Of Victims and Perpetrators

19 04 2007

Every once in a while a news item arises which arrests our attention, and stirs our emotions at a profound level. Even in our media saturated, war worn world – where death tolls are invested with the same emotional empathy as sports scores – some events chill us by their barbarity and horror.

The murder of thirty two students in Virginia Tech, along with the suicide of perpetrator Cho Seung-hui, is one such story. As is normal, the original shock was followed by questions of blame and accountability, with fingers pointed at university authorities and their approach to security and ‘lock-downs’. This morning such considerations have themselves been eclipsed by the broadcasting by NBC of video tape footage of Cho’s own explanation of the outrage.

All of this raises very interesting and powerful questions concerning the nature of victimhood and responsibility within our society. Today’s lunchtime news sounded like a multi-layered exercise in passing the buck. Staff and students pointed a finger at poor security measures, Cho himself blamed the ‘posh brats’ whom he was to murder for bringing their deaths and his own to pass, those close to the bereaved questioned NBC’s morals in making the footage public, anti-gun lobbies blamed the constitutional right to bear arms, and specialists blamed mental illness and sociopathic tendencies.

With such a complex blame game in progress it is easy to lose sight of the issue which everyone is avoiding – the true nature of humanity. An ITV reporter actually stated in her bulletin that it is not a mere matter of viewing this mass murderer as simply ‘evil’. Apparently things are much more complex than that. We are keen to believe such things, entrusting our moral sensibilities to our most modern day witch doctors (the much celebrated and omniscient media psychologists) so that we don’t have to reflect on what we have in common with Cho. The truth as Scripture states it is much easier to believe. We are evil, we are sinful, we are utterly depraved – there is no escape from that. We can shift our focus to the most exaggerated and indulged evil behaviours (such as Cho, or Baghdad bombers for that matter) in an effort to detract from our own wrongdoing, but ultimately in our hearts we know that we are terminally compromised in moral terms.

The reason why the media struggles so much with these issues, the reason for such intensity of explanation of Virginia Tech, rests with the fact that Cho’s actions bursts their delusional bubble of a Coca-Cola ad world of improving humanity and joyous virtue. Our world is woefully wrong, hopelessly lost, inveterately godless.

The grotesque irony of this blood-soaked episode is that Cho lisped the one name which ought to resolve our concepts of victim and perpetrator: Jesus Christ. In the seared moral world of Cho’s mind, Jesus had become a model for his own death, which he hoped would inspire others. The truth is, of course, so different. If we truly understand the cross and the atonement, we quickly realise that Christ was the true innocent who bore the final brunt of mankind’s fall in Adam. He (to use a fairly inappropriate term) became the ‘victim’ of our fallenness and moral degradation. He was wounded ‘for our transgressions’, the ‘just for the unjust’ so that we might be reconciled to God. Such is God’s love for us as sinners.

There are all kinds of tragedies being played out in the wake of Virginia Tech. The tragedy of families brutally bereft of young people whose lives seemed so fresh and latent just days ago; the tragedy of an America so littered with firearms that deadly wish fulfilment is made easy for individuals like Cho; the tragedy of a morally vapid media with no answers about our most basic behaviours. But the greatest tragedy is that like Columbine and 9/11 this event will pass, and having looked into the eyes of a media glorified mass murderer we will turn away, not seeing our own life reflected there, and not feeling the shadow of guilt which this casts upon us all.

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3 responses

21 04 2007
David McKay

Andrew, it was great to get your comment on my What I’m Reading blog this morning.I have a copy of M’Cheyne’s bible reading plan in Don Carson’s For the Love of God, and have worked through Carson to some degree, but have not used M’Cheyne’s plan yet.Have you done some Scripture memory? I’m enjoying working through Hebrews, and am now up to verse 13 in chapter 6.Working through slowly gives a different perspective on the whole book, I think.For instance, reading and re-reading the verses in chapter 2 about God confirming the Word that Jesus preached through “signs and wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to God’s will” does seem to give a special place to the gifts we read about in the NT which were done by the apostles. I think this at least implies soft cessationism, though I’m not a hard-line cessationist… yet.And reading through Hebrews and coming to chapter 6 and going over and over it, gives a different perspective on the passage about people “who have once been enlightened, have tasted the heavenly gift … and who have fallen away … Although we speak this way, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case – the things which have to do with salvation.”It seems to me that the writer is not saying anything new here, but is reinforcing the point he will make over and over and persevering by God’s grace.We are so fortunate to have God’s Word so easily available to us.How foolish not to read the book, when a meeting with the author is coming so soon.I have bookmarked you, via an rss feed, and look forward to reading more.I like your links very much.Have you got a copy of Pierced for our Transgressions, yet? I got mine from The Good Book Company a few days ago, and am thoroughly enjoying it.

21 04 2007
David McKay

The 33 deaths in the US are a great tragedy, as were the 190 in Iraq a few days later.I see that the Virginia tragedy was the worst of its type, ever, whereas the Iraq one was the worst for 2 months.It is a great shame that the US provides the equipment for people like the young Korean man so easily. I understand that 30,000 people each year are killed by guns in the US, and that the majority of those are suicides.Some of the deaths would doubtless have happened another way, if guns were not so readily available, but at least some of the suicides may have been prevented, because the people may have felt better in the morning.

22 04 2007
Andrew and Carolyn

Hi DavidHow good to hear back from you today. I have found your pieces on memorisation very helpful. I’ve worked a little on memorising Romans in the past, but have always floundered a little in working right through the book. Your site is giving me good inspiration – Hebrews would be an excellent place to start.I haven’t bought a copy of ‘Pierced for Our Transgressions’, but have heard good things about it. I find the GBC stuff so refreshing and enriching.I’ve added a link to your site, and am looking forward to following your future posts.God bless you.




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