sprayed on them. Jason Aldean, the country music singer on the stage, stopped his performance to put his hand over his forehead to look past the glaring concert lights and see where the distant yet ferocious noise was coming from. Videos of the country musical star bolting to the back of the stage have since gone viral.

What ensued was absolute chaos as thousands of concert attendees scampered over each other in all directions to find safety and cover. All the while, Stephen Paddock relentlessly fired his deadly weapons upon the helpless crowd.

The shooting is the deadliest yet by a single person in U.S history with 60 dead and 500 injured. Hospitals in Nevada were inundated with people from the scene. A doctor described the difficulty of sorting through the hundreds of people pouring in to separate those with mere blood spurts on their clothes from those who were actually wounded from the bullets or the chaos.

Who could possibly be responsible for such an inhumane crime?

Stephen Paddock, a 64 year old born and bred American retiree. Stephen’s brother, girlfriend and mother are in complete shock and have failed to marry this heinous act of violence with the man they knew and loved.

Investigators have reached a dead end as far as motive is concerned. Paddock was a wealthy man. In fact, he was a millionaire. Having done well for himself and not needing to work anymore, Paddock spent much of his time gambling. It was in a casino that he met his girlfriend of several years, a Filipino lady.

Paddock’s brother describes him as a good but reserved man. Paddock helped his brother retire early as well and was generous to his girlfriend. He ensured that his mother lived comfortably. He wasn’t religious, nor was he an extremist by any stretch.

In short, Paddock had no known religious, social or financial motivation for his crime. Neither was he known to have any mental problems. Paddock was really a regular guy who meticulously planned to smuggle several semi-automatic modified firearms into an expensive hotel room, shooting a guard in the process, breaking the suite’s windows with a hammer and firing several rounds of bullets down on an unsuspecting concert crowd.

Worse off, Paddock embodies the “American Dream”. From a family of four boys raised by a single mother abandoned by their father, Paddock went from working as a Postman for the postal service to owning a million dollar real-estate business that set him and his family up for life.

Paddock is indeed a curious case.

How do we understand this man in light of the bible?

Well, perhaps God is teaching America and the world, something here. While we fight to get rid of many of the sources of violence and crime namely, social and financial challenges and religious extremism, we need to consider the bible’s assertions that even after we have solved these external problems, we will still be left with the problem within, sinful hearts with evil proclivities.

Investigators are puzzled because Paddock does not fit the mass murderer’s profile. And investigators are working with the predominant world view. That if you give a man a good upbringing and education, and if he attains wealth and success, that man will be good and happy.

Paddock was raised by a mother who loved him. Paddock graduated with a degree at age 24. Paddock went on to achieve great success. And yet after achieving all there was to achieve, Paddock went on to commit this heinous crime.

Growing up loved and educated, achieving success and wealth will solve myriad problems but it doesn’t get to the crux of things, it can’t cure humanity’s sick heart. The only hope for this sin sick world, the only hope for our sin sick hearts is Jesus. With everything he had Paddock was still poor, he needed Jesus. Until we can accept the wisdom of that ancient book, the bible, we will never solve this curious case.
Jeremiah 17.9, “The heart is deceitful about all things and desperately wicked, who can understand it?” 

Matthew 15.19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”

Mark 2.17, “When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but sinners.”

Ezekiel 36.25-27, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”