Life Matters

Remembering the worth of lives in a violent world

By Kersley Fitzgerald

On Saturday morning, Dev, JT, and I went to the funeral of JT's coach's 19-year-old daughter. To be honest, we didn't know she existed until we found out she'd died in a car crash in Wyoming. JT sat in the area reserved for his school, as she had graduated from there last May. Her brother, father, and pastor spoke, talking about how she made everyone feel important. About how she loved to sing and would rather build other people up than compete. I watched the slideshow of her life and marveled at this life I never knew and the loss her family must feel and how much she looked like Maggie Gyllenhaal.

This was the morning after I.S. attacked Paris. Latest reports say that 129 are dead, including seven terrorists. We don't know any of the victims, but our thoughts immediately went back to Christmas Eve, three years ago, when a friend took us past the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, past the Romani playing three-card-Monte with the tourists, to a real French café, the Arc de Triomphe, and then down the Champs-Élysées where we found Starbucks, bought hats and scarves for family back home, and pushed through the crowds to barely make our train back to Germany. The thought of that little café being blown up by was the only connection we had to the tragedy, but it was a connection.

Of course, Facebook immediately responded. Mostly with posts of sympathy and solidarity. A couple with frustration that Paris would get so much press attention when the attack on Garissa University in Kenya got next to none. In April, 147 were killed by the Somalia militant group Al-Shabaab. But I remember that attack, and remember wondering why Somalia was such a hot-bed of disregard for human life, whether it be Al-Shabaab, pirates, or Hizbul (the group that kidnapped Amanda Lindhout as described in her book A House in the Sky*). Then the news reported that students from the University of Missouri were upset that the Paris tragedy had taken the press's attention from their protests against racial injustice.

Meanwhile, my sister posted this:
We live in this terrible echo chamber, first of horror and then of guilt that we are somehow horrified incorrectly; that we must always do more, be more, fight every fight, mourn all souls at all times. It is overwhelming. It does not end. Ever. Sometimes we must set aside our gentle hearts to raise the hearts of our children. Sometimes something shocks us deeply above the background of the world's usual evils.

My son and I just had this exchange:
Son: "What are you doing in here, Mommy?"
Me: "Being sad at things happening far away in the world."
Son, dancing away: "But you happy because you have me!"
Both statements are true. Both statements are important.
We are surrounded by violence, but it doesn't always register. Of all the fiction-based TV shows Dev and I watch (not including sports), there is only one that doesn't have guns on a regular basis. This Friday, we're planning on trying to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, where I know two beloved characters, two villains, and a significant number of innocents will be killed. If what we are exposed to is representative of truth, life would be very cheap.

Two days before the Paris attack, Paul Asay posted a thoughtful article on movies and how they portray the value of life — "Let There Be Life (At the Movies)". He compares action movies, like the Star Wars franchise where entire planets have been known to be destroyed, to The 33, Bridge of Spies, and The Martian, where extraordinary measures are taken to rescue 33 Chilean miners, a U-2 pilot, a student, and an astronaut. Asay says:
...when you look at many 21st-century blockbusters, you could be forgiven in thinking that a single human life isn't worth much, given the staggering number snuffed out on screen. Killing fictional characters doesn't cost the director or the studio anything, really: Only the audience has to pay.

But in God's calculus, life is precious. Priceless. We are worth enough to God that He moved the cosmos for us, that He sacrificed his Son.
Our lives — the lives of every person — were made to be sacred. We were made in the image of a holy God, and, despite our best efforts, we still have a piece of that spark. Sometimes that spark is forfeit. Sometimes individuals so blaspheme God's name, both by mistreating others and by acting contrary to how God made them, that the only proper recourse is for God-instituted authorities to take their lives. But this, I think, is cause for double-mourning; mourning for loss of life, but also mourning for the damaged hearts that take both their lives and the lives of their victims so lightly. Capital punishment and justified wartime action are responses to that damage.

So, we all sit where my sister does. Between Paris under attack and Paris on Christmas Eve. Between the loss of a 19-year old daughter who looked like Maggie Gyllenhaal and the joy in the life of a 3-year old son. Between the terrorists who promise our own destruction and the refugees who flee from them — and inadvertently provide the terrorists cover to reach their next target.

Start with life. Start with seeing the precious, priceless images of God in each person. Realize that all of us have forfeited our right to life, and that because of our sin, what makes our lives precious is that it is only here that we have the opportunity to regain the full image of God we were meant to be. That is true of 3-year-old sons and 19-year-old daughters and Parisians and Lebanese and Kenyans and terrorists. If we start there, I think the answers to refugees and terrorists and mistreated university students will come more naturally. God tells us to love each life, and then gave us the ultimate example in Christ. And it is our burden to love even those who don't love us and to love even those who forfeit their right to life.

*Amanda's book is very graphic, serious trigger warning, although I think it's also an important book for her to have written.

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Current-Issues  | Hardships  | Personal-Relationships

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Published 11-16-15