Eugene Cho

reflections on virginia tech [months later]

weeks have now passed. perhaps, it’s become an afterthought for many. personally, a day hasn’t gone by without some thoughts of the virginia tech tragedy.  the tragedy exposed a great deal – it exposed what we all already know:  we live in a broken and fallen word.  it was never meant to be like this.  i say that not for it to be an easy exit or answer but to illuminate the deep nature of jesus’ redemptive live, death, and resurrection.  it also exposed the reality that “race matters” and that race is something the human collective will never fully understand, grasp, and elevate.

in addition, i was exposed.  one poorly written post attracted about 16,000 hits in a span of two days.  it wasn’t the kind of notoriety i was hoping for but this blog became one of the most visited wordpress blogs during that span.  local papers called [eventually had a chance to write a guest column for the seattle pi].  churchgoers called.  friends around the country emailed.  and like many, i found myself glued to the TV until i had to just pull the plug.  because of the high traffic through the blog, i received my share of some interesting emails – those that were thought provoking and those that were downright scary.  i sort of freaked out because of some of the emails which prompted me to go through the blog and delete all pics of the family and kids.

it also exposed my depravity.  this was a snapshot of the progression of some of my thoughts:

“wow, how could this have happened?  what a tragedy.  i must pray for these folks.”

“what?  they think an asian man did it?  that’s impossible.  asians don’t do stuff like that.  but just in case, i hope it’s not a korean person.”

s#@t.  it is a korean person.  why do the news keep insisting he’s a foreigner?!?  there’s going to be backlash.  do i send my kids to school today?

as i shared in the message i taught at my church the sunday after the shootings, amidst many things, the incident exposed my self-centeredness.  while i do still believe the concerns i raised are legitimate and important conversations, it’s so easy to park your thoughts on the SELF.  the truth is i am a selfish, self-centered, wicked, and depraved man.  thank God for his mercy and grace.  only through Him can i see hints of the beauty i was intended to embody.

anyway, i ran across this article from christianity today entitled, “nightmare of nightmares: virginia tech’s korean christians wrestle with the aftermath of a massacre,” and was particularly intrigued by the following quote:

In the meantime, Korean Americans continue to grapple with the massacre. Korean Baptist’s Chung quotes Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who wrote, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

Kang said the fundamental issue is the problem of evil. “We ask, ‘Why does God allow these things to happen?'” he said, “rather than seeing this as the natural consequences of sinful society that Christ came to redeem.

“Western Christians struggle to make meaning of what happens in America because we’re insulated. It’s a dying and degenerate world. We’re [experiencing] the consequences of sin.” [read full article]

april 16, 2007…it’s been nearly two months. how are you processing the events of virginia tech?  any thoughts on the article or the quote above?

Filed under: asian-american, culture

6 Responses

  1. Jeffrey Hawkins says:

    I’ve appreciated learning more about the victims – minus the media frenzy. It conveys to me again that everyone has a story. One thing that is odd to be is the lack of conversations about mental health since that appears to be the main issue with seung hui cho’s actions.

  2. Drew says:

    Eugene,

    First of all, I just started reading your posts regularly, and I have appreciated many of your reflections. You have an integrity which I greatly admire.

    This topic of VT hits close to home not only because I am a college student, but because I grew up about half an hour from Columbine High. When this news hit, I was absolutely stunned.

    As the weeks have gone on however, I have been mystified as to how we have responded to what happened. When NBC decided to release the tapes of Seung Hui Cho days after the shootings, I was fascinated to hear people’s thoughts. Everyone, including me, was glued to their tvs to see the footage of this killer. We watched, mourned, discussed, and then turned the tv off.

    I am fearful of how quickly we can process through this. I am scared that this is, like you said, “an afterthought for many.” Information is incredibly accessible to us, but in our consumerism, I believe that it is beginning to become less and less meaningful. What does that say about our society?

  3. Todd K says:

    hi pastor Eugene,

    added to facebook… ive been following your blog now for several months… amazing whats happening with the church merger… im sure the fruit will continue to be sweet

  4. e cho says:

    drew: thanks for reading and blah blah blah. but on a more important note: congratulations on graduation.

    todd: the merger is indeed amazing. so humbled by it. hope all is well with you and yours.

  5. Dennis says:

    Eugene,

    The reality for me is that there’s so much other stuff going on – painful stuff in everyday life – that it’s really hard to really gather and process my thoughts.

  6. Johnna says:

    Hello Pastor Cho –

    So glad I came across your reflections on Virginia tech because just two days ago, I was reading the Covenant Companion on a train from one part of Belgium to another and I thought, “man, I hope they do a story on the Virginia shootings – we need a theological response to this.” Then, today I read your thoughts and especially your quotes from the Korean Baptist pastor. Well put. At this point, I just think, how much of this shooting was due to a mental illness and how much was due to the possibility that he had never experienced love in a real, concrete way from humans/God?

    I’m with you and your reactions to it having been a foreigner and the way the media emphasized that again and again. Obviously, if we look at all the shootings around the world, we can see that mental illness, depression, and evil actions do not discriminate against race.

    Now there’s been a shooting in Wisconsin, so on to the next thing. When did we become so calloused? And I’m the same way… when will I really mourn like I could/should when I read about the pain in the world?

    Anyway, great to read your blog and congrats on the merger!!!

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “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.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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