USA (MNN) – On Thursday, an embittered 26-year-old gunman attacked students at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.
By the end of the day, the death toll was out, along with the shooter’s name and one other disconcerting report. Witnesses said he seemed to seek revenge against Christians, taunting them before killing them. Investigators following his Web presence say he displayed a wider hostility toward organized faith.
The fact that the shooter may have been targeting Christians reflects two things in our culture, says Greg Jao with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
First, there is a lot of anger at the Church. In shaping a response to Oregon, Jao points to members of the Charleston, SC church who baffled the world by what they did after the shootings. “I think the response of the Charleston church, in response to that killer–to offer forgiveness, to offer words of hope, to welcome somebody into your midst who, in the end, turned out to be dangerous–is a tremendous model for us.”
The second thing: “It’s always been dangerous to be a Christian. Our brothers and sisters around the world would attest to that constantly. They experience physical violence/persecution far greater than we do here in the United States.”
The flurry of investigative activity and release of new facts will be buzz in the ears of the community trying to adjust to its sudden loss. There will be new details, new stories, and the unspoken question will be: Where do we go from here?
Jao says we can move forward by doing three things: “Obviously, pray. I think the shooting in Oregon reminds us that the world really is a battlefield…a spiritual battlefield that often has very physical consequences.” Don’t give in to fear, he encourages. “We need to continue to send our best and brightest students to universities where the current terrain is contested. If anything, it reminds me that the university is a tremendous mission field that needs the Gospel.”
And then, get involved in the conversation. “We need to work, as communities, to address the causes of violence, both the availability of the tools of violence as well as the brokenness in our communities and in our people that lead people to take these tools and do damage with them.”
Tragedies like these have been prompting new dialogue. It’s shifting focus to better preparing the next generation how to “respond to challenges to our life, or to our reputation, or to our prospects of clear advancement, with the same kind of courage that those students who died in Oregon seem to have demonstrated,” Jao adds. The goal: helping the next gen understand God better. ”When faced with an opportunity to declare whether you are a Christian or not, to unabashedly say, ‘Yes I am,’ and then to embrace the consequences, believing that we worship a God who is the God of resurrection and hope.”
Here’s the part of the story you aren’t getting from the national media. This story stands as a clear reminder of the fact that there WERE Christians on Umpqua Community College last Thursday. In their last moments, they stood as witnesses to who God is.
In the minutiae of our everyday life, asks Jao, should we do less? These are questions he encourages believers to consider: “Will I say something about my faith? Will I acknowledge that I am a follower of Jesus when asked? Will I intervene to demand that we act for justice or equity?”
Anticipating that these questions will prompt introspection,Jao concludes, “My hope is that as we reflect on the examples of the students, as well as our brothers and sisters around the world, increasingly that we be bold in our proclamation and also incredibly gracious and agents of healing for those who are broken around us.”
Although InterVarsity does not have a presence on the Umpqua Community College Campus, they are an active part of the University of Oregon, about an hour away. Click here to see what God accomplishes through a local InterVarsity chapter.