Yesterday, I was still thinking about how I wanted to blog my thoughts about last week's drama...the Duke Lacrosse team members and Imus. That was yesterday morning, and it seems like a lifetime ago.
Today, I'm struggling with a Christian and pastoral response to the shootings at Virginia Tech. What do we have to say at such a time as this? How can we give meaning and hope in the face of death, injury, fear, and confusion? What do we say tonight at our Communion service? What do I preach on Sunday?
I have more questions than answers, but the big one is "why?" It's too easy to blame God or the media or the university or liberals or whoever. It's too pat to lay blame at the President's feet, or anyone else's, for that matter. It is natural for us to want to do two things simultaneously: to find a point of contact with the victims or larger university community and to blame someone, anyone, so we can begin the business of putting it all behind us.
I'm not so sure that's an appropriate Christian response, although I do think it's a normal human one. What do we have to offer in the face of such a tragedy? I haven't been called to Blacksburg to help minister to the campus and community, nor do I expect any such thing (although I'd go). We have not, so far, heard of anyone close to this church who was killed or injured, although there is someone related to my home church who is dead. What do we do?
I think the first thing we do is feel. Feel sadness, feel grief, even feel anger. Feel lost, confused, even disconnected. Callousness is not an appropriate response, nor is willful blindness. We don't feel enough, not about all that is sad and hurtful, and hateful in the world. I think broken-heartedness is an appropriate, Christian response. And I frankly think we spend too little time looking beyond ourselves, to see all the evil that is done in the world, and let our hearts be broken.
And then I think we start to look for hope. Where do we find hope in a world where something like this could happen? Where is grace, mercy? What is our reason to hope, and for joy? Because there is a God who exists, who loves, who calls us. Because there is resurrection after the cross, and because good is stronger than evil. Because we cannot function without hope, and hope gives us strength to go on.
I think this is where we find our faith: not in laying blame so we can put it all behind us, not in accusing God or anyone else, but in living in the tension between this world and eternity. I believe that our strength comes from our willingness to ask the questions, that we believe despite our doubts and fears, that in the times when we are most vulnerable and afraid and calling out to God and asking, "Why?", we are somehow most closely in touch with the Spirit of God.
What kind of God could not withstand the questions? What kind of God could take death and bring new life? Only one that can sustain us as we question, can give hope as we struggle, can guide us as we wander, and can comfort us while we mourn.
Because of God's great love for us, I think God's very heart is broken today...not only because of the killings in Blacksburg but because of all the other ugliness that we are sometimes blind to: Darfur, Baghdad, all the stuff that makes the news but has ceased to be a crisis to us and to which we have somehow become almost accustomed. And I believe we are called to open our eyes and hearts to that ugliness and evil...and we are called to respond, to act, to work out in the darkness the light and love of God. How we do this, I think, is a matter between each of us and God and how we are moved to compassion and action. But we are called as children of God not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. May we find a way to overcome the evil that was done Monday with goodness, grace, and mercy.