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:


    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:


    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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One of my goals in life (aka bucket list). Visit 100 global cities, soak in some of their museums, learn their stories, meet local folks, visit local churches, and hear stories of how God is at work there. Let's fully welcome refugees. Remember, refugees aren't terrorists...they're the ones fleeing away from violence, war, and terrorism. 
Afraid? Me too. It's ok to acknowledge we're afraid since it confirms we're all...just...human. We're all afraid on some level especially when our culture seems to run on the currency of fear but as we live out our faith in Christ and more deeply embody compassion and love, fear begins to dissipate. It's also incredibly critical to know that agencies are implementing some of the most rigorous and thorough vetting ever. 
My family hosted a Somalian Muslim family from a refugee camp years ago through @WorldRelief. It was eye opening, challenging (especially with language realities), and yet, encouraging...and we hope to host families again in the future as they resettle in a completely new and foreign city and country. It's a terrifying experience. And while not a refugee, I remember the first few months as an immigrant when I was six years old. To this day, I remember the kindness of folks that helped us through that transition. Lift a prayer for me as I'm privileged to collaborate in ministry here in Melbourne, Australia. Meeting with local pastors, teaching at the Justice Conference (10/21-22). Then, preaching at the Bridge Church on Sunday  Pray that in preaching the whole Gospel from the Scriptures, I may honor God, point people to Jesus, and be sensitive to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Interesting. The holy bench. Wow. And in a blink of an eye, this happened. The nights might be long but the years go by fast. #ParentProverbs #WhatHappenedToMy13YearOldSon This past week, @seattlequest celebrated its 15th Anniversary. In many ways, it feels like forever and in other ways, it just seemed like we just started yesterday.

Around May 2000, Minhee and I found out we were expecting a 2nd child. Then, we got another surprise. We felt a calling and stirring to plant a church. We told God, "This is horrible timing!" We left a thriving ministry that we started in the Seattle surburbs and felt compelled to move into the city to plant a new multiethnic church called Quest. To be honest, we were so scared. Minhee was pregnant. Our insurance was about to run out. But we ventured forth. Once I resigned from this church, I had plans, goals, strategies...and none of them materialized. Only bills and payments. I quickly found out that a Masters of Divinity degree - as cool as it may sound - is actually useless in society. No one wanted to hire me. I was unemployed for months. We were eventually on food stamps and DSHS insurance.

In December 2000, we welcomed our 2nd child to the world. When "T" was born, we cried more than the baby. Couple days later, I finally landed a job as the janitor at a Barnes & Noble store. It wasn't quite what I was envisioning but God really worked through this "valley season." And we finally felt peace about starting Quest. Seven people gathered in our living room and several months later on October 2001, Quest Church was officially launched. 
It has not been easy. We've been hurt and worse, we learned we hurt people. More accurately, I hurt people. We've heard our share of criticisms and sometimes, even worse. I've been called my share of names. Too many to list. I've been too liberal, too conservative, too edgy, too rigid, too blunt, too passive. We spent many nights crying out to the Lord...for direction, for peace, for answers. We usually never got the answers we were wanting...but we always felt His presence - even during our valleys. To be honest, we still have many restless nights. In fact, I think we have had more restless nights these past two years than we did in the first two years. 
But through it all. God has been so faithful and gracious. Thank you, Lord.

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