As I have had more time to reflect and process the day of June 5th, my focus has shifted. During and after Thursday afternoon the only thing on my mind was “why”. This question took on the tone of the many emotions flowing through me; a sad “Why did this happen to my community?“, an angry “Why did he decide to come to our home?“, a confused “Why does this keep happening in our world?” However, as I’ve begun to process the tragedy, a new question has started growing in my heart. The retrospective question “why” has turned into the prospective question “now what“. Put another way, I’ve begun to ask myself how this is going to shape the type of community we are and the type of person I am. For this answer I looked beyond myself to my heroes who have also dealt with affliction.
I am deeply inspired by these four individuals. Each of whom was or is in the midst of fighting a battle for peace, life and human dignity that exposed them to ruthless attacks and violence. Under the bombardment of hatred and violence, each has had the courage and strength to refuse the easy retaliation of meeting violence and hatred with more of the same, and instead chose the much more challenging weapon of self-giving love. My hope is that in the midst of my community’s affliction we can stand with the same type of heart as Elias, Gandhi, King, and Malala. I honestly believe that hate begets more hate, fighting fire with fire leaves the whole world scorched. I’m convinced Jesus fully understood this, which is why he condemned fostering hatred or returning violence for violence. It seems that SPU has responded faithfully so far.
As Gandhi says, returning an enemy’s violence with relentless hospitality and love will devastate their will to continue inflicting such violence and win an enemy over as a friend.
In chorus with Malala, if we return the affliction of our offenders with more affliction, we are the same as they are.
In the words of MLK, darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
To echo the heart of Elias, blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called children of God.
This may sound idealistic, but it seems absurd to me to strive with God for anything less than the ideal.
It was not a weapon that wounded my community, it was a man who had no regard for the beautiful humans that make up my SPU family. It was not a weapon that saved the lives of my friends throughout Otto Miller Hall, it was the selfless courage of an individual reacting with others in mind above himself. I think conversations about guns and mental health are important, but I’m not convinced that will resolve the problem because I’m not convinced those are the root of the problem. My inexperienced, immature, youthful opinion is that the problem lies somewhere in our culture’s obsession with power, aggression, and violence.
To return to the question I brought forth earlier: what type of person do I want this horror to shape me into? I want it to shape me into a person that rejects violence because I’ve seen the chaos it produces, a person that rejects aggression because I’ve experienced the inhumanity it can summon, and a person who rejects the specific type of power our culture promotes because I know that our God is in the business of making the meek into inheritors of the earth. I want the same for all of my SPU family as well.
As two of my professors have said about the man who attacked our family, “This is a human being. This is someone who God made in God’s own image. Horrendous as it is, nothing he did changes that.” and “We can experience anger, even rage, but we do not give vent to vengefulness. We can experience intense grief, but we do not lose hope. We recognize the brokenness in ourselves and therefore try to extend compassion and mercy to other people whose brokenness has been unleashed,”
I could not agree with them more.