I am what you might call a 'geek.' From the age of 11, I just got into math and computers, going far beyond my peers and even my teachers. I loved to read mathematics books, and learn as much as I could. Socially, I was very inept. I had a few friends, but I never did fit in with the main group. Certainly, I had absolutely no athletic abilities.
Needless to say, I came in for a lot of abuse. I can say that I really grew to dislike those who hurt me, at least the main protagonists. So when I heard about the killings in Columbine High School, and heard of the abuse that they had suffered, my heart went out to these two boys. Not that I agree with their actions, by no means. But then, when I was growing up, if someone had killed my abusers, I would have rejoiced.
At that time, and indeed up until very recently (I am now 36 years old), I believed that I was strange in a way that few others are. I felt that it was hard to find others who had had similar experiences. But after the Columbine High School shootings, kids such as myself came out of the woodwork. One place that was very vocal was the web site slashdot.org. Many many students, suffering in high school, just as I had, told their tales of woe. The 'jocks' would pick on them, tease them, even physically hurt them, sometimes with teachers knowing about it, or even observing it, but doing nothing. The outcry and the anger was powerful. Here was a new minority speaking out, and I was part of it.
Of the many students that Dylan and Eric killed was a certain Cassie Bernall. So the story goes, one of the killers approached her and asked her if she believed in God. Pausing for a moment, she said "There is a God, and you need to follow along God's path." Then she was shot dead.
There is a perception that Christianity is an institution. Kids are raised within it, some grow up to carry its values to the next generation that they give birth to, and others grow to reject these values, and so become outcasts in that society. So according to this viewpoint, the killing of Cassie represented the cause of these two kids, the outcasts, the unlovely, the hurt, lashing out at the accepted, those part of the institution, the beautiful, the ones with the peachy easy lives who had not a care in the world.
However, a couple of nights after the killing, there was a TV program on ABC about the killing of Cassie. Far from presenting this easy 'institutional Christian' life came a rather darker story. As Cassie grew up, she became depressed. She joined a cynical group of friends, and dabbled in the occult and witchcraft. Indeed, in many ways, she and her group of friends were very much like the Trenchcoat Mafia. Her parents became very concerned, and took a step that goes totally against the modern culture, and greatly restricted her actions and her friends. The only group activities and friends she was allowed were church related. At first she totally hated this control, but at some point something happened, and she told her mother that she had really changed - "you may not believe it, but I will prove it to you." And indeed she had. She became a much happier person, full with the sense that life has meaning. A few weeks before her death, on a video tape she expressed the belief that she could not understand how anyone could live without Christ. And this video clip was shown on this TV program.
This show greatly impacted me. For I too, had become a Christian. Like her, my life had become darker and darker. I also had dabbled in the occult. Unlike her, it was not my parents who intervened, for they are not Christians, and I was raised to be atheist. But at college, life became so hard and painful, and after trying many other paths, I finally came to try Christianity. Like Cassie, the change was profound. I can say that no other decision has had as powerful an effect upon my life as my decision to accept Jesus Christ as my savior. Like her, I can say that I cannot understand how anyone can have any kind of a fulfilling life without Christ.
As I have grown older, I have also found out is that no one, not a single person, has a 'peachy easy' life. We all suffer pain at some time or another. Indeed one thing that came out of the web discussion about geeks is that in later life, it seemed that oftentimes the geeks would wind up with great jobs and a great life, and the jocks would end up with jobs such as gas station attendants, or end up in jails, with broken marriages. These points were made in the web discussion to point out and say - "look geeks, your tormentors are going to get it in the end." But my point is to say that no one has this easy life. Another example, I was not a winner with the girls. It seemed to me that if only I knew how to impress the girls, then my life would be great. But now I meet people who did get the girls, and are now older, and with their age, they are often lonely, having only memories of a string of affairs and broken hearts.
Here is the contradiction with Dylan and Eric. They suffered much at the hands of others. Yet their group, the Trenchcoat Mafia, hated not only the jocks (those that tormented them) and Christians (those who disapproved of their actions), but also minorities such as African Americans, and the disabled. Yet who would be more able to empathize with them than African Americans. If any group in the United States has suffered abuse and pain, it is the African Americans. Surely the Trenchcoat Mafia, far from hating African Americans should have embraced them as persecuted brothers.
of Christ breaks down this anger and cycle of
violence. Those who truly follow Christ have found a great peace
within themselves. The pain that we all experience in our lives
make us bitter and lead fruitless lives, and it can make us turn to
and find true meaning to life. As it says in the Bible, in Romans
8:18, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not
worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." and
in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of
is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
When I was a kid, I heard the story of a rich man who went to Jesus and asked him what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus asked him if he obeyed the commandments, and the man replied that he did, explaining in detail how he kept them all. Jesus then answered that it was good that he did all these things, but one more thing he must do, and that was to sell and give away all his goods and riches, giving them to the poor, and to follow Jesus. The rich man turned away sad, knowing that he could not give up his riches.
When I heard this story, I felt in my heart that this rich man was a fool. Somehow, I knew that what Jesus was suggesting, what he was offering, was for the rich man to get in touch with something truly spiritual, something truly beyond himself, something worth giving up everything for. Here was this man Jesus, standing before him, the greatest man to walk on the face of the earth, giving the rich man an opportunity beyond all wealth.
But it turned out that I was just like the rich young man. There were many times in my life that I came face to face with God, but rejected him. In my first year of college, out of politeness I attended an evangelism meeting. I hated and disagreed with much that the preacher said. Yet at the end when he asked those who wanted to accept Jesus to stand up, I felt the most powerful urge to stand up. Then I became angry, feeling that the preacher was brainwashing me, and I did not stand up. A year later, I was listening to Bach's St. Matthew Passion (a piece of religious music which I enjoyed purely for its musical content). At one point, the music became so powerful, that for a moment, I became convinced that God existed, and as the Bible stated, there was a heaven and a hell. Fear gripped my heart. I immediately wrenched off the headphones with which I was listening to the music, and paced furiously around the room, finally calming myself down, and logically reasoning to myself that there was no Christian God.
Yet I was starving for religion. The appeal of something like the force of Star Wars was great in me. And indeed, I dabbled in Bhuddism. In my heart lay great pain - pain from many sources - from the abuse at school - the loneliness of not having a girlfriend - from a sense of not belonging to the world - and as time went on, the pain of realizing that my actions as a person were motivated by self interest and greed. At first I searched for a solution in the notion of Nivirna, the enlightenment that Bhuddism offered. It was only after this failed that I decided to try Christianity.
Why the delay? Because to accept Christianity is to not only accept Christ and all the peace and joy that he offers. It is also to accept that God not only loves the world, but that he also judges the world. It is to accept that I am am not only imperfect, but that I am a very great sinner. It is to accept that not only is there heaven, but there is also hell, and if my actions and thoughts were to be fairly judged, then I would be bound for hell.
It is only when one accepts this that the Christian message makes any sense at all. It is only when one realizes how wicked one is that one truly appreciates forgiveness from God. It is only as one understands one's own guilt that one understands the need for Christ's death on the cross. As Christ lay hanging on the cross, he was surrounded by two thieves, also hanging on crosses. To quote Luke 23:39-43
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
For those that find Christ, they find that they are no longer losers. Indeed, we get to see that all are poor. It is just that some of us don't realize it. Others of us are brought face to face with this reality, accept Christ, and in so doing become the real winners.