Yesterday, Nikolas Cruz entered the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, FL – a school he was expelled from – murdering seventeen innocent victims and injuring at least fourteen others. The press is already reporting there were “red flags” – expulsion, social media posts, strange behaviors, etc. He doesn’t seem to have friends. Apparently Cruz has experienced significant loss and grief.
As yesterday’s events unfolded, I asked, “What broke him? Who broke him?” This wasn’t the act of a “normal” person choosing wrong. This was not the act of a “normal” person suddenly overcome with evil. Yes, what he did was unspeakably evil! But, this wasn’t the act of a “normal” person. Only a “broken” person could do something this horrific.
“What broke him? Who broke him?”
We could ask the same every time one of these tragedies occur.
Perhaps some people are born evil. Some would make that argument. I can’t accept that. I believe God doesn’t make broken people. I believe God creates us in his good image. I believe this world breaks people. And, today, I wonder what broke Nikolas Cruz, and others like him.
Inevitably, many are already debating the need for better gun laws versus better mental health screenings. Though I firmly believe some kind of law should have prohibited Cruz from purchasing a semi-automatic weapon, my point is not to enter that particular debate.
I’m wondering when Cruz’s brokenness began, who might have recognized it early on, and who failed to intervene? I’m wondering what might have saved Cruz – and, now, all of his victims – closer to when his brokenness began? I’m not looking for someone to blame. I’m wondering about how Cruz, and others like him, might have been helped before doing such unspeakable harm? I’m wondering who the next Cruz might be?
And, I’m wondering what the Church’s role is? Obviously, the Church is quick to offer aid following tragedies. We hold special services. We offer comfort, counsel, and prayer. But, I’m wondering, if we are called to be salt and light in world, how we could – must – address the widespread brokenness in our world? Where was the Church for Nikolas Cruz?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming the world, the Church, or anyone else for Cruz’s sin. Cruz made that evil choice. I’m just wondering why, and what might have stopped him.
I confess I am struggling today. These aren’t just theological ponderings. I’m wrestling deep in my soul. I’m torn between knowing there is darkness in our world, and feeling an immense responsibility to stop playing “Church”; to actually do something substantial and assertive, to drive back the forces of evil in our communities and our world. I’m torn between believing in the free-will that allows for evil choices, and believing God’s will ultimately prevails. I’m torn between feelings of hopelessness in the face of so much despair, and an outrage-driven conviction to do more about it. I’m torn between utter hopelessness, and knowing we have the power of almighty-God at our disposal. I’m torn between wondering if the Church is making any difference in this world at all, and knowing Christ, working in the Church, is the only hope we have.
I watch as society drifts further and further away from God. I watch as families senselessly decay. I watch as more and more die of drug overdoses. I watch as so many “Christian” families are less and less involved in Church, and more and more drawn away to other worldly distractions. I watch as woman after woman after woman comes forward to bravely confront men who’ve assaulted them. I watch as our country grows more and more divided. I watch as age-old-racism seems to be rekindled. I watch as the constant threat of war and nuclear annihilation looms on the horizon. I watch as we literally throw away our lives on the smallest, most petty, trivial pursuits.
Friends, what are we doing? Yes, Cruz is broken. But, maybe Cruz is broken because we are broken? Maybe Cruz if broken because the world is so broken. Maybe the world is so broken because we – the Church – are doing so little about it.
And I’m thinking a lot about Jesus today. I’m thinking about Jesus coming to heal our brokenness and rescue us from sin. I’m thinking about the trivial ways we talk about sin, without confronting the sin that leads to yesterday’s massacre. I’m thinking about the terrible weight Jesus bore on the cross, dying to save us from all of our sin and brokenness.
I’m wondering what Jesus is calling his church to do?
I don’t know who broke Nikolas Cruz. But, I do know who could – who can – heal his brokenness. I know who can heal the brokenness all around us.
So, here’s my question, to the Church. Are we going to keep playing Church – with nice worship services, cozy fellowship, shallow religious programs, and petty squabbles over silly, unimportant, irrelevant disagreements? Or, are we going to get to work, with all of the courage and conviction we can muster, driving back the forces of darkness that lead to death and destruction, in Jesus’ name?
Isn’t the correct answer obvious?
What broke him? What are we going to do about it?
14 thoughts on “What broke him?”
Excellent thought provoking article. Always enjoy reading your wise words whenever you post on social media. Sure do miss your seemons! Hope all is well.
This thought “I’’m torn between believing in the free-will that allows for evil choices, and believing God’s will ultimately prevails”
and this one, ” I’m torn between wondering if the Church is making any difference in this world at all, and knowing Christ, working in the Church, is the only hope we have.”
are banging back and forth in my head today.
As soon as I heard there was a shooter at the school, I prayed continuously for the lives of the kids and faculty. It didn’t do any good. 17 died any way.
I wish we could have Christian youth groups at our schools. I wish we could still pray in our schools. Our society pushes our Christian beliefs away from the schools.
My two kids grew up in my Christian home and both of them reject Christianity.
I feel very hopeless today. and so so sad for the parents and siblings of the 17.
Terry, let me encourage your prayers some. You cannot think your prayers didn’t make a difference, because they did. We just may not yet know in what way those prayers made a difference. Could there have been more children to have died without your prayer? Could there have been a way for the coach that protected children to have been bold enough to do so without your prayer? Could there be some positivity in the fact that Mr. Cruz was captured and not killed himself? I believe your prayer made a difference and that our prayers ALWAYS make a difference.
Let me also encourage you by telling you that Christian youth groups/clubs are very much alive and well, and allowed in our schools. From FCA, to Young Life, to bible classes, to many other volunteer organizations, there are indeed Christian groups in the schools.
The laws that have been passed have been done so to protect our children from adults influencing the children to a particular faith. This is a good thing, because we as parents should be the ones to determine what faith our children grow up with. Think about all the doctrinal difference we have from church to church. What happens if a teacher leads a discussion or prayer coming from Calvinist viewpoint when your child is Arminian? What if the teacher debates immersion baptism and makes your child question their infant baptism, or sprinkling baptism? Then of course, you can go as far as to say what if the teacher is of another prominent religion and wants to lead the class in prayer to his/her god?
Prayer, worship, bible study, is very much allowed, and in some schools thrives because it is the children that lead it. This is the way it should be. This puts the pressure on us as parents to make sure we are modeling Christ and Christian behavior in our homes. It puts the responsibility on us to encourage our children to lead the revival needed in our schools. It all begins in the home. It doesn’t begin in the church or any public space, it begins with parents and Christian homes. Show your child faith in action, show your child Christ’s love for others, His grace towards those that have sinned, and then help teach your children God’s Word and take time to have real discussions with your children.
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Thank you for these wise and helpful comments!
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I am thankful for this conversation. I think we need much more of this kind of direct dialogue. My heart has been broken in so many directions over yet another devastating horrific tragedy.
I can relate incredibly well with Pastor Vance’s message and I agree with the response given by Mr Faulkner.
I want however to offer you, Terry encouragement regarding your children. My 3 sons also turned away from church. We pondered where we had gone wrong but we just krpt loving them where they were and it was not always a good place. They each walked very different paths and kept me on my knees and today, our 3 sons and their precious families are involved in church and are active followers of Christ. Train up a child…and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
I believe the experiences they have had enable them to be more compassionate to others and more likely to reach out and accept others and will mske them even stronger leaders. I pray the same for your children and so many others.
I wonder about what we do that may turn not just our children, but ithers away. I wonder if I would have embraced young Nikolas when his mother died. Would I have gone to him and offered support? Or would I have thought, “wow, what a troubled kid”. I wonder about all those things Pastor Vance spoke of. As a leader in my church and in our conference, I know we can do better and we can love one another more regardless…regardless of who another is.
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I was up very late last night, restless and wrestling with similar thoughts. I wonder how many others were thinking the same thing. Heading out to Philly today returning on Monday. As a church, we need to talk about very real actions we can take. Though my heart breaks for all the victims, it also breaks for a young man who felt he had no other recourse.
We as a society have caused the disconnect and social ills by refusing to step up and out and say God matters. We need Him more now than ever and yet He is an afterthought. We need him in our lives, in our homes, our schools, all levels of government. When our nation learns to put God in the forefront again, we will again be in His favor. Until then, baby steps matter. Anything we can do to validate others feelings and situations and help them recognize that they are not alone. There is a God that loves them and cares about them and..,so do we. How can we do that? Prayer helps but we need to move on this. I’d love to help and I’m sure the Go Team would too! Let’s talk and come up with a plan.
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Have a great trip. Let’s talk when you return!
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Thank you for your words of wisdom and for an Ash service so appropriate. Sending prayers to you too🙏
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Wow!!! This is so good and so thought provoking. We too have been asking some of these same questions. Sue
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The earnest reply remains the same as always. How? What is the answer to changing this horrible roller coaster our youth is subjected to…..tell me how, show me how, I want to help.
The state of our condition started in 1963.