Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I just finished the book, Columbine, by Dave Cullen. It tells the story of what really happened at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, when two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Kiebold killed twelve students and one teacher and injured many more before committing suicide.

It was a very interesting book… more than you would think, though it is difficult to read because of the very offensive language.

There are many lessons to be learned from this tragic event. People involved in law enforcement, school administration, media, and those responsible for emergency response or security for a large facility should definitely read this book.

I’m not involved in any of those fields, so I read the book as a father of two pre-pre-teens and as a pastor. Here are some of the lessons I learned and a few truths that I was reminded of…

• Media reports of anything beyond the basic facts of a news event are mostly wrong! Most of what you know about the Columbine event is wrong: the background of the killers, the kind of people who were targeted, the motives, the events of the stand-off… With the Columbine tragedy certain wrong information was given by the media in the beginning and even when it was clearly shown to be wrong, the media stuck with it because it was more ‘interesting’ than the truth. It seems every time I am involved in a news event or have some knowledge of what really happened, I am amazed and surprised at how the newspaper reports differ from what really happened.

• Having a two parent home with a stay-at-home mother doesn’t guarantee your kids will turn out great. Parents need to be committed to being involved in their kid’s lives beyond just providing a stable home. Parenting must always be active; never passive.

• Parents should take seriously the warning signs of aberrant behavior. While much of the time there may not be reason for alarm, we should not operate from that assumption. I know from the few suicide cases I’ve been involved with that this truth is too often ignored.

• Having a relationship with Christ really does make a difference in the way we are able to handle tragedy. There really is a peace that passes understanding! The author, while definitely not writing from a Christian perspective, remarked at how very different the reactions were between the Christian parents and the non-Christian parents when the bad news started pouring in.

• In a tragedy, churches should focus on caring for and loving people not on aggressive outreach. The Holy Spirit will draw people to Christ. In the midst of a tragedy, our first response should be love in deed and in word. I believe in evangelism, but the message from the church to the world should be that we love you and Christ loves you, not that we want to take advantage of a difficult situation to ‘sign you up’. If a church doesn’t have a stronger witness and testimony in the community a year after the tragedy, then the church didn’t respond in the right way.

• It is never right to exaggerate or embellish a story to accomplish a good and noble purpose. Some of the great stories of Christian faith that could have come from this event have been lost because well meaning Christians encouraged or embraced known exaggerations, and when the embellishments were proved inaccurate, the whole story lost credibility. God will never bless an untruth, no matter our good intentions.

Pastor Noel