The Christian call to love victim 33

Did you think it would be easy being Christian? 

The Roanoke Times

April 25, 2007 – The Scrooge Report Post

Thirty-two names in the lists of the deceased. Thirty-two flags. Thirty-two tolls of the bell.

Last week, 32 victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech were memorialized over and over.

But there were 33 victims. Seung-Hui Cho was the 33rd victim of his own violence. And he was, perhaps, the most tragic victim of all: apparently a victim of years of mental illness, self-ostracism, anger and loathing, even before he was a victim of his own violence.

In this swath of the Bible Belt, we who call ourselves Christians must include this sad, deluded young man in our memorials. We must remember Cho as we remember the others.

We must remember him because we have been told to do so by Jesus, the Christ, who answered the question “Who is my neighbor?” by saying, your enemy. And who told us we must love and forgive our enemies, as we have been loved and forgiven ourselves.

Did you think it would be easy being Christian?

It’s easy to remember 32 innocent people horribly murdered, to grieve deeply for them, to memorialize them and their lost gifts. It’s not so easy to memorialize or grieve for the 33rd. To forgive him. But those of us who call ourselves Christians must do so.

Our nation and our commonwealth seem proud to claim Christianity as our unofficial “official” religion. And isn’t that nice … how we all know the same religious texts well enough to speak them in unison at funerals and football games; how we all recognize “Amazing Grace” when it’s played; how we all know that “a moment of silence” really means a moment of prayer? We give lip service to other religions, but we all know that everyone who’s anyone is really a Christian.

And isn’t that nice? Isn’t that easy?

Yes. Until it gets hard. Until we’re asked to be Christian, instead of merely calling ourselves Christian.

Then, when others list 32 names or toll the bells 32 times, we have to say, over and over, “Thirty-three. Thirty-three. Thirty-three.”

I do not expect anyone in the media or the government to be overtly Christian (although, of course, many are). If editorial and governmental decisions have been made to memorialize only 32 of the 33 victims, well … those decisions truly do lie beyond the reach of any religious dicta.

But we Christians are called to a different standard. We must remember the 33rd victim.

And, as many of our pastors have reminded us, we must forgive him.

At least, we must try.

Monty Leitch, of Floyd County, is a retired Roanoke Times columnist.

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