I've been thinking about Matthew Murray. Do you remember that name? With all the HuckBama whoopie that's been going on lately, his story has quickly been forgotten. At least by some.
Matthew Murray shot and killed four people and wounded five others in Colorado last month. The shootings took place in two religious centers: a YWAM facility up near Denver and New Life Church in Colorado Springs.
I've thought about some aspects of this nightmare. First, the religious response, and second, something about Murray.
Two of those shot at New Life Church were sisters, sixteen and eighteen. In the immediate interviews by the media wolves hungry for bloodnews, one of the sisters' friends said they were "in a better place." Her interview was backdropped by swaying teens singing praise choruses. I wonder if that little friend still feels that way a month later and if those teens are still swaying. Will there come a day, maybe when they're 35, when they'll say, "Why did we say those things and sing those songs? Why didn't we just cry?" Then there were numerous press conferences where the pastor of the church said the killings wouldn't stop them from worshipping; they were going to "get up and keep moving." I try and pray for that pastor when I think about it. New kid on the block after the Haggard debacle and something like that happens on your watch. Where does he take his grief? Has he slept one full night since that day?
Jim Harrison once said, "Death leaves you speechless, or at least verbless." Or at least it should.
But nope, not us. We get wordy and active, we turn away from the death angel and try to praise the pain away or keep moving. Whatever happened to donning black, drawing the curtains, and mourning, not saying much at all and doing even less, spending some "ashen-time" as Robert Bly would say? If the resurrection means a blessed thing, and I believe it does, then we've got to look death straight in the eyes. Don't close 'em and sing a song, but feel the sting of death, the reality that must occur if a resurrection is going to take place. For some reason, we feel like maintaining a 24/7 faith stance is attractive in the eyes of the word, that somehow it indicates just how faith-ful we are. I'm afraid the world looks at our response in times like those and says, "Are you guys for real?"
I realize these words say as much about me as they do a religious response. That's fine. I won't hesitate to point at a rampant gnosticism I see these days in the religious community: body is nothing to shake a stick at, but spirit is where it's really at; this world is not my home, I'm justa passing through. If the incarnation means a blessed thing, and I believe it does, then you and I making sure we fully incarnate ourselves in this world is paramount before we even start thinking about the one to come. It's an issue of stewardship, being good stewards of what we've been given. And I'm not talking about money.
The other thought concerns Matthew Murray. He was obviously a very sick young man, there's no denying that. But I saved some newspaper clippings that recorded some of his presumed internet postings. We might do well to read those, as upsetting as they are. We just might learn something.
Two quotes in particular struck me:
"The fact is, in YWAM, and christianity, it's all about the Beautiful People."
"All I found in christianity was hate, abuse (sexual, physical, psychological, and emotional), hypocrisy, and lies...I just want to be one of the somebodies."
Is there anything in this young man's words which find us wanting? Anything? If not, then we should get up and keep moving. But if there is, then maybe we should stop and look and listen. The great gift the OT prophets were trying to give us was the ability to be self-reflective; to be able to see the evil out there, but also in here. But most of the OT prophets were killed off, they never achieved stardom or enjoyed popularity, and few were those with ears that heard. Maybe the small group curriculum for the spring should be the online journals of Matthew Murray.
Is christianity all about the Beautiful People? Look at our book covers, our jewel cases, our speaking circuits and conferences. Just look. Folks worship Beth and John and Joel and Max to the same degree that teenagers worship Zac and Hannah.
And is it possible that some people experience a christianity full of hate, abuse, hypocrisy, and lies? Is it possible? I'm not talking about Christ, but christianity. I would say "yes" because I'm a part of christianity and there have been moments when hate ruled my thoughts, abuse occurred under the guise of "leadership," hypocrisy came as easy as breathing, and lies were told while passing the lie-detector test. Put at least one other person like me in a church and the possibility that someone, like a teenager, would indirectly or directly experience a less-than-Christlike christianity grows exponentially.
I'm sorry, families of the slain, that we got up and moved on. Chances are you're still stuck in that moment. Some believe your loved ones are in a better place. I wonder if you wish they were still in this place, better or not?
And I'm sorry, Matthew, that we continue to give the best seats to the good-looking people and sway to praise choruses while the weird kids get left out. There is no excuse for what you did, none at all. You had no right. But there's no excuse for what we did either. We can be so wrong.