Words can not express the sadness I feel for the victims of the shooting rampage that occurred at Virginia Tech on April 16. As a parent of three daughters, I can only think that it could just as easily been one of them. I imagine it will be years before some of the survivors and the victims’ families can put this in perspective.I don’t know the shooter’s name, but his family must be in deep pain as well.
What irks me is the attempt of the media to find someone to blame. Was the school “secure enough?” Did the the shooter’s teachers pick up on some trouble in the his life? Did the student’s peers notice something was a bit off with the shooter? And why didn’t they go to authorities? It is as if in our search for answers, we have to find someone to blame.
Random violence this can not be predicted nor controlled. At the risk of appearing to be fatalistic or overly spiritual, this is the essence of sin. Sin in its most vile expression twists and distorts a personality to perform inhuman acts. Now by bringing up sin, it may appear that I am blaming the shooter, and perhaps I am. But he too may have been a victim of sin’s perverted force. He obviously was very troubled young man, and perhaps the victim of some destructive words or actions. When I speak of sin, I speak of that force within human beings and at large in the world, that pulls us in directions away from the way God created us. We were created to reflect God’s goodness and love, not destroy other human beings.
Violence of all kinds is and expression of sin, but random violence makes us aware of just how pervasive and pernicious sin can be. One thing we saw and learned from the Nickel Mines tragedy last fall, was the power of a spiritual community to find comfort in God’s presence through each other. Moreover, we saw the power of a God-based community to find the resources to forgive, rebuild and move ahead. Now one can rightly assume that in the families of the Nickel Mines victims, there is deep sense of grief and loss that will take years to heal. But they claimed the comfort of God to be real in their lives through their faith in God.
In the face of the VT crisis, we must be called to prayer. While I am not a deeply prayerful person, I do believe that when we pray, we tap into a reservoir of love, peace, and comfort that in the words of the apostle Paul, “surpasses all understanding.” In the face of such spiritual forces, I am drawn to prayer, not as a sign of helplessness, but as a call to draw from the wells of God’s spirit to face the challenges ahead. I pray for the folks of Virginia Tech. God draw near to them in their time of need, and help them to find solace and strength in the days ahead. And may this tragedy remind us that our work with God in ending violence has only begun.