Doug Phillips has posted a blog article about the Virginia Tech school shootings. Even I could have never anticipated that Doug Phillips was this cold and calloused. Even before the blood had been cleaned from the classroom floors, even before any of the funeral services had been performed, even as twenty gunshot-wounded students still lay recovering in their hospital beds, Doug Phillips was preparing another one of his “See I told you so!” sermons.
Just to ensure that his article received the widest possible exposure, Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum also emailed the article to thousands of recipients. Upon seeing Phillips’ article two days ago I was completely stunned and words failed me. Now that I’ve had a little time to absorb it I’ll try and communicate my thoughts about it.
Others, however, wasted no time in communicating their sentiments to Doug Phillips. One reader wrote in to say:
“Please remove me from your mailing list. The use of this tragedy by any organization to promote an agenda is unconscionable.”
After reading Phillips’ article I had exactly the same sentiment. What he has done is unconscionable.
Phillips entitled his article, On the Horror at Virginia Tech; Finding Eternal Hope in Present Sorrow. But how exactly does Phillips offer hope? He doesn’t. In point of fact his article is a rather gloomy and fatalistic “See I told you so.”
“When people ask: ‘Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?’ or ‘How can such a terrible thing happen?’, we must point them to the fundamentals. First, all of us deserve death and all of us will die.”
Now there’s some “hope” to offer a grieving mother and father who have just lost their son or daughter in a senseless slaughter! Saying such a thing to grieving families, or even to those who haven’t been directly impacted by the Virginia Tech shootings, like the millions across this land who are questioning, “Where is God at a time like this?”, isn’t a message of hope at all. Phillips’ article is likely to be interpreted by many as a message that God is cruel, unloving, uncaring, judgmental, and only too eager to destroy sinners.
This isn’t to say that I disagree that “All of us deserve death.” While being a valid theological statement, is this a message of hope? Are these words of comfort? Is this the Gospel of Jesus that Christians are to share with the disillusioned and suffering? No, it’s not, nor is it a message of comfort.
Tragedy and “horror” isn’t a time for preaching “fundamentals.” This is a time for mourning and, therefore, this should be a time of “comforting the afflicted”:
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2Cor. 1:3-4)
Doug Phillips pastors Boerne Christian Assembly. Pastors are called upon to provide “grief counseling” and even perform funeral services. I cringe to think of the “comfort” meted out by this man to his own church members should any of them ever have an hour of personal crisis.
“Thousands will be deeply affected, probably for the rest of their lives. The most serious pains belong to the mothers, fathers, and sisters and brothers of the murdered victims. What shall we say to them? What are we to learn from these events?”
Those two questions address very different issues, or at least they should. But it’s clear from his article that Phillips would encourage us to take the practical and theological lessons that he believes we are “to learn from these events” (according to him), and “say to them” those same hard and ponderous theological “fundamentals.” I would submit that to do so would be to beat a wounded person over the head with a message that they’re simply in no position to hear. The harm and injury that could come of it could be catastrophic.
This would be an absolutely horrible time to be sharing any of the things that Phillips talks about in his article with those that mourn at Virginia Tech or, for that matter, anywhere else where unbelievers are present. For Phillips to call these shootings “God’s judgment” is anything but a message of “hope.” However, that’s one of the things that Phillips informs us that they are “to learn from these events.”
“Second, we must acknowledge that the rise of community violence is a judgment of the Lord.”
Can you imagine telling a grieving father and mother who has just lost their son or daughter, “What you need to learn from this is that this is the judgment of the Lord”?
Is this what Jesus did to Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died? Did he say, “This is the judgment of God. He deserved to die”? No, Jesus comforted them. “Jesus wept.”
Some of the things that Doug Phillips has to say in his article are worth hearing. But why does anyone need to hear them now? Phillips’ timing and his approach are absolutely atrocious. This isn’t the time for lectures or posturing. This is a time for grieving, and grieving people need to be comforted, not beat over the head with “fundamentals.”
I received an email from a home school mother in Virginia about this article. She gave permission for me to post her email.
I’m surprised that more blogs haven’t taken Doug Phillips to task over this. What he’s done is sick. A lot of people got that Doug Phillips’ spam email about the VT massacre. It looks to me like he deliberately sent it to a lot of home school families here in Virginia. Talk about pouring salt in the wound. I know I’m not the only one who’s outraged to get his spam. Just check this out from the Home Educators Magazine Yahoo Group.
RE: [HEM-Networking] Forward to Christian Homeschool leaders
Is this online any where?
This is so weird that this has come up now as I had never heard of Vision Forum until they added vahomeschoolers emails to their email list (unrequested) and we started getting spam from them. I then found out that Doug Phillips is a featured speaker at the Home Educators Association of Virginia convention this spring.
As a Va Tech grad, I was absolutely appalled at their response to what happened. Really, really scary stuff… you know that people that think like this are out there, but to actually have it show up in my inbox was eye opening. It is scary that these people are representing homeschooling.
I don’t know Stephanie personally, but she’s saying exactly what I think of this too. Watchman, thanks for what you’ve done. This Doug Phillips is a sick man. He needs to be stopped.