Virginia Tech killer crucifies a Christian symbol
Evil habitually acts like a leech, taught Saint Augustine. It sucks its lifeblood from what’s good. The demonic often hides behind what’s divine. Camouflaged in high-sounding arguments, evil struts its stuff. It wraps biblical imagery around diabolical crimes. Not surprisingly, Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho aligned himself with the crucified Christ. In a video parcel sent to NBC in New York, Cho droned on tape how enemies hung him up. In obscene-laced monotone diatribes against rich elites and organized religion, Cho ventilated demonic urges to kill. Deranged Cho raves on tape, piggybacking on religious symbols to justify his shooting spree. “You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today,” Cho rants. “…But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.”With whom is Cho identifying? Cho sees himself as a Christ-figure. Just as those who crucified Jesus have his blood on their hands, our society is stained forever, according to Cho, with his bloody rampage.Among the 27 QuickTime videos Cho mailed in the package to NBC, we see him talking directly into the camera. Voicing bloody imagery, Cho mentions sin. Then he asserts his clinching argument. “Thanks to you,” he seethes, “I die like Jesus Christ, who inspired generations of the weak and defenseless people.”Strong, damnable rich people have eviscerated Cho, he believes, leaving him lonely, vulnerable, and weak. Acting like Jesus’ followers who fled from the cross, those around Cho have left him. He is defenseless. When cornered, even a harmless cocker spaniel puppy curls its lips and bites. As one crucified like Christ, Cho’s very sick and malevolent mind convinces him to spill blood and fire bullets at his crucifiers.Cho is not the first social misfit to co-opt Christ as a defense. Since evil loves to masquerade as good, this mass murderer robs what’s precious from Christianity and perverts it.Undoubtedly, Jesus’ disciples whose testimonies are recorded in Scripture concluded that he lived in order to die. At best, the New Testament records merely 100 days in Jesus’ life. Descriptive brevity radically changes, though, when the Scriptures rivet our attention upon the final hours leading to the crucifixion. Then the record is drawn out.How Shakespeare described the thane of Cawdor in Macbeth is a picture image of the crucified Christ: “Nothing in his life/ Became him like leaving it.”The Apostle Paul certainly believed Jesus was born to die so that his followers might not die to sin but live abundantly. “Far be it from me,” cried Paul, “to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). A sick person like Cho reads this and sees himself depicted. Yes, he will have blood on his hands and go down in a hail of bullets, but isn’t his crucifixion like Christ’s? Evil likes spiffy attire, parading as if were good. So Cho robes himself like a Christ figure. The Devil habitually uses Scripture for diabolical purposes.The press identifies former President Bill Clinton as our nation’s most popular university commencement speaker. He shows a proven track record of identifying and wisely interpreting cultural trends.In a speech over a decade ago, Clinton warned our nation of the peril when evil people hi-jack religious symbols. Giving a speech on May 5, 1995 at Michigan State University, he warned white extremist paramilitaries to back off in their penchant “to appropriate our sacred symbols for paranoid purposes.”The horror right-wing fanatics unleashed on April 19, 1995 by bombing the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and massacring innocent government workers and children was still fresh in Americans’ minds. Thrust into this maelstrom, militia groups sprouted like mushrooms in dank soil. Such self-anointed vigilantes working to protect America’s virtue formed clandestine units. Michigan seemed to be a popular militia base.President Clinton didn’t allow these conspirators to wreak havoc on the Federal Government by justifying their cause with what he termed “the American civil religion.”What is “civil religion?” Writer James H. Smylie defined “civil religion” as “the way we have identified ourselves as God’s people and under his providence, the way we have invoked divine sanction in the use of power and in support of civil authority and the way in which we justify our national actions.” Americans are familiar with our presidents standing in front of a phalanx of American flags, delivering speeches with references to God, providence, prayer and freedom whose Author is the Lord Almighty. Cho used a biblical façade, too. He justified wanton murder, seeing himself as a crucified martyr. Using biblical references to make what’s sinister sound saintly, Cho contrived his evil massacre as good, patterned after Christ’s grisly death. When Christ’s crucifixion is commandeered to make what’s evil sound good, then he is crucified all over again. The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth Ministries, enhancing Christian worship through lively storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes,” is available in local bookstores for $7.95.