October 1st. Probably a normal day. Junior college is in full force. Then everything turns around. A subtle, almost too slight, version of hell is unleashed on a small town junior college. Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Oregon. I did not know where this was or that it even existed. I do now. A mentally ill, young man by the name of Christopher Harper-Mercer unleashed his terror on the students there that day. Many people would argue with me about even posting his picture or mentioning his name, but I feel it is important we talk about this person. He is a person after all. Even though he committed an atrocious act, it still does not negate the fact that he is a person, a son, a sick person who needed help and obviously received very little.
I don’t want to focus on the shooting and Christopher’s misfortune of having a meaningless upbringing too much; but rather, I want to focus on why he decided to spill blood that day, and whose blood he spilled. All of this matters and it seems as though the media coverage purposefully missed this part of the story, which, to me is the most important part. What am I talking about? I am talking about the execution of Christians.
I have noticed over the past weeks, as the story begins to unravel itself like an onion, there are too many stories about the survivors. The media has presented this sort of, grand welcome home party for the survivors. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than happy there were survivors. I just found it a bit peculiar that there weren’t many in depth “hero stories” about the victims. After a while, it really started to bother me that I only read one story about a Christian man, who was executed, who was called a hero. There has been no mention of him again. His name is Treven Taylor Anspach. Out of the nine people (assuming all of them were either Christian or Catholic except the professor), Treven was the only one who was called a “hero.” A survivor stated after he was shot in the head, he purposefully landed on her and his spilled blood fooled the shooter into thinking he already killed her. That’s it. That is all.
This shooting was a terrible tragedy, however, I think the bigger tragedy was the fact that the media missed an opportunity to display a concern for the martyring that happened that day. I could get into the whole race issue or other religions issue that the media would cover like it was going out of style, but that would defeat the purpose for writing this piece.
I read the victims were honored just recently by the survivors. But I am sure the “honoring” was to recognize they didn’t die in vain. They also wanted to probably bring more closure to the parents and the rest of the population that this sort of tragedy will not happen again. I, on the other hand, want to honor these victims for their faith in God, trusting their lives were in His hands that day.
I am not going to lie, when I first heard about the shooting, immediately I began to think it was just another shooting. Then later, as the details came rolling in and I heard Christopher Harper-Mercer was executing people for their faith, well, the thoughts about these victims began swimming in my head. “How long did they think about this before they chose to stand their ground about their faith?”, “Were they praying?”, “Did the thought cross their mind that maybe God doesn’t even exist?”, “Did they even think about their children or their families?” You have to wonder what these people went through in the final seconds of their life. These thoughts brought me to a place I never wanted to face: a test of my own faith.
I wrote a Facebook post and stated in this poetic way that my soul was jealous of these people. It was truly jealous. They faced death head on, had a chance to walk away, but chose Jesus. What an opportunity! In this day in age, it just seems insane to me. Not that I wouldn’t choose living over God, but it was surreal that this was even happening. Still, thinking about myself and what I would choose, it got my attention in terms of where I stand with God at the moment. I say I would choose God over living, but what would I really do in those final moments? How strong is my faith really? Where do I even stand with God? I should know, right? But to think about where I stand with God in those final seconds? This sort of thing should be a slam dunk decision, no hesitation. That day, I was talking to someone about this and they were very honest in saying, “I don’t know what I would do, what about your kids? You would die for that and leave them?” My response was, “I would have to die for my faith for my kids to know they need to have the same faith as I.” But what they said still made sense. I have a ton of kids. Leaving my legacy to them as a man who was executed by a crazy gun toting, self proclaiming Pagan? They won’t understand the faith part until they are older. I could even rationalize the whole thing: “I have kids.” or “Peter denied Jesus three times, I will have more chances.” “This guy is just crazy, this doesn’t count.”
Then more details about the Christians had rolled out. There also came the details about the wounded survivors. One of the reports stated the people who did not profess any faith, they were merely shot in the leg. This really sent me off on a journey of thought. My main thoughts were, “I wonder who was a professed Christian but denied it to save their life?” It’s a legitimate question right? Then, of course, this lead me down a slippery slope about the church in general. I grew up in the church. As the years have gone by, I have seen an insane decline in the condition of the church. I have seen entire families leave and become “new age.” I have seen members of my own family, leave. I have seen this resurgence of seeker friendly churches, mega churches, emergent churches. False teaching, attendance obsessions, etc., etc. So I thought about churches like Rick Warren’s or even Bill Johnson’s church, and I wondered how many people would rather take a leg wound over being executed. I would think it would follow the 80/20 rule.
I concluded, even in myself, I am a Christian with a bullet in the leg. I have wasted years walking around with a limp because I never have gone all out with my faith. I know without a shadow of a doubt, if I were ever confronted with a “do or die” situation concerning my faith, I would die. But, the sad part is, our entire Christian lives are “do or die” situations in everything and we have chosen not to go all out with our faith. We are alive right now! We are doing nothing but taking shots to the leg in every chance we get to prove our faith! We see in Genesis 50:20 in the story of Joseph where his brothers feared him after their father died and Joseph tells them the all too cliche quote:
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
So with that in mind, I thank Christopher Harper-Mercer for doing the most heinous, evil, cruel and inhumane thing a human can do; and letting the world see God meant it for the good, the saving of many lives. But above all, I know this situation not only spurred my thoughts, but the thoughts of other Christians. We need to step up and profess our faith like we have a gun to our head daily. People died for this. These heroes like Treven. This shooting, it was truly an eye opener for me as it should be everyone who claims to be one of God’s children. The people that died that day did not die in vain, not on my account and probably not on the account of many other Christians in this country. I wish I could thank the victims that died that day. I wish I could tell them how their deaths reflected my weaknesses. I wish Christopher Harper-Mercer didn’t kill himself. I wish he could have seen the impact he made on everyone, seeing as his goal to reign terror turned into something bigger in my life.
I am definitely chalking this one down in the books as another “wake up call.” Maybe this time, my leg will heal.