Virginia Tech

Yesterday and again today, the tragedy and senseless brutality of the events at Virginia Tech continue to be on my mind. The question that keeps coming is, “As a Jesus follower, how does one respond?” What do I say to my not-yet-Christian friends who will want to know my reaction?

Are you thinking the same things? Do you have some thoughts or suggestions? More questions than answers? I’d love to hear them, because I need to work through this.

29 Responses to “Virginia Tech”

  1. Lyn says:

    You know Rick, I’ve been thinking these same things, and I have no answers myself. I live no where near Virginia, so I can offer no practical help, but I really hope that my borthers and sisters in Christ that are in Virginia are helping. Sometimes all someone wants is a listening ear, a hug etc. I’ve been praying and will continue to pray. I guess I have more questions as well. One that I’ve really been thinking is how have things gotten that bad, that it caused a young man to kill all of those people? What do you say to your friends? where was God, I don’t really know, like I said I have no answers!

  2. Makeesha says:

    more questions than answers here. I’ll have the chance to “test my answers” though soon as I have lots of sought friends that I’ll be seeing this week.

  3. brad brisco says:

    I heard someone say this morning that the shooter was a “loner.” One thought is that we are not created to be alone. God created us to be in relationship and of course that has multiple impications. My heart breaks for the families that have been crushed and torn apart by the actions of one man, but I also wonder and hurt to think about what push a man to the point of doing such a thing. How could have someone reached out and touch this young man in some meaningful way that might have kept this from happening?

  4. Rick Meigs says:

    Lyn: Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one who has more questions than answers. I agree with you that I hope believers will be intentional in reaching out to the families of those lost in this tragedy with no other agenda than to give comfort.

  5. Rick Meigs says:

    Makeesha: I’d love to hear the question they ask and how you attempted to respond. Keep us posted please.

  6. Rick Meigs says:

    Interesting observation Brad about being alone. It is not good to be alone and that is an issue in our culture for sure. I need to factor this in.

    Your post also made me think about the shooter and his family for the first time. Here was a hurting young man in need of something. And his family must be devastated. I hope there are followers of Jesus reaching out to them also.

  7. brad brisco says:

    Rick, I agree. While it is difficult sometimes to think about the “shooter” in cases like these and you run the risk of seemingly taking concern off of the victims and their families, I can’t imagine the pain and devastation felt by the shooter’s family. To think that your son was responsible for this kind of pain and destruction would be more than I could take.

    Additionally, not to take away any of the responsibility for this terrible act, but what would create such a deep level of dispair, hopelessness and anger in someone’s life to lead to this?

  8. Beyond Words says:

    I’ve already seen posts in the blogosphere about using this tragedy to share the gospel because Jesus turned death into a brief separation. Saying things like, we’re all going to die, so we’d better turn and follow Jesus so death loses its sting.

    I’d like to see Christians make this about life, its meaning, purpose and fullness in the community of Jesus.

    We have to find a way to reach the loner, to redeem life, not just death. I had a prayer and study time with my son and daughter-in-law this morning, and we were pondering the challenge of following Jesus’ example of going into peoples’ lives where the pain and suffering and isolation are, to go there before those things fester into evil and violence. But how? It’s one thing to have the desire, and it’s a whole other thing to figure out how to do it in today’s context.

  9. brad grinnen says:

    rick,

    i live in virginia. many of my former students and current friends attend virginia tech. none of them were physically harmed. my reaction still…is to stare at my computer screen in disbelief and horror. i feel the disconnect on so many levels. then i mourn. still i mourn. i don’t know what else to do right now. i mourn for the lost. i mourn for their families. i mourn for those who committed these atrocities. i mourn some more.

    i have listened to those who have questions. i offer no answers. i will continue to listen. i know God is.

    brad

  10. Rick Meigs says:

    Kathy, that is something I’ve been concerned about, that is, good intentioned Christ followers not having enough sensitivity to avoid the mistake of thinking this is an opportunity to “preach the gospel.” I’m not opposed to sharing about the transformed life Jesus calls us to, but just that should not be the agenda.

    Being a positive influence is the way to go I think.

  11. Rick Meigs says:

    Brad #9, you have touch my deep feeling. That is just how I been feeling.

  12. Matt Wiebe says:

    I just posted my response to all of this on my site.

    I think it goes like this:

    1) pray
    2) suffer with those who are suffering
    3) yell loudly at people who try to twist this for their own ends instead of doing the above two things (that’s mostly what I did on my post)

  13. Matt Wiebe says:

    Sorry, I just realized that I didn’t really post what you’re looking for. But maybe there’s something to it anyways: be human, show that you also struggle, and that, even if you think that God has the answers, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to find the answer any time soon.

    Also, anger is allowed.

    And also, that we have compassion on the shooter’s family was a great point. Christians should reach out to all who mourn, and there won’t be pariahs quite like the shooter’s family. I’m glad that they (probably) don’t live in the USA.

  14. Rick Meigs says:

    Hey, that’s OK Matt, what and that you shared is important. Thanks.

    The shooter’s family are longtime residents of Fairfax County, VA, according to the news. They must be devastated.

  15. Eric says:

    Rick,

    For me, this is a huge kick in the butt. It awakens me to realize I have no time to worry about my comfort. There’s people who need someone to care, and I can’t let the fact that I know it’ll be awkward get in the way. Now when I say people who need someone to care, I’m not really talking about the victims families and friends (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m going to ignore their pain). I’m talking about people who are alone like the murderer. I need to reach out to people I see that are hurting.

    Now knowing I need to do this and actually doing so are two very different things. It takes a lot of wrestling with myself and God to get me to the point where I can learn to do this more often. I just hope that I don’t let anything estrange me from my path.

    I hope that I’m not the only one who has been awakened by this, and that many others are realizing something needs to be done.

  16. I’m not sure how satisfying my response might be to your non-Christian friends, but I’ve written about it in Today at the Mission.

    We shared communion on Monday night. It wasn’t directly in response to the Virginia Tech tragedy but, as I reflected on sharing the bread and “wine” I began to understand how appropriate this radical act might be as a response.

    I’m uncomfortable with linking from within a comment – it smacks of self promotion – but in this case you did ask :)

    http://mission.squarespace.com/-journal/2007/4/17/virginia-tech.html

  17. sonja says:

    I live in Virginia … next door to the best friend of a victim. I have no idea how I’m going to talk to this young woman and help her make any kind of sense of this loss. I live one town away from the shooter’s family. I cannot imagine the grief and pain his parents must be suffering at this time. In the Korean community the shame this will cause them will be almost unbearable

    Heck … I can’t even answer the questions my own 13 year old has. Her greatest concern is for the families and friends who are left here … she has great faith that those who were killed are in a “better place.” I don’t necessarily know what’s true any more … are they in a better place? Certainly they don’t have to face the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune anymore. Do we know what the actual outcome is? I’m not certain enough to say …

    All of which is to say that I’m really struggling to work this through myself. We’re not in the epicenter … but there are lots of kids from this area who go to VT. There are 4 victims from this area and the shooter too. It’s horrific …

    I’m not certain there are any answers. Anything that’s easy or tries to explain it easily won’t ring true. I think we need to find ways to understand the broken-ness and rage that causes people to act in this way. What are we missing? What are we not doing? How does this keep happening here? It’s not about gun control or guns, but about pain and rage and broken-ness … and the fact that we (as a society) are failing our people.

  18. cindy says:

    Rick- when I think about your question- and I have been since before I read it here- all I can think of is that God hates what happened even more than we do. He doesn’t hate the shooter; He hates the death, the violence. I think He grieves for the world He intended–that isn’t anymore. He grieves for us.

  19. Rick Meigs says:

    Eric: Thank you so much for sharing. And you have the benefit of learning these lessons at a young age. Many of us wish we had. Maybe more of our lives would not have been wasted on futile pursues.

  20. Rick Meigs says:

    rhymes, leaving the link is just fine. Thanks for posting your thoughts.

  21. Rick Meigs says:

    Sonja: Thanks being in this area. I pray that somehow the followers of Jesus in your area can be a blessing and comfort to the affliced.

    I guess it would be a good time to talk to your 13 year old about how God created us to glow in the very image of God, but as a result of our own pride and willfulness, we became cracked. This cracked nature has made for a lot of pain and in justice in the world. But God is light and in him there is no darkness and through Jesus he continues to create and transform a people for himself that will glow in the very image of God in this world today, now.

  22. Rick Meigs says:

    Cindy: I think you’re right, he does grieve for the world and for us.

  23. Matt Wiebe says:

    I’m truly sorry that the shooter’s family lives in the US. Christ, have mercy.

    Good wrestling here, everyone.

  24. sonja says:

    Rick … wow … thanks for those words. You have no idea how helpful that is. I forget how much of the time now I can talk to my daughter in adult language and begin to explain these things to her. How I can begin to tell her about the beauty of God … and not in simple kid talk anymore. So … thank you.

  25. Rick Meigs says:

    Paul over at One for the road… has posted some good thoughts from Brian McLaren. Here is a link.

  26. Found your blog from another blog,etc.
    Here’s my response to the VA Tech Massacre:
    http://recoveringperfectionist.wordpress.com/2007/04/17/response-to-va-tech-massacre/

    I think the key is to remember the Gospel in all of this: what Jesus did on the cross, and how it applies to our everyday lives (even in the midst of pain and suffering). There is such tremendous hope in the Gospel, and that is our comfort.

  27. Zippadee says:

    What about the fact that the shooter was apparently inspired by Jesus to do this act? Lucky for us the media isn’t really mentioning this like they would if it were someone from another religion. Is this our own Christian terrorist?

  28. Rick Meigs says:

    Zippadee: Thanks for commenting. The very act shows definitively that Jesus was not his inspiration. Lots of evil people over the last 2,000 years have used Christianity as a pretext, including many who were representatives of “the church.” All this shows is how cracked humans are and validates our need to be transformed back to the image of God we were intended to be.

  29. daniel so says:

    Rick — Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for creating a place to wrestle through these difficult times together.

    As you said, our cracked humanity, our brokenness was fully evident this past Monday and we are all still reeling from it. I don’t want to minimize the role of prayer and say, “Well, all we can do is pray” — in fact, I believe quite the opposite: That our most significant work during these times will be to pray. Ultimately, only God can restore the lives that have been broken by this tragedy. I say this as a reminder to myself more than to anyone else — I catch myself sinking into despair in the face of such atrocity, and I have to push myself to cling to God.

    Tomorrow night, I’ll be leading my students in a time of sharing, discussion and prayer about all of these events. I want them to know that I share in their struggles but, at the same time, to be able to genuinely point them God-ward.

    Most of our students are Korean American, and I know they’ve gone through quite a week — as the media has constantly reminded us that Seung Cho was born in South Korea. I was actually contacted by a reporter during this past week who wanted to know if there was a connection between Seung’s Asian American upbringing (e.g., isolation, alienation, etc.) and the terrible crimes he committed. I felt so sorrowful and dumb as I tried to explain that, yes, many Asian American youth do go through a difficult process of identity development (just like any other teenager does) but that this kind of evil cannot be connected to a person’s racial heritage. I shudder to think that many of my students are facing the same kinds of questions.

    Again, thanks for these thoughts and the good discussion. I will also be sharing in the day of silence — to stand together with those who grieve.