After Seattle Shooting, the Media Watched Us Pray

One more post in light of the shooting at SPU I found worth sharing.


Last Thursday afternoon around 3:30 p.m., a senseless act of violence visited Seattle Pacific University, where I teach. Within minutes, squad cars, fire engines, ambulances, helicopters, and TV news trucks had converged on the scene of shooting that took the life of one of our students and injured two others. The campus was on lockdown for several hours. But by 7 p.m., the mayhem had subsided and the campus community did something that has seldom been seen in the aftermath of the many school shootings that have occurred lately. It prayed.

And it was the praying, almost as much as the shooting, which seemed to capture the attention of the media in the next couple days.

SPU is a church-related school. All employees are professing, practicing Christians, and so are the majority of students. It seemed to be the most natural and needful thing for us to do at that…

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You’re probably aware at this point that there was another university shooting, this time at a small-ish Christian college in Seattle.  It’s funny, because thousands of people die every day by violence and injustice and hatred and evil.  People who are sons and daughters, teachers and grocery store clerks, parents and siblings, janitors and doctors, strangers and friends.  And to these we often give at best a passing thought.  Because of course, bad things only happen to other people in other places.  But of course, everyone else is “other people” to other people.

So when it happens at a place so close to my home–and my heart–I pause.  I didn’t actually apply to SPU, but if I had been a slightly faster runner in high school, maybe I would have.  Maybe Otto Miller Hall–home to the mathematics and engineering departments–would have been my building.  I went to SPU Falcon Running Camp the summer before my senior year of high school: the people I met and the experiences I had there changed me.  But that’s irrelevant now.  Many of my friends attend SPU; the father of one of my good friends from high school (only girls in the low brass section!) works at SPU and his office is in the building where the shooting occurred (thankfully, he wasn’t on campus at time).  The student who took a risk and tackled the shooter went to high school near me and ran for their cross country team–we ran against them and went to camp with them multiple times.  All to say, though I didn’t really know anyone involved, it was alarmingly close to home.

On Thursday, one very evil thing happened.  But since then, hundreds or thousands of good things have happened and still are happening.  I thank God that it is the latter that has been mostly covered by the media.  That the name of Jon Meis, rather than the name and face of the perpetrator, is what people will remember.  That SPU is being portrayed as a school in shock and grief–but not despair.  That the community is lifting up victims and each other in prayer–as well as the man who acted out this evil, for it has not been forgotten that he too is made in God’s image.  That the church can be a place of life and light and hope in this time of darkness.

In the past couple of days, many other things have been said about the events that have occurred since Thursday afternoon.  Three articles/posts, each from very different perspectives ([updated] newspaper reporter, student, faculty member, alumni/local pastor, and the student who tackled the suspect), I would recommend follow:

“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,” Steele said. “This is our darkest day and our finest hour.”

I am grieving in so many ways that seem so small, at first I feel ashamed to even feel them. But as my favorite professor, Dr. Frank Spina, reminded our community last night- being a Christian forces us to be honest. In light of this tragedy, we must be honest...
Today SPU gets the terrible, awful, privilege of doing what we always do– modeling what a grace filled, Christian community looks like. With the world watching, we get to be reflections of the abounding of love of Christ. We get to reflect the Father’s broken heart for the evil in this world. We get to reflect the active and powerful movement of the Spirit.

I’m not quite ready to talk hope. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, yes. I believe in the life everlasting, as the creed puts it. But for now I grieve, as sad at dawn this morning as I was at dusk last night. Sad for the mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends grieving a lost son, urging a daughter back to life. But I confess, too, to a certain deep consolation–maybe it is hope after all–lying somewhere inside me next to that ball of grief, as I recollect the faces and faith of my students.

I saw you giving interviews to media members and inviting them to pray with you, only to have those very media members weep alongside you. In your shared confusion and lack of answers, there was hope for those trying to tell your story, for neighbors, for our city, and for our world.


…what I find most difficult about this situation is the devastating reality that a hero cannot come without tragedy. In the midst of this attention, we cannot ignore that a life was taken from us, ruthlessly and without justification or cause. Others were badly injured, and many more will carry this event with them the rest of their lives. Nonetheless, I would encourage that hate be met with love. When I came face to face with the attacker, God gave me the eyes to see that he was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man. While I cannot at this time find it within me to forgive his crime, I truly desire that he will find the grace of God and the forgiveness of our community.


Third Sunday of Advent: Grief and Grace

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18

This isn’t really what I had planned for today, but in light of the events of the past week in Oregon, Connecticut, and China, it seemed appropriate. I’m sorry if it’s extremely disjointed: that’s how the past week has been. I tried to separate thought topics with horizontal rules, if that helps.

At first, I was going to write a list of the major mass shootings since Columbine and  muse about this type of violence.  (Columbine was the first shooting I remember hearing about.  I know, I just dated myself.)  But then I realized that isn’t where I wanted my focus to lie.

Yes, it’s important to talk about school shootings.  It’s important to talk about gun violence/control/rights in general.  It’s important to deal with what’s happened and how to prevent it from happening again.  It’s important to work through what we’ve experienced, seen, heard, felt.  But if that’s the final end of discourse, we’re left in a dark place.

I guess it all goes back to the fallen nature of man.  As I thought about what I wanted to say, all that came to mind were the lyrics of a song by Sufjan Stevens:

The neighbors they adored him
For his humor and his conversation
Look underneath the house there
Find the few living things
Rotting fast in their sleep of the dead
Twenty-seven people, even more
They were boys with their cars, summer jobs
Oh my God
Are you one of them?…
And on his best behavior …
He’d kill ten thousand people
With a sleight of his hand
Running far, running fast to the dead…
And on my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid

We’re all tainted by the same Sin.  Even if it manifests itself differently in different people’s lives, even when it affects us in tragically different ways, we all need grace–to give, but most of all, to receive.  And that’s why we need Christmas.

From another perspective, one of the accounts that struck me most was that of Kaitlin Roig, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Incidentally, props on this interview goes to Diane Sawyer; she’s an incredible journalist and seems like she would be a great person to get to know in general.  Here’s the link; unfortunately, WordPress won’t let me embed iframe videos:

This is particularly remarkable to me because some of my peers here at college are probably about the same age as she is.  For that matter, she might only be three or four years older than I am, and I can’t imagine bearing that type of responsibility (don’t mind the fact that I can’t imagine being responsible for the minds of the next generation).

From Facebook (half of these are from teachers, which seemed fairly representative of the demographic of related posts):

“John 16:33 ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’  God help the families of Newtown Ct.”

“hugged my kindergartener a little longer at bedtime tonight and cried for the mommies who can’t do that tonight. 😦 my heart breaks!”

“Stuff like this goes on all the time. We just got a compressed version of the evil and pain and despair people experience all the time, and it came close to home. It wasn’t Palestinian kids or African kids or Latin American kids. And it’s going to bring a bit of a downer to our nice North American Christmas. So be it. The birth of the Messiah was never meant to be nice. It’s necessary. Necessary for hope of anything better or different than this status quo of ours. The alternative is that we continue to patch over the darkness with periods of nice, social progress only to have it come through the cracks like this.  [This is] absolutely NOT to diminish what happened in Newtown…My point was that this is only the tip of the iceberg, a glimpse into a darkness that’s more pervasive and constant than we realize because we’re often insulated from it by the veneer of order and stability we have in N. America and Western society. But it is a very thin veneer. Anyway, to any of you who connected to this posting, I want to make that real clear.”

“I am so grateful 3 boys came back through my door today, brimming with all the normal school day news. There are no guarantees and so I will give extra hugs today.”

“All I can think about is my little brother and how thankful I am that I have him alive and safe in my life. Prayers to all the babies and families apart [sic] of the horrific tradegy today. 😦 so upsetting”

“Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, Allison, Rachel, Dawn, Anne Marie, Lauren, Mary, Vicky”

“This is my Father’s world / O let me ne’er forget / That though the wrong / seem oft so strong / God is the Ruler yet.” ~Maltbie Babcock, This Is My Father’s World

“Where there’s a shadow, there’s a light.” ~Petra, Road to Zion