One more school shooting. But this one was different. The following is quoted from the story posted on the CNN website on October 1. It is a first-hand account from survivor Anastassia Boylan. The gunman, while reloading his handgun, ordered the students to stand up if they were Christian, Boylan told her family. "And they would stand up and he said, 'Good, because you're a Christian, you're going to see God un just about one second,'" Boylan's father, Stacy, told CNN, relaying her account. "And then he killed them." Apparently, from the story, some who did not claim to be Christian were spared.
I immediately have several thoughts. First, how is it that so many people keep deciding that mass murder is somehow the answer to what is wrong in their lives? The idea of killing other human beings is so repugnant to me that it doesn't enter my consciousness. And yet, too many people in their disordered thinking, decide that they should go out and kill other people. We, as a society, are failing to instill the respect for life in our children, and failing to take care of those whose minds straggle off into anger and mental illness. Working against violence is a call to mission for the Church.
Second, why the hatred of Christians? It is scary to think that someone might hate me so much simply because I have chosen to follow Jesus Christ. And yet it happens I am reminded of Shakespeare's play, Othello. In that play, the warped and hateful Iago seeks to destroy two men more virtuous than himself, Cassio and Othello. At one point, Iago muses to himself about Cassio: "If Cassio do remain, he hath a daily beauty in his life that makes me ugly." Iago sees happiness and goodness in Cassio's life. In his darkened mind, he cannot bear to see such goodness, and is determined to destroy it. We must stay strong in our loving witness, even if some people become hateful towards us. In fact, I think that all Christians should be prepared to meet an Iago sometimes, and to be ready to be forgiving and loving towards them, anyway. It does tno matter about whether your caring and compassionate actions have any effect on the Iago-type, what matters is how other people will see you respond when you encounter such a person.
Third, I think of courage. When you are facing someone with a gun who demands of you whether or not you are a Christian, it takes courage and faith to say, "Yes." As tragic as it is that these mostly young people lost their lives, it is amazig that some of them spoke their faith knowing that they would surely die because of it. I think now about Stephen in the book of Acts. When he got in trouble for preaching Christ, he went ahead and preached Christ boldly to the authorities, even though he would be killed because of it. Very few of us will likely be faced with such a horrible situation as these folks in Oregon. But we need to think carefully about their example of faith, and how it is that God might be asking just a little more from us.
Sadly and prayerfully,