No One Is Immune

Robert S. Turner
November 28, 2016


It is too early to speculate on the reasons for the attack this morning on the OSU campus, but what we do know is that we are not immune to this kind of violence. No one is.

I have been watching the coverage of the unfolding situation on TV since about 10:30 this morning, and as I flipped between local news broadcasts, I heard one of the reporters quote a witness, who said she knew things like this happen in other places, but she never imagined it could happen here. When I heard this, three thoughts immediately came to mind: a) That's some real dog-bites-man reporting, dude; b) Was this woman simply traumatized, or does she always think and speak in cliches? and c) Where did she ever get that idea?

We live in a world that worships violence—that "makes the gun into a sacrament," as Bruce Cockburn once observed. Our popular culture, whether movies, TV shows, video games, comic books, or sports, tells us a thousand times a day that force and domination are our mother tongue, our default mode of conduct. Our political environment fosters distrust of our neighbors and a hypermilitarized, braggadocious definition of patriotism. Our government at every level reinforces through the budgeting process that fighting, punishing, and avenging are always higher public priorities than caring for the vulnerable people in our midst or ensuring true and equal justice for all. Social media and Internet comment pages present vitriol, threats, and bullying as appropriate ways to deal with interpersonal conflict.

Where would one ever get the idea that something like what happened at Watts Hall this morning could not or should not happen here? We should rather be thankful that it doesn't happen more than it does.

We ought also to be thankful that the results of today's attack were not worse than they were. At this writing, all of those stabbed or hit by the car appear to be out of danger. The only fatality seems to be the attacker himself. And, despite early speculation that there was more than one assailant, he appears to have acted alone. Let us give thanks for these glimmers of mercy in an otherwise terrible situation.

What we need to do now is to pray. We need to pray for the victims' full and speedy recovery; for all the witnesses who have been traumatized by these events; and for the students, faculty, staff, and their families for whom the return to campus tomorrow will be anything but business as usual. Beyond that, we need to pray that God would enable UBC and all of us as individuals to be beacons of grace and ministers of reconciliation in the coming days. Let us redouble our efforts to stand against hate and violence and to demonstrate through our lives a better way. Let us remain faithful in walking the way of Jesus. Let us be agents of shalom.

Tonight at 7pm, at the corner of Woodruff Avenue and College Road (near St. Stephen's Episcopal Church), the collaborative campus ministry group that UBC is a part of will hold a prayer vigil for peace and healing in the wake of today's attack. Everyone from the campus and community is invited to participate. I will be there, and I hope to see you there as well. Let us stand together to proclaim our conviction that only light can dispel the darkness, that only love can drive out hate.

Robert Turner