The slaughter of innocents at Virginia Tech University is a form of apparently random killing rooted in a rage that most of us, thankfully, cannot understand. More than thirty students dying at the hands of a lone gunman in the otherwise bucolic atmosphere of a small town university is, in former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s words describing the death toll of 9-11, “more than we can bear.”
In the wake of such carnage people have done the human thing. In their understandable grief, anguish, fear, and confusion, they’ve looked for someone to blame. But the real culprit “robbed” us of an opportunity for justice by taking the coward’s way out—suicide.
But we still needed someone to blame, so major news media outlets, some students, some parents, and a host of other Americans tried to lay the horrible ordeal at the feet of the university and its beleaguered administration, particularly the president. While it’s true that any human endeavor can be evaluated on the basis of 20/20 hindsight and that such hindsight can always find ways things could have gone differently, this days-long media frenzy at the expense of V Tech was over the top and unfair.
We’ve already learned from 9-11 that no tragedy will ever again go unreported by its unfortunate participants. Cell phone calls, photos, and videos, IM mailings, and emails were underway before the shooter finished his brutal work. Meanwhile, the university administration—the people ostensibly “in charge,” could not communicate as rapidly as participants because the administration is “the authority” and leaders cannot comment until they triple-check their facts. This takes time.
My point is that no authority figure will ever again be able to outpace the communications capacity of the people experiencing a catastrophe. So it is more than presumptuous for securities experts to go on air the day after the mass killings at Virginia Tech University and pontificate that “If the university had done (thus or so) lives would have been spared.”
First, we really don’t know that lives would have been spared because events didn’t happen according to the expert’s analysis. Second, even if it may be so, the same could be said of the Battle of the Bulge. Leaders lead, generally and most often with their best efforts, and consulting experts who have for the most part never lead anything or anyone are not fair measures of leaders’ effectiveness.
Major news media also tapped psychologists and other students of the mind, trying to make sense of a senseless event. “How could this happen?” “Why did it happen?” In a search for meaning every human being at least viscerally understands, media stars act as our surrogate pastors, providing comfort and solace in the face of uncertainty and loss. But more information doesn’t always meet our need.
The bigger question, generally unasked and unanswered in major media presentations, is “How could or why would a loving God, if one exists, allow this to happen?” Or another way of asking the question, “How can one believe in a loving God, or any God for that matter, and make sense out of this kind of suffering?”
The answers are these. First, we don’t really know. The Omniscient Creator God’s ways are not our ways. He keeps his own counsel and sometimes we cannot discern his purposes. Second, we know the Sovereign God is not surprised, that tragic as the Blacksburg horror is, it is not an “accident” in the sense that God didn’t see it coming. Third, the Just, Loving, and Righteous God is not the source of evil, but he has allowed evil to exist in this world since Lucifer challenged him in eternity past and later tempted Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. Allowing human beings to choose evil also allows them to choose good. Human beings are free moral agents in God’s design for the universe.
Four, a young man full of hate, a lost sheep, apparently marched determinedly toward the fateful day at V Tech. His sinful heart and sinful choices are the blame for this unspeakable tragedy. Five, God is still in charge. His purposes are greater than what we can see or what will likely ever be reported on cable news. Even as the massacre unfolded, God’s grace was at work in others’ hearts in ways we may never fully understand.
For most of us this is another reminder that we live in the Last Days, a time of increasing prevalence of evil, increasing intensity of evil, and more far-reaching harm from evil. But it’s also a time when the love and hope of Christ, the message of a God of second chances, and the value of a biblical moral view shine in bolder relief than ever.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2007
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