The Grail Code 
Whose fault?

A few years ago, when yet another shooting massacre in the United States was occupying the news, an English acquaintance who was living in Pittsburgh at the time grumbled, “Just another bl—y shooting. Just another bl—y day in paradise.”

For the benefit of the English and Australian readers of this site, I’ve censored what is to them a strong and vulgar term. (It may surprise you to learn that we Americans don’t consider it particularly vulgar, which is probably why we almost never use it.)

But I repeat the Englishman’s expression of resignation and despair because I know he speaks for a lot of us at a time like this. Resignation and despair are our natural reactions to human evil. What can we do? Nothing, it seems. The world is broken, and we can’t fix it.

Now, this resigned view of the universe is just about exactly half right. A Christian knows that the world is corrupted by sin, but a Christian also knows that despair is a sin, too.

Other people, too strong-willed perhaps to give in to despair, will be asking whose fault it was that thirty-some people died in a peaceful college town in the Virginia mountains. You’ll hear a lot of that in the next few days, as more details about the killer come to light and it becomes clear that he was a tortured soul. Of course he was a tortured soul; they always are. Souls at peace don’t need to shoot fifty random innocent people.

Ezekiel has a pretty straightforward answer to the question of whose fault it was: it was the murderer’s fault. Don’t say it’s anyone else’s fault when you sin, Ezekiel tells us (Ezekiel 18:20). We need to remember that, because our popular culture encourages us to see ourselves as the victims when we do bad things. We came from broken homes; we came from intact homes that should have been broken; we grew up too poor to have the things we wanted; we grew up too rich and never had to work for anything.

Don’t give me that, Ezekiel says. You sinned; you pay the price.

But that doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook. Jesus told us that he’d be especially severe with anyone who caused one of his little ones to sin (Mark 9:42). That doesn’t mean the sinner won’t pay the price, but it does mean that there will also be a hefty fine for anyone who pushed the sinner toward the sin.

So whose fault is it? Who made the murderer’s life so hellish that all he could think of was killing?

All the politicians and all the columnists are already going through the usual carefully chosen list of suspects. I wish for once I could hear just one of them say what I’m about to say now: it was my fault.

I don’t mean that I literally drove this particular young man to murder. The last time I was in Blacksburg was in 1986, which was actually before the murderer was born. But how often have I run into similar people—people who might well be just as tortured inside—and failed in my Christian duty?

How many times have you?

Think of what happens every time you get in a car. Have you ever blasted your horn at someone who cut in front of you, even though the maneuver was already complete and there was nothing anyone could do about it now? Have you ever shouted questions about another driver’s ancestry out the window?

Or have you ever known someone at school or at work who just doesn’t fit in—who is ignored by everyone around him, either because of his ethnic background or because of his odd tastes? How many times have you missed an opportunity to say something friendly and encouraging—something that would take you five seconds to say, but would require you to break through years of prejudice?

I’m guilty on all counts. (Except for shouting questions about people’s ancestry. I can never think of them in time.)

Every human being is looking for the Holy Grail, the object of all desire, the thing that fills that aching emptiness in our hearts. Some people stray so far that they despair of ever reaching their goal, and they despair so deeply that all they can see is darkness.

As Christians, we have the duty to point the way for everyone—that’s what Jesus meant by making disciples of all nations. The best way to do that is by showing Christian love to the people who need it most. We can’t just turn away from people because they seem a little peculiar. We have our orders.

And when we fail, we need to confess our failure and repent.

We failed. Lord, have mercy.

One Response to “Whose fault?”

  1. Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem Says:

    When I read your words “Every human being is looking for the Holy Grail, the object of all desire, the thing that fills that aching emptiness in our hearts.” I wanted to ask you to consider that the Holy Grail that fills that emptiness is our connection to the universal life force that is known by Christians as God and our connection through our spirit to that force.

    In today’s global cultures the connection of the individual spirit to the force of God by whatever name the person knows it by, has been lost in religious confusion and misguided ideologies. Raised as Catholic I found the structure and ritual of the Roman Catholic church to be in the way of my connecting to my spirit.

    Being a woman in that religion living in a small community with very rigid interpretations of the way rules and rituals were carried out, I could only see myself as a sinner. As my natural adolescent sexuality emerged I was on the route to Hell for sure.

    How lost and alone must those who come to the North American culture be when they meet our versions of God. How frightening and perplexed their spirits must be to the judgmental messages from some churches, the proliferation of violence in the media and the lack of ways to deal with stress, loneliness and isolation. How alone it is to try to climb the ladder to success by some version implanted by the constant pursuit of money.

    This sense of lost identity is increasing as the internet opens the ideas and lifestyles of the world and mixes them together like in a giant soup. Can the flavors be identified and appreciated?

    In my first book Questing Marilyn: In Search of My Holy Grail, I struggle to find my Self through the connection to the authentic person I am capable of being. I lead my readers not only through a journey on the physical realm but a journey of the spirit. It was a difficult journey and one I continue to this day.

    I hope religious leaders will unite in grief and pray in hope that there can be ways found for greater understanding of the essential need for a sense of Self that has purpose and meaning and connection to the God force. Perhaps then there will be a greater sense of the value of each life.

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(C) 2006 Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey