I was traveling when the school massacre occurred in Littleton, Colorado, just half an hour from my home. Watching the familiar landscape on television from 1,500 miles away, I felt helpless and disconnected. When I returned a few days later, I found that nothing else mattered in Colorado. People watched the news nonstop, sat through every single funeral on CNN, turned out in droves for the memorial service led by Franklin Graham, and day after day filed past the "shrine" in a park beside Columbine High. Probably every preacher within a hundred miles of Denver talked about the tragedy that Sunday: people would listen to nothing else.

My own church considered canceling youth group after the shootings, but the kids insisted they needed church more than ever. Instead, the youth pastor invited all ages to a Wednesday service, and word spread spontaneously so fast—no one knows how—that most of the congregation turned out. Mainly people cried and prayed, which seemed the most appropriate response.

I visited Clement Park, the impromptu shrine, a week after the killings. The media had been reporting on "cross wars." Shortly after an Illinois contractor constructed 15 crosses on the site, some people started writing slogans of hate and vengeance on the crosses memorializing the two gunmen. "Evil bastards!" one woman wrote, even as Columbine students pled with her not to do so. Did anyone present realize the irony of "defacing" the Roman empire's ultimate symbol of shame? Perhaps—the teenagers broke out in a soft, a cappella rendition of "Amazing Grace." The next day, though, one of the victim's parents destroyed the killers' crosses.

I climbed the hill, ...

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Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is editor at large of Christianity Today and cochair of the editorial board for Books and Culture. Yancey's most recent book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters. His other books include Prayer (2006), Rumors of Another World (2003), Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), The Bible Jesus Read (1999), What's So Amazing About Grace? (1998), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Where is God When It Hurts (1990), and many others. His Christianity Today column ran from 1985 to 2009.
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