Ismail Ax

all the lonely people,

where do they all come from?

all the lonely people,

where do they all belong?

So, what can be going on in the mind of a 23 year-old recluse when he decides to go out and indiscriminately take the lives of as many innocents, nearly all totally unknown to him, as he can? That’s the problem, nobody knew. There were a few that had “concerns”– writing teachers, people who had reason to be in proximity to him. The signs of the unusual–the weird–were there. The way to penetrate the wall of isolation was not.

Father McKenzie,
writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear,
no one comes near
look at him working,
darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there,
what does he care?

Indeed, who cared in this sad tale? Eventually, the whole world cared–we even received a condolence note this morning from a friend in Lebanon. And maybe that was the intention of Ismail and his ax. Here was the spurned son of Abraham who’s “hand [was] against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” Perhaps, in death the world would take notice of one man’s isolation and the injustices he perceived.

Was that the meaning of “Ismail Ax”? We will never know.

For those of us living here between the worlds, the tale is provocative. I found an essay in Christianity Today that may have some meaning for us.

One wonders what it would take for the church, the new community, of the friends of Jesus to hold equal fascination for our lonely culture. To draw our culture to Christ, evangelical churches spend enormous amounts of money on slick marketing materials, enormous amounts of creative energy crafting “authentic” worship, and enormous amounts of intellectual capital on postmodernizing the faith. We’re not convinced these strategies get to the heart of our cultural malaise.

Perhaps another “strategy” is in order. What if church leaders mounted a campaign to encourage each of their members to become friends, good friends, with one unchurched person this year?

Oh, but that would require so much commitment, sacrifice, and humility! Exactly.

From all evidence, the gunman of Virginia Tech was the personification of the old Simon & Garfunkel song:

I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

How many such islands are out there? How many fortresses; disturbed, mentally ill loners; Ismails ready to wield the ax? We can’t know. What we do know is that it is not good for man to be alone. Loneliness is not the will of our Creator God. Jesus came into the world to penetrate the walls of the lonely. As God sent him to live between the worlds, so Christ sends us.


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