Long after the tragedy fades from the national news, Colorado Springs will be dealing with the aftershocks of the killings at New Life Church.
There will be grief and fear, and questions will remain about other possible repercussions.
Senior pastor Brady Boyd, who came to New Life in August, had been trying to keep the church out of the spotlight following the scandal that brought down his predecessor, Ted Haggard. Boyd wanted to protect the congregation, and give it a chance to return to "normalcy." But, he said, "I have no control over our church being in the spotlight on incidents like this."
What Boyd, and other church leaders, do have some control over is how the church rallies now. Dr. Dixie Vandeputte, director of the counseling center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, says that while some people might leave the church because they're scared, the nature of the attack could inspire a sense of unity.
"It was an attack that was aimed at Christianity anyway, if not this particular church," she says. "I think there will be some outrage and possibly some banding together as a reconsolidation of their faith. ... That generally happens when a religion is attacked for [the] very fact of being a religion."
Carl Raschke, a religious studies professor at the University of Denver, largely concurs.
"In this case, at this particular church, I don't think it's going to dampen enthusiasm," he says. "Charismatic Christians are very committed by nature."
And Raschke can go back to the early Christian martyrs to prove that persecution, historically, has only drawn more people to Christianity.
"If you want to look in terms of the PR effect, it's most likely positive," he says. "Because the sex scandal a year ago made people question the motivations of what this kind of Christianity was all about, this will elicit sympathy."
Still, there will be some damage. Asked Monday if he thinks church giving will drop, associate pastor Rob Brendle gave a blank look.
"This is our first time going through a shooting crisis," he said.
The aftermath has already begun to play out. New Life announced Tuesday that it had canceled the remainder of its Christmas-themed Wonderland shows because, Boyd said, most of the congregation was not in a celebrating spirit.
There's also the question of how big a pall this tragedy will cast over Colorado Springs as a whole. When asked what this type of event says to the nation about the city, Springs spokeswoman Sue Skiffington-Blumberg responded, "It says we cover bad news over good news, which is a sad reality of our world. It also says we're a big city now."
For his part, David White, vice president of marketing for the Springs' Economic Development Corp., thinks the shooting, while certainly frightening, falls into a separate category from other negative stories that have landed the Springs in the news in recent years.
"I think people are going to react like this is a sad thing that could happen anywhere," he says. "I don't think people are going to be highly critical of Colorado Springs because of this."
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