Yesterday afternoon, "government shutdown" took on a more ominous meaning as shots were fired at the Capitol. For half an hour, we watched as government employees were sequestered inside their offices. We eventually learned that a woman struck a barrier near the White House, refused to pull her car over, and was chased by police to the Capitol. She was shot and taken to a hospital; a young child was found in her car.
As frightening as this episode was, our initial thoughts are what interest me today.
During the chaos, our staff thought immediately of terrorism. The government shutdown furloughed 70 percent of U.S. intelligence employees, a situation Intelligence Director James Clapper has called "extremely damaging" to our national security. As a result, a terror attack seemed plausible.
While CNN continued its coverage, other news headlines scrolled across the bottom of the screen. Among them: "China: Hornets kill 41, injure 1,500." Another headline: "Scores killed as boat sinks off coast of Italy." Yet another: "14 killed in Nigeria plane crash."
Each of these stories involved far greater danger than the Capitol shooting. Why were they relegated to the bottom of the screen while the shooting occupied our attention?
Longtime House Speaker Tip O'Neill made famous the maxim "all politics is local." It seems that news coverage is the same. We watch what we think matters to us. Unless giant hornets are invading our community, they are someone else's problem. A boat sinking on the other side of the world is less relevant than a potential terrorist attack on our soil. A plane crash in another country doesn't seem to threaten air safety in ours.
This focus on personal relevance is understandable, of course. The good news is that everywhere is local with God. He feels the pain of hornet stings in China just as much as he understands the fears of bystanders in Washington. Every person who died off the Italian coast was someone for whom his Son died. He knows the name and story of every family grieving their loved ones in Nigeria.
His omniscience is not limited to a news feed on a television screen. The next time you wonder if God knows your problems and cares about your pain, look to Calvary: "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). Now he wants us to trust him with our greatest burdens today, and to be his hands and feet for those our neighbor bears: "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
Here's the question: will I ask God to break my heart with what breaks his? Will you?
Jim Denison, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert on cultural and contemporary issues. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a nonsectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth in 2009 and is the author of seven books, including Radical Islam: What You Need to Know. For more information on the Denison Forum, visit www.denisonforum.org. To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit www.twitter.com/jimdenison or www.facebook.com/denisonforum.
Publication date: October 4, 2013