In the aftermath of Monday's shootings at Virginia Tech, the news media are doing an excellent job. Newspapers are printing lengthy stories on the lives of the dead and their beloved families. NBC has immortalized the shooter by airing his own video clips, photographs, and statements. Eyewitness accounts are being pieced together to tell us, minute-by-minute, how, when, and where each victim was gunned down. While some of this information may be useful, it mostly serves to sensationalize violence.
At Virginia Tech itself, thousands of students have been knocked to their knees. They are weeping, lighting candles, holding vigils, and praying. And on countless other campuses, students are anxiously asking whether such a horror could ever unfold at their school.
Out of love and reverence for the victims and their families, let us turn off our TVs, and turn to God.
But what about the rest of us? Are we going to join these students in our grief? Are we going to let our hearts be moved, and turn to God as we mourn? Or are we just going to sit, numbly glued to the TV, and watch as the story is played and replayed?
The silence of politicians (including those gearing up for presidential
campaigns) is deafening. Most church leaders, too, are remaining safely silent. They seem unwilling to point the nation to what is right and wrong. And of those who are speaking out, few are pointing to prayer, or to God, but are focusing on how we should make campuses safer—more like airports, with metal detectors and armed police.
One NRA member in Virginia is even proposing that college students be allowed to carry firearms for self-defense. Meanwhile, others are recommending the increased use of distance (online) learning, so that students at large universities can choose to study more safely. This last suggestion is especially troubling, as it will only make more students more isolated. After all, it was the gunman's extreme alienation from everyone—his parents, peers, professors, and even roommates—that seems to have driven him over the edge.
The power of love alone robs every violent deed of its power.
When a tragedy of this magnitude strikes, there are never simple answers. But that's precisely why we need to talk to one another. Everyone is scared. Only through sharing and listening can we overcome fear. Through it we will discover that we are all the same.
My heart goes out to every family who lost a loved one. I know there must be intense soul-searching going on in every case. "Where was God in all this?" "Why did he allow such beautiful lives to be cut short?" "Why did so many students in their prime have to sacrifice their futures to someone they didn't even know?"
We may have trouble believing it, but God was there when the killer stalked the campus. He was there as each life was snuffed out, and he received each one of them. We will never understand why he did not intervene and put a stop to it. But we can be sure that he has the matter in his hands, and that he can use even this tragedy for the salvation of the living and of the dead.
Out of love and reverence for the victims and their families, let us turn off our TVs, and turn to God. Let us become inwardly silent, and pray that the massacre leads us to a sense of nationwide community. If that happens, then these lives were not lost in vain. God sees everything and has a purpose and a plan for everything. He sees the suffering of each soul: the broken, the weak, the humble, the pure in heart, the merciful, and those who are sick and long for God. He sees and accepts us, every one.
When a tragedy of this magnitude strikes, there are never simple answers.
Let us also not forget the powerful lesson the Pennsylvania Amish taught us, when five of their children were gunned down last fall. They chose not to defend themselves, but to whole-heartedly forgive. As we contemplate the shooter, let us love and forgive. The cycle of senseless violence and death can be overcome only by good. The power of love alone robs every violent deed of its power.
Even when it goes against our own feelings or when, as in this tragedy, we see the worst of human nature, let us never seek revenge. Every time we do, we become as evil as the aggressor himself. Instead, let us pray for the daring to reach out to one another not less, but more; let us join hands and look up to God. Even when faced with incomprehensible evil, he is the only answer.