What can be said in the face of tragedy? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Let’s start with the obvious in a tragedy like this. There are no easy answers. There are no pat solutions. It is not going to be the case that we enact a new law on gun control and the problem goes away. It is not going to be the case that we ban violent video games and the problem goes away. It is not the case that we do X, Y, and Z and the problem goes away. This kind of thing takes time. I think we can do something about the problem, but there is not a magic bullet.
We want those now, but they don’t exist. They also don’t help the families involved at this time. I was horrified when I heard the news yesterday and thought about how close it is to Christmas for something like this to happen. Tragedies are bad any time, but they seem to hit extra hard around the holidays. The holidays are a time for family to be together and when this happens, families are not together, ever again in this lifetime. There is always an empty seat at the dinner table and there will be presents under the tree that little boys and girls won’t open this year.
This is just evil. Let’s be clear on something. If someone today wants to try to defend moral relativism and tell me that this is not evil, your position is just entirely unworthy of being held and you are a sick human being who needs to seek professional counseling immediately. What this should all remind us at this point is that evil is real.
What do we do with this evil? The reality is that it has happened. In the face of it, some will say there is no God, but this conclusion does not follow and is quite damaging in fact. For purely practical reasons, if there is God, there is some hope in this tragedy. There is hope that children and parents will be reunited. There is hope that there will be some justice in this mad universe. There is hope that there is healing for the hearts of those who have had theirs ripped apart. There is a way forward.
In fact, in commenting on my father-in-law’s facebook page this morning, I stated my personal reason why this has happened. It is not because of violent video games, though some are saying that. It is not because of the Goth culture, though some are saying that. It is not because of a mental illness, though some are saying that, and more on that later. It is because of sin. It is because of what Alexander Solzhenitsyn said about Russia. What happened to them is because as he said “We have forgotten God.”
We live in a culture that does not want to confront evil. We do not want disagreement. We want everyone to be tolerant. We just want everyone to get along, but that doesn’t work. There are real problems. Some people apparently just reach a breaking point someday and we wonder what happened. We speak about the meaninglessness of life and wonder why some treat it so callously. We speak about how each person should choose their own way and wonder about the choice some make. We say there is no right or wrong but just values and then wonder why things like this happen.
This morning my wife informed me that some people are saying the person who did this (And let us not dignify him by naming him) had Asperger’s. I stated that it wouldn’t be too long before everyone in the Aspie community was labeled. Indeed, it wasn’t. Again, on my father-in-law’s Facebook, I saw it happening right there, just before I had said it even. I say this seeing as my wife and I are both Aspies.
Yet that kind of reaction could be what led to this event in some ways. This student felt excluded, just like many on the spectrum can. It can be difficult to be different from everyone else. Despite what was said on the Facebook page, it is incorrect to say Aspies have no empathy. They can have more difficulty with empathy and when they have it, they can have a harder time expressing it, but they do have empathy. In fact, my wife has been told she has too much empathy.
As Aspies, my wife and I send out our condolences to the families of those involved. We ask people to not repeat the mistake also that could have led to this by excluding people who are different. I have stated we cannot just hope everyone gets along. We have to work. If someone is hard to get to know, well you might just have to work a little bit harder to do it, but if you really want to, you will do it.
For those of us who are Christians, let’s remember that this is what Jesus did. Who was it that He went to? He went to the prostitutes and tax collectors. He spoke to the people that society had decided were not worth speaking to. He spoke to the outcast. If he was in India today, he would be amongst the lepers. My wife has told me numerous times that if Jesus was here in our city right now, he would be on the worst streets of the city ministering to the people there. I do not think he would be visiting our big and successful churches.
We who are people of Christ need to be making our presence known and being salt and light. Part of the problem is the church has ran into itself. We have isolated ourselves from the world creating our own separate Christian culture. We have Christian bookstores, movies, TV stations, music, etc. I realize we have to use the term sometime, but really, Christian best only applies to people. People are called to be like Christ especially.
If we do not shine our light onto the world, why should we be surprised if the world walks in darkness? If we are not sharing the love of Christ, why should we not be surprised to see hatred of our fellow man? If we are not showing the truth of who Jesus is and what He did, why should we be surprised when so many people believe lies about God and themselves?
And if we are not living what it is that we say that we believe, why should we expect the rest of the world to take our claim seriously.
Our salvation will not lie in new laws that will be made to limit guns. Our salvation will not lie in new programs in the school to teach values clarification. our salvation will not lie in new government programs to provide more funding to schools. Our salvation only lies in the work of Christ on the cross and the empty tomb. We can talk about other methods as an aid to that all we want and these debates will and should happen, but the problem is not the externals. It is the internals. It is our hearts. We are sinful.
Let us all take a look at that. As a Christian, in some ways it’s hard to not think about Hell and think about people getting that for acts like this, but it’s always followed with the corrective that if it were not for the grace of God at work, anyone of us could have been the gunman just as much, because we all have evil in our hearts. Let us take this time to examine our own hearts.
How are we doing with treating our fellow man? How are we doing with treating our families? How are we doing with our friends? Do we really take the time to appreciate them? As I write this, I have a slew of images going through my head of people I know and how much they mean to me. I think about people in the past who have decided to walk away from me and wish that things could have turned out differently. I think of all the things I enjoy in this life and how special each of them is.
We can take each other for granted so much. I go to sleep next to my wife every night and I thank God that I have someone to share my life with and someone I sleep with every night and can wake up and know they’re there. She knows I don’t want to get up in the morning until we’ve got to kiss and I don’t go to sleep at night until we have. We have no guarantee that either of us will live another day. Let’s make the most of the time we have now.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the best man in my wedding came to town and we got to spend a day together. I saw him off saying we’d see each other again, but the reality is we don’t know that. Something could have happened to him as he traveled back to his place of residence. He’s still alive and well right now, but I don’t know how long that will last.
I have a friend who I met in Charlotte who has gone to Edinburgh for his studies. I have no guarantee of his safety either, and he’s a tried and true friend of mine as well. I have friends who are twins who I haven’t seen since I left Charlotte. I have my parents next door and my in-laws in Atlanta and an elderly aunt and uncle next door as well.
After all, several parents sent their children off to school expecting to see them in the evening, and they didn’t. Their children were taken from them that day. Before too long, I’ll be going to the grocery store to get groceries. My wife has no guarantee something won’t happen on the way. Neither do I. I am not saying this to be paranoid, but I am saying don’t take it for granted. I try to make sure always I tell her I love her before I leave even if I might be upset as happens at times. I would hate to think that something had happened and she would say “I never even got to tell him I love him one more time.”
Each of one us is so precious. Let us not just think about the loss of others, but what the loss of us would mean to others. You might not think much of yourself, but what would it mean to the people in your life if they lost you? I say this because I know many out there struggle with suicide and depression. The temptation is always to retreat within, but don’t lose sight of how much you could mean to the people who do love you, and they do exist.
Life is a gift, and this is a reminder of it, because it is a robbery when it is taken from us early by evil in the world. Events like this are an ever-present reminder of the reality of sin in the world. We dare not dismiss them. Let us live each day more and more now celebrating life. Husbands. Buy an extra flower for your wife. Wives. Give your husband an extra kiss. Parents. Give your child an extra hug. Children. Do a little bit more to help your parents around the house.
For each of us, do something more to show love to your fellow man. For we Christians, be Christ to them. You believe in the miracle of the resurrection? Live it. In fact, I would encourage you to study it so you can know why you believe it and present that hope.
The world needs hope, but they do not need pie in the sky. They don’t need wishful thinking. We who believe in the resurrection need to know that this really happened. The second person of the Trinity, who is fully God in nature, did come down and dwell among us as a man. He walked the Earth that we walked. He allowed Himself to die on a cross. He then rose again to show that evil will not have its hold on us forever, including the greatest evil of death.
If you are a Christian, you believe that really happened. If it really happened, then learn how you can defend it. Learn how you can show it. Part of our retreat into ourselves has been our retreat from the life of the mind. The mind is an important part. If we are to experience true healing, it is not just our hearts that need to heal, but our minds as well. If something is to touch our hearts, it must be a reality in our minds.
We are the people of hope if we are Christians, and let us go forward and give that to the world. Let us be Christ in the midst of a culture that has by and large forgotten Him. It has been the case that we have forgotten God. Let us remind ourselves of Him again and remind the rest of the world of Him.
And of course, let us pray for those involved and help how we can. We here at Deeper Waters send our prayers out to those who are hurt by this tragedy. We cannot begin to grasp what you are going through, but we pray the peace of Christ will be with you in this time.