Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Was I the only Christian disappointed?

I thought it was good that the planners of the memorial service for the VA Tech students and faculty represented several faith groups: Sedki Riad, a Muslim, Julie Still, a Buddhist, Sue Kurtz, a Jew, and Bill King, a Lutheran. The campus is obviously very multi-cultural with many first and second generation Americans, and some of the dead were international students. The Muslim, Jew and Buddhist seemed to represent the beliefs of their faith, reading for comfort from their holy books, quoting their leaders even as they expressed their sorrow and disbelief. But the Lutheran pastor . . . well, here's what he said:

"We're gathered this afternoon for many purposes. To weep for lost friends and families, to mourn our lost innocence, to walk forward in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, to embrace hope in the shadow of despair, to join our voices and our longing for peace, healing and understanding which is much greater than any single faith community, to embrace that which unifies, and to reject the seductive temptation to hate."

"We gather together weeping, yes, we weep with an agony too deep for words and sighs that are inexpressible, but also we gather affirming the sovereignty of life over death. At a time such as this the darkness of evil seems powerful indeed. It casts a pall over our simple joys, joys as simple as playing Frisbee on the Drill Field. We struggle to imagine a future beyond this agony. If we ever harbored any illusions that our campus is an idyllic refuge from the violence of the rest the world, they are gone forever. And yet we come to this place to testify that the light of love cannot be defeated. Amid all our pain, we confess that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it," said King.

"We cannot undo yesterday's tragic events, but we can sit in patient silence with those who mourn as they seek for a way forward. As we share light one with another, we reclaim our campus. Let us deny death's power to rob us of all that we have loved about Virginia Tech, our community. Let us cast our lot with hope in defiance of despair," said King, who invited the convocation to a moment of silence. From The Lutheran (ELCA magazine).

Does this represent any particular faith perspective? If you didn't know it was spoken by a Lutheran pastor, would you even have identified the speaker as Christian, especially since he doesn't seem able or willing to identify the light shining in the darkness? Sad, very sad.


JAM said...

Nope. I didn't read or hear his words, and nope, I wouldn't have any idea this man was a Christian leader.

I may be rough around the edges, I'm one generation from a really rough bunch of folks from whom I descend, so the grizzly bear in me is often just below the surface, but as a Christian, even a guy like me knows that MY words can only comfort if I happen to be speaking God's word. God's words have life and the force of the Holy Spirit behind them, a man's words don't.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. A lost chance on expressing his Christian faith and the message of hope through the resurrection. Sounds like he didn't want to step on anyone's toes. MJM

Anonymous said...

No, you were not the only Christian disappointed. I was angry enough to chew nails. I had thought that, with representatives of three other religions there, Rev. King would have felt free to be definitively Christian. Instead, he gave a talk that an atheist could have given. When you consider the circumstances, it was quite horrible. If you had been a young person there, which religion would you have been drawn to? [rec'd via e-mail]