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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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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