Like so many across our country, I have been reeling about the news coming out of Ft. Hood, TX. A friend and fellow conscientious objector, who is also co-founder of Centurion's Guild, informed me via text message shortly after the news broke. So much immediately rushed through my head that still remains shrouded in uncertainty; was it premeditated, and if so how far in advance, and what ultimately motivated this tragedy? To make matters worse, we still have frustratingly limited information at this time, and it is unlikely that satisfying answers will be forthcoming very soon.
As we wait for more of the context to unfold, it goes without saying that I will be praying for the family members of those killed and wounded. It is absolutely heartbreaking that these soldiers were preparing to sacrificially put themselves in danger in Iraq or Afghanistan and instead were gunned down unarmed and unassuming. I will also be praying for the Ft. Hood command element, leaders like General Robert Cone, that they find the strength to lead with humble confidence and that they will act justly in the days ahead.
Major Hasan violated many assumptions that I held about potential gunmen; he was middle aged, a field grade officer (outranking about 95% of military members), had no spouse or children, heck, he even held a doctorate in mental health! Could some form of PTSD really have compelled him to snap? At least one news network is labeling his motivation as "compassion fatigue." We may never know for sure what ultimately led Major Hasan to do what he did. Either way, as Christians, we know violence is not part of God's intent and that in every form it counteracts Christ's redemptive suffering on the Cross. It is with that knowledge we must also pray for the shooter himself.
One of my concerns for Major Hasan is that he receives a fair and impartial trial. More importantly, given the very public nature of the events, will he be considered for capital punishment? The Wall Street Journal has already raised the issue of jurisdiction and the "specter of the death penalty." Incredibly, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, many members do not, under normal circumstances, have access to a jury of their peers. In capital courts martial, on the other hand, a panel of twelve decides one's fate. There are currently nine members sitting on Ft. Leavenworth's Death Row, six of whom are black. Just as troubling is that the conviction rate within the UCMJ is startlingly high (96%, according to the law firm Gonzalez & Waddington).
As the facts continue to be revealed in this tragedy, Major Hasan will most definitely be the focus of an entire nation's rage. Without a doubt, he will suffer the unforgiving wrath of public opinion. As the Church, I hope we can find it in ourselves to encourage our neighbors and friends to remember his humanity, however tarnished it has become, and extend to him what compassion we can muster. If we succumb to the temptation to hold malice and rage towards Major Hasan, we will, as John Howard Yoder might put it, become just another sociological reflection of the world and embody the message that there is truly nothing new about Christ. We have a beautiful opportunity, as Christ's body, to show the world that hatred and scorn, and ultimately violence, does not have to have the last word.
Logan Laituri is an Army veteran with combatant service in Iraq during OIF II and experience with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Israel and the West Bank. He blogs sporadically and is a co-founder of Centurion's Guild.