I love Kalamazoo. It has rich culture, great museums, active theaters, exceptional schools and colleges, beautiful natural resources, and it has just always felt like home – a place where nothing bad would really ever happen. As so many mass shootings have happened around the country, I realized that I began to feel more like a spectator to tragedy than a human in a society that is equally vulnerable to evil. Sure, crime has always happened in the area, but as long as I can remember it has never been out of pure blood lust. Senseless shootings might happen around the rest of the country, but it never seemed like a realistic possibility that it would happen in my hometown.
But, over the last two days, the unthinkable did happen. In what has been described as an unprovoked, random act of violence, a man shot 8 people throughout the Kalamazoo area with no apparent connection between the victims. The next day, another person was shot, and it appears that this kind of evil has never been absent from my hometown. Sadly, it has just been dormant.
I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the NRA uses this tragedy in my hometown to promote gun ownership for self-defense, and the liberal left uses the opportunity to decry gun ownership in the first place. But right now there are much deeper issues than who is right in the gun debate.
The issue that must be faced, one that I had never thought of until senseless murder came to my hometown, is what happens when home is no-longer sacred. Kalamazoo is no less amazing, but at the same time the ethos of safety surrounding it is gone. Kalamazoo has now realized a potential of evil that, previously, seemed only to live far away in other regions of the country.
On Saturday night, when I was in the opposite side of the country in Texas, and first heard about the shooter, the futility of my humanity became very real to me. My family and friends were in a different time zone where a maniac was killing people at random, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. All the philosophy classes in the world can hardly prepare you for the feelings and realizations that come when you realize that home is not safe and neither are your loved ones. And at that point, I realized that when happiness and peace in one’s life rely solely on those things, they can disappear in an instant and leave your life empty.
I’m blessed beyond my comprehension to say that my family and friends are all safe and Kalamazoo is pushing on, but the realization that even family and the safety of the home where they reside can be gone in an instant has stayed with me. Of course, I always knew these things in my head. From Sunday school to stoic philosophy, I’ve always “known” that things of this world are fleeting. But there is a difference between knowing and understanding, and I think it is safe to say that I now understand a little more fully what my Sunday school teachers and the stoics were talking about.
Family and home ought to be appreciated and valued to the utmost, but in order for there to be lasting happiness and contentment in life, the source must be elsewhere. Nietzsche would tell you there is no such source, and today’s humanists would have you believe the source can simply be in yourself, but I have found it to be exclusively true that true happiness resides in one’s relationship with God through a commitment of one’s life to Christ Jesus. In 21st Century America, that sentence may sound like a mere trope that you heard from the kind old lady down the street. But whomever you heard say it, they were not wrong.
This is not an appeal to make an emotional decision, but an encouragement to take this tragic opportunity to give an honest evaluation of the human experience. Family, friends, and home are fleeting. A relationship with an eternal God and a place with Him in heaven lasts forever. This alone should not be enough reason to change your entire worldview. But to the Christian it should be a chance to reflect on the gift of grace we have received through Jesus which brings meaning and joy, and to the non-Christian it should be an incentive to search for answers, and see if Christianity has them.
My prayers are with the people of Kalamazoo, and I give thanks to God for the comfort of knowing this place is not our true home. So even when the worst happens, we may still look to the best with Him.
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