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Dumb Questions We Ask after a Tragedy

Dumb Questions We Ask after a Tragedy

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Category: Special Features

Yes, I know it is not politically correct to say that anybody ever does anything that is "dumb" or "stupid." But the reluctance to call some things what everybody knows they are, is simply, well, dumb and stupid.

Our televisions, print media, and office conversations have been filled with musings about last week's murderous rampage by a mentally-ill student at Virginia Tech. My personal fear is that the major media have made it far too much of a story.

One man's deranged behavior seems already to have pushed other unstable souls to brandish weapons, take hostages, threaten massacres, and otherwise cry for the attention they crave. Replaying his rantings mailed to NBC likely has others busy producing their media kits today!

Among the serious questions that have been and will be asked about last week, here is my list of dumb ones already worked to death: "How do you feel?"
This is the classic question asked of everybody in range of a microphone following a tragedy. How do you think any sane person feels about such an event? Horrified. Dismayed. Bewildered. "Did the university and police officials handle the situation correctly?"
Who knows how to handle an unprecedented crisis? You react. You follow normal protocols. But "normal protocols" never fit abnormal circumstances. "Do you wish you had done anything differently?"
(This one takes the cake!) Of course we do. If anybody had connected the dots on this man's plan, she would have done something — no, anything — to preempt and stop it. We humans can always see with hindsight what could not have been anticipated while living through a complex event. "Did you ever think anything like this could happen here?"
No. Only paranoid people think like that. Yet the truth is that practically anything can happen anywhere because of human instability and/or malevolence. "Looking back, do you see any ‘warning signs' of this?" In retrospect, we all think we see signs of a gifted person's achievements and the sick or evil one's crimes. But those same statements and events in most peoples' lives signal nothing. We cope. We change. We come to our senses. We don't act on our darkest thoughts and inclinations.

Lest I sound altogether negative and cynical, there is another unusual comment we've heard. Even from people who otherwise deride faith, mock religion, and use God's name in profane ways, we have heard, "Our prayers are with all those who have been touched by this tragedy."

Maybe if we actually did more praying and less prattling, a few of the terrible and shocking things in this world would begin to change for the better.

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

About the Author

Rubel Shelly
Rubel Shelly preached for the Woodmont Hills Church in Nashville for thirty years. He is the author of more than 20 books. He has accepted the position of President of Rochester College. For more details, click here or email Rubel.

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