Thursday, January 3, 2008

My Answers

I know this is an intense subject for this blog. The silence is deafening... Fairly soon I will return you to your regularly scheduled program. This subject is so close to my heart right now that I feel I have no choice but to be part of this conversation.

This is a comment I left on Marianne's blog today:
I hope we can come to some conclusions through this discussion. I do think it's best though, if I admit that these things are still VERY hard for me to talk about. While it is easy for those of you who are far removed from the situation to theorize and question and even make some judgements, this is our everyday life still.

Every week I walk down the halls at my church and try not to imagine what happened there. Every week I sit in services and am grateful for the extra, visible security that is there for the time being.

They interviewed the parents of the Works girls who died, and the mother told the grisly story of getting in the car, the father heard popping and turned around to see his 16 year old dead on the ground. That instant, he was also hit. The mother turned in her seat to see their 18 year old in the backseat with blood gushing from her nose. She was gone by the time the mother reached her.

There are real live people who are still living with the reality of this event. It is horrific. Up till now, the way I am dealing with it is to mostly push it from my mind and trust that God will answer the questions with time. So...although I look forward to participating in this conversation, please, please sensitive. This is not just a philosophical discussion for me. This is my reality.


This is likely to be a very long post, even for me. I apologize. Please take this post in the tone it is intended. I am pleading and persuading, not attacking or being defensive (as much as possible, see my disclaimer above. :). I would much rather have this conversation over tea at my dining room table, but the distance prevents that for the time being.

First, I would like to take on the issue of whether the Works girls were martyrs. Honestly, this discussion seems almost petty to me. Who are we to judge that? They died through no fault of their own, and their family now has to live out the rest of their days on earth without them. The topic seems almost too sacred to me to talk about. But, I do have a couple of things to say.

If the same thing had happened in a country without religious freedom, and some terrorist had shot up a church, we would not have questioned their martyrdom. Why then, would we question the Works'? Yes, we in theory have freedom to worship here as we feel led. But, the reality is when you attend a high profile church like ours, you do not feel safe anyway. Long before this happened, many people in my family have admitted to thinking, "What if someone walked in here right now with a gun?" There is hatred and wickedness in the world, like Marianne said. It IS an act of bravery and faith to attend our church, especially after all we've been through. We're safer than some others, but the principle is the same.

Second, (this is the most passionate one. Please forgive me for my intensity) I feel that there is a tendency even among fellow Christians, but especially in the world, to have an attitude as if somehow we are responsible for the evil someone intends for us. Like maybe it was our fault because we "judged" our pastor for having a homosexual affair so we deserved to be shot at. I know you're not saying that Marianne, but many have. You did say something along the lines of Matthew Murray acting that way because of the lack of love he was shown. He wasn't shown any lack of love. His mother and father loved him every way they knew how. YWAM tried repeatedly to love and accept him and help him. He made his own decisions. He refused any help. I don't think we should give up on anyone, but we can't force people to make right decisions and live righteous lives no matter how hard we try.

We have to come to grips with the fact that sometimes people make decisions that are evil. Many people want to believe that people are basically good because then they don't have to deal with the sin in their own hearts, but people are not good, they're inherently evil apart from God. God is not willing that any should perish, but He also has given us free will. If God's wooing someone doesn't draw them because they have decided to rebel against everything that is good, what good does it do for a church to allow themselves to be shot to pieces because of someone's rebellion? I am most certainly not excusing us as Christians from loving people. My point is, what do you do when you love someone and they still hate you? It wasn't our fault, or the fault of Christians as a whole that he decided to shoot our church. There is a point where if we are to continue to minister to others who may still make decisions for Christ, that we protect ourselves. If someone continually tore you down, insulted you, and generally made life miserable, you wouldn't continue to subject yourself to that (unless you were specifically led to do that). You have your children to raise, and millions of other reasons that you need to be healthy and strong emotionally. Turn the other cheek is one verse in the context of the entire Bible. We can't build our entire theology around one verse. My God didn't ask all the parents with little children who were in that hallway that day to stand and talk to that gunman while he killed their children. That would be an absurd thing for a parent to do, would it not?

Third, I think we have to be very careful when we watch movies like Gandhi. They are produced by people with an agenda - to make you believe that Gandhi was some sort of savior. I don't deny that good things may have come from his peaceful protest, but Gandhi and Christ are two very different people. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we see Jesus slipping away from the Pharisees because it wasn't His time to go yet. He did not present himself to be crucified. In fact, He begged God for another way, to the point of sweating blood, right up until the end. I believe his reprimand to the disciples for cutting off the soldier's ear was not about violence (God had ordered people to kill even women and children, hundred of thousands of them - it's the same God here), but about them not understanding the fulfillment of prophesy and final submission to God's plan. Maybe if they had been awake praying with Him like He wanted, they would have understood?

Fourth, like many theological issues (and like a comment left on Marianne's site), I believe the answer to this topic of violence vs. pacifism is that both are taught. That makes no sense in our understanding, but there are verses to defend each. And I believe that the Holy Spirit will guide us in which response to have when we are communicating with Him and listening to His voice.

Finally, what if this happened 5 times? 10 times? All over the nation, like Marianne said? How do we decide as Christians how to handle that? Well, we're not there yet, thank God. The world our children will live in may get to that point. If there is still constitutional religious freedom at that point, I would guess the government would attempt to provide all religious organizations (not just Christian ones) with protection, because that's the kind of thing the government tends to do. If there isn't constitutional freedom any longer, I would guess the church would go underground and have no ability whatsoever to protect themselves, even if they wanted to. We would have many, many martyrs, like they do in other countries. I pray that never happens here, but it may someday before Jesus comes back. We are in the in-between time.

So, my conclusion is we have to listen to the Holy Spirit guiding us and make the best decisions we know how to make. And I think we need to be really careful about making judgements about the decisions church leaders make about these things. If you disagree with one you may choose not to attend there, but even making jokes about the Lord's anointed is a serious thing (2 Kings 2:23). This is the reason Nick and I continued to stand behind Richard and Lindsay Roberts at ORU until things were decided, even when there were rumors of financial indiscretion. But that's another post.

Whew. That's about all of this I can handle for today.


  1. Thanks again for good thoughts. I have spent my boys nap time today studying persecution in the bible and trying to piece together how believer's responded to it. It has been good time.

    I hope to have time to share more of my thoughts this evening or tomorrow during nap and also to respond to your points.

    Hopefully the time it takes to formulate and communicate our thoughts will help keep the discussion less intense.

  2. As I was sitting down tonight I kept hearing the words "weep with those who weep" and thinking that perhaps this is still to fresh for you for me to begin this dialog, so I will happily put it off if you would rather I stop for a while.

    Let me know.