Semper Informanda: Prolegomenon

What the Gospel Has to Say about the California Christian College Shooting?

All I felt at first was a painful sense of relevance. But the more I read about the incident, the more I realized that the real issue was being obscured by politically charged debates. I then wrote down what I thought was a much-needed gospel perspective and submitted it for publication. When it was published, I received an email from a group of men in the Bay Area that plan on reaching out to Goh with the gospel next week. Then it (finally) dawned on me that the church should be praying for Goh, trusting that the gospel can be the power of God for his salvation, to God's glory. It is my hope that those who read the article will pray for Goh and those who will directly minister to him.

This article was originally published in Christianity Today's guest opinion column called "Speaking Out" on April 12, 2012.

I was as shocked as anyone when I heard about the shooting at Oikos University. It happened in California, near the city where I grew up as a teenage immigrant. But still, my shock didn't reach its peak until I learned that the school was a Christian institution, and that the shooter was a South Korean, my own countryman.

As I dug through the web, however, going from one news source to the next, I noticed something I hadn't noticed before. Amidst the usual tension between different political spectrums, I felt the presence of a very old elephant in the room.

In regards to One L. Goh, some seem to be keen on reiterating his social context. MSNBC even found it necessary to dive into the doctrinal statements of the school; list the percentages of Protestants and Catholics in South Korea; and report on the number of missionaries South Korea has sent out worldwide and the number of Korean-American evangelicals in the U.S.—it's obvious they want to make this a religious, social issue. FoxNews, on the other hand, focused more on the motives of Goh than on his religious affiliations, reporting that he was isolated by his classmates and made fun of for his poor English skills, and that he suffered psychologically as an individual. They don't seem as interested in the larger social context.

So, is Goh a symptom of a flawed social context, or is he just a bad apple in a healthy bunch? Will there ever be a resolution to this question of society vs. individual?

Surely, both sides need to concede that there is some validity to both perspectives. The emphasis on the social context doesn't mean that individual problems will go away, and vice versa. The problem seems to be that neither side is taking into account the other's valid perspective on the problem; they find it incumbent on themselves to pit one view against the other and hope the public will realize just how narrow-minded the other side is. But not only is this kind of methodology guilty of the narrow-mindedness it accuses others of, it blinds us to the real problem and thus the real solution.

My Immigrant Years
I am a South Korean native who grew up as an immigrant for most of my youth, a combined fifteen years in Hong Kong and the U.S. I can empathize (albeit to a relative degree) with the pain caused by racism and rejection—I experienced everything from being looked down on as an ESL student to being nicknamed Jackie Chan. But I found strength and sustenance through the immigrant church community and my relationship with God. I cannot stress enough how important it was for me, when faced with the challenges of assimilation, to have brothers and sisters in Christ who encouraged me and extended their fellowship to me. They reminded me that my ultimate identity is not rooted in my ethnicity, but in Christ.

I spent the last few of my undergraduate years in South Korea. There I was fully accepted and integrated. But to my surprise I wasn't entirely in my comfort zone. Now that I was in my motherland, I was able to see the racism of the majority against the minority even in myself. I wasn't a victim this time, but a perpetrator. It's hard, as part of the majority, to notice the negative influence you could have on the minority. This was new to me, and I felt compelled to struggle against it as an individual. Fortunately, I was encouraged to find a few likeminded friends at church, and together we formed a tight multi-ethnic community. Through mutual encouragement, we faced our individual struggles together as a group.
 
My experiences taught me that the church is in a unique position to reach out to the immigrant community, to share God's love with the "sojourners" in our land. The church needs to understand that it's not enough to see only through the societal lens and say, "It was their society that was problematic." Neither is it enough to merely see through the individual lens and say, "It was their individual problems that needed attention." We must see through both lenses, held together by a gospel perspective, and say, "The problems in both the individual and society point to an underlying, universal norm in humanity." Because it doesn't really matter whether you're in an individually satisfying environment or a socially accepting one; the problem remains fixed and rooted in human nature. That is to say, in all of us. The only solution to this is the gospel, and the love it produces. The gospel gives the church reason to proactively put aside the "society vs. individual" debate (which is how the media is trying to portray most domestic issues) and reach out to the rejected and isolated with the gospel on the one hand and service on the other.

Why One Needs the Gospel
One Goh's community should have shown him the care a struggling immigrant needs, instead of isolating him for his poor English. But Goh also failed as an individual—in a fit of anger he unleashed his worst. One Goh is a perpetrator, but he is also a victim of other "perpetrators." Can we take from this what we must? Where there is a human being, there are bound to be problems. No one is exempt—liberal or conservative, religious or irreligious, immigrant or native, if you're breathing you're probably both the cause and the recipient of some form of human misery at some point in time. Why is this not more disturbing and urgent to us than everything else we see on the news combined?

The Bible, in this sense, is a book about what is urgent and fundamental. It is concerned with the most central problem mankind faces. The gospel comes to us with the premise that we've all missed the mark of perfection and gives the most basic human norm a three-letter name: sin. Humans are the cause of their own strife and conflicts; humanity is killing itself, and this has been our situation since the first sin in Genesis. The gospel demands a new order, a new kingdom, where people from every tribe and tongue will rejoice together and delight in a Savior who makes everyone new. It also provides one.

The Scriptures reveal Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the Savior King who came into our broken world to sympathize with us where we are, to bring a new order not with violent revolution but with radical love, which is demonstrated in his death and resurrection—all this for our liberation and renewal.

I believe One Goh needs a Savior in Jesus Christ, the true One who came to be rejected, ridiculed, and killed. He was an alien to his family, countrymen, and the world. He sympathizes with Goh, and came to die the death he should have died and live the life he should have lived, to make him new and to bring God's shalom on the earth—for One Goh and for us all.

If I see One L. Goh through this biblical lens, I cannot see him primarily as a disturbed Korean immigrant stuck in a broken system. He is primarily a broken man living among broken people who desperately need the gospel, people such as you and me.

Sungyak Kim
MA Student

Orlando Semper Informanda | Volume 6 Issue 28