Thoughts On Tragedy

I didn't have much to say about the Virginia Tech shooting yesterday. There wasn't much information out about it then and I'm not sure I had much to say. As news has poured out today about the shooter, his motivation, and his advanced planning [he, at least, purchased the firearm[s] a month in advance] many hard questions have presented themselves. I feel somewhat obligated to make a few statements about what happened. Despite this being the worst campus tragedy in American history, surpassing an incident forty years ago when Charles Whitman killed 15 people from a tower at the University of Texas, I'm not sure that the magnitude of this massacre has really sunken in on the American public. Even though there's been considerable coverage on the 24 hour news channels, I believe the coverage would have been larger in a pre-9/11 world.

Now the natural media progression will lead them towards people to blame for this tragedy, beyond the shooter himself. The easiest target will be the gun industry. Even though he didn't use an assault rifle, there are those who believe that guns caused this incident. Some want to make Virginia Tech officials accountable for not shutting down the campus after the first shooting. And I already read a letter to the editor in today's paper blaming it on our society not taking mental health issues seriously. I'm confident that during the next few weeks we'll see many people offered as the scapegoat for the shooting.

Why the desire to place blame? I find it to be a reflex in order to explain away the tragedy. It isn't enough to observe the senseless nature of the act; there has to have been something that could've been prevented it from happening. We want to continue thinking that we humans have control over our world. But we're deceiving ourselves here. After every similar tragedy there is utter disbelief that "something like this could happen in a place like this." We perceive our personal environment as being safer than others. The reality is that there is not much safety to be found in a chaotic world such as ours.

No matter how hard you try to prevent this kind of evil, it is unavoidable. You can add security cameras and metal detectors, you can ban all sorts of firearms, you can do preventative psychological testing, but this kind of thing will happen again. If someone is willing to give their life to take life, you can't stop it. Friends, we live in a fallen world. The effects of sin yield evil actions like this massacre. No matter where you live or how cautious you are, you will never be fully exempt; this world is not a safe place to be. And our personal sin makes us just as culpable.

I make this observation, not to frighten, but to make us think about how we view our lives. How important is safety to you? If we hold safety to a higher level than we hold our worship of the living God, then we have issues. We're not promised safety in this life. Trying to create a Utopian existence is futile. We need to come to grips with the way the world functions and accept the dangers of a sinful world.

And we shouldn't have to live our lives in fear. We need to find a way to live in the world despite the sinfulness that consumes it. We Christians ought to have a different perspective on all of this. We believe there is a hope for this world, for something more after this life. We believe in the power of the gospel to transform the sinfulness that surrounds us. We might not be guaranteed safety, but it shouldn't keep us from unleashing the good news of Jesus on this world.

Our prayers need to be with the friends and families of those who lost loved ones yesterday. And we shouldn't ignore the opportunity to reflect on our own mortality.