Remembering tragedy helps us move forward, to not take things for granted, to resolve that whatever was preventable will be prevented. Tragic events can only be made more tragic if we assume they will remain isolated events, that things will naturally return to the ways they were. Remembering helps us to stay connected to the reality that bad things happen, evil is real, and that we need to treat the root cause and not the symptoms.
With VT remembering those that fell a year ago today, I wonder if the Korean American community could produce another Cho Seung-Hui. Or perhaps, I wonder if we could prevent one. Granted, there was perhaps a perfect storm of mental illness and accessibility to weapons. But also there was something that resonated with me in that Cho had problems with his sense of identity and belonging. Added to this was this notion that he was making himself out to be martyr of some sort, to which he ascribed to Jesus Christ (?!).
It seems as though the ethnic church should have been able to help and not exacerbate the situation, but do we have that ability, sensitivity and language to even address the problem? Are we espousing a gospel that is only good news for those who succeed and make something of themselves? Do we not believe that Christ healed those he came in contact with?
I’m hopeful that there is a strong connection between identity formation and spiritual formation that the ethnic church can contribute to for those like Cho and myself. But we must deepen our theology, not only to propel our seeking of normalcy and success, but to shed healing light on our darkest corners and most perverted sins. Then we can remember this tragedy not in shame, but for the turning point that it was in reflecting the power of the Gospel and the unlocked potential in our churches.
Last semester, I tried to tie some of these things together in a paper where I posited that unsuccessful cultural identity formation could lead to violence. Although I got a good grade on the paper, I believe it’s still a work in progress. So if you want, feel free to read it – expand on it, critique it, whatever. Just help us remember what good can come of it.