By Bill Mefford
This Easter weekend we have come to see my son who is a freshman at Virginia Tech. It also happens to be the weekend they are commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting; a gun massacre by a student who killed 32 Virginia Tech students or faculty and injured 24 more. One faculty member survived the Holocaust only to be killed protecting the lives of students. We spent some time at the memorial, reading the names of those killed and the many cards that had been placed at the stones of each of their names. Some of the cards said what age they would be had they not been murdered by someone whose easy access to guns would have been stopped had there been universal background checks on all purchases. Many of those killed would have been 30, 31, or 32 years of age.
But background checks were not in place, so now the loved ones of the deceased are only able to leave cards and flowers. They will never speak to their sons or daughters, their sister or brother, their wife or husband ever again. One woman walking around was weeping at every name she read. Was she related to one of those murdered? I have no idea. Maybe she weeps for the unrealized potential; a life snuffed out way before God had planned or desired. Like all memorials, the place was a site for grief and for silence.
Since the Virginia Tech massacre roughly 115,000 people have been murdered by guns. And we all know Congress has done nothing to stop it. In fact, under donald trump the NRA-controlled Congress is working to expand access to guns. But let’s be serious, very few of us have demanded that they do something. We are pissed that they are trying to take away our healthcare – and rightly so – but until gun violence impacts us personally, we probably won’t do a damn thing about it. And when I look at all of the so-called “pro-life” evangelicals, almost none I know have lifted one damn finger to insist that elected officials take action. In many ways the church is alike the Congress; both are virtually owned by the NRA.
These stories are some of the reasons why I always find it hard to celebrate Easter. I get the theological significance. Heck, I first came to know the saving knowledge of Christ on an Easter weekend way back in 1980. But celebrating Jesus’ power over sin means little to me when the world, and much of the church with it, seems hell-bent on diving headlong into sin. I understand that celebrating Easter is a sign of the of the coming resurrection, a reminder as much about what Jesus will do to overcome evil as much as it is about what he did do 2000 years ago. But theological truths mean little tome these days when they are reserved for Sundays in sanctuaries where everyone literally wears their best clothes and puts on their best behavior, totally detached from the sadness and pain that is so present at the Virginia Tech memorial. If the resurrection power of Jesus were to really meet the sadness and pain of the Virginia Tech shooting, the NRA would have been rendered useless ten years ago. But instead, statements of prayer and calls for action were issued, and there was zero organizing done. So, the students and faculty are gone as are more than 115,000 people, many of whom could have been saved. But the NRA is still here and is stronger than ever. Evil continues.
On this Easter weekend we also recognize that donald trump seems to becoming more comfortable pulling the trigger, especially when he himself will never have to face any of the violence personally or get his hands dirty in any way. After dropping 50 missiles on a Syrian airfield trump dropped what is being called the “Mother of All Bombs” in Afghanistan, reportedly killing 32 members of ISIS. Now, many people are ok with killing members of ISIS. But these are also 32 lives who were snuffed out long before God desired or planned. I am always amazed at how we place values on life; some are worth saving and some are worth throwing away. But if we believe in the resurrection power of Jesus it demands that we apply that transforming power to all human life. We don’t get to judge who is worthy and who is not. That is why we say we are saved by grace. But we won’t make a fuss about killing 32 people in Afghanistan. We would prefer Afghanistan to just go away; to quit reminding us that like the NRA, we have done very little to stop our nation’s invasion into that country 16 years ago.
We are a nation awash in violence and violence begets more violence. Though Jesus’ resurrection has the power to stop all evil that truth remains trapped in the theoretical rather than in the plans and actions we take on a daily basis. We are too busy getting ready to celebrate Easter Sunday to actually live it out.