The reports are multiplying — the gunman who killed ten people in Roseburg, Ore., yesterday did, in fact, target Christians during his shooting spree. The brother of victim Autumn Vicari told NBC News that the shooter told his victims to stand and asked them whether they were Christians. If they said “yes,” he shot them in the head. “If they said ‘other’ or didn’t answer, they were shot elsewhere in the body, usually the leg.” A similar report came from student Kortney Moore, who was on the scene.
With Christians explicitly targeted for mass murder, are we now going to launch a round of anguished soul-searching about anti-Christian rhetoric? Will we cleanse political discourse of anti-Christian expression? Will militant, angry atheists be universally shamed into silence?
After all, we’re accustomed to National Conversations after mass murders. The horrific 2011 shooting that left six people dead and one congresswoman wounded in Tucson led to a National Conversation about civility — including the widespread and vicious vilification of Sarah Palin — in the absence of any evidence at all that political rhetoric had anything to do with the murders. The racist massacre of a black Bible-study group in Charleston earlier this year led to an extraordinary, sustained burst of commentary on racism, the South, and the Civil War — not to mention the public cleansing of Confederate symbols, a move that included a planned exhumation of Confederate bones and the toppling of Confederate statues.