Should We Fire God? A Virginia Tech Pastor on Faith after Crisis
- Thursday, April 08, 2010
Jim Pace has heard the question - and variations on it - more times than he can count: Where is God when bad things happen? The co-pastor of Virginia Tech-based student church New Life Christian Fellowship (NLCF) was sitting in a coffee shop less than a mile off campus when the horrors of April 16, 2007 unfolded.
Three years have passed since Seung-Hui Cho shocked the nation by killing and wounding dozens of students on what should have been a routine day of classes. In the weeks and months following the tragedy, Pace struggled to find -- and articulate -- real answers to the "soul-ripping" questions he encountered from those around him and within himself. His recently released book, Should We Fire God? is the fruit of this struggle, and Pace hopes the book will help believers and non-believers alike find answers to some of their toughest questions about God.
As a Virginia Tech alumna and former LifeGroup leader with NCLF, I especially looked forward to speaking with Jim about his book. Check out our conversation below.
Crosswalk: Just to start off, could you just give us some background? What was April 16th and the days following like for you, and how was that a defining moment in your faith and pastorate?
Jim Pace: It was just weird. You would think being a writer I could explain it better than that. It was weird.
I grew up really not following Jesus. I mean I was kind of anti-Christian. And these issues of God's goodness and other things like that were always reasons I never really got that involved. So for me coming to Christ, I had to deal with a lot of these issues. And doing a ministry in a university town, I am surrounded by well-informed, intelligent cynics and skeptics. So tough questions have just been a part of my faith journey, ministry, everything.
When the shootings happened, it was like a spark was lit. These became things that instead of talking about it maybe once or twice, three times a month with somebody, I was talking about it almost constantly. That has framed how I perceive God, because those are things that I've had to sort through again freshly.
CW: You wrote that the days following the tragedy, you felt like a spokesman for a God who didn't do a very good job, it seems. What were some of the toughest questions you received after the shooting?
JP: When I was a guest on Good Morning America, they received these emails from people. And one girl, I think a 14-year-old from Topeka, Kansas, said, "I don't feel safe going to school." Diane Sawyer turns to me and says, "What would you say to this young woman to make her feel better?" This was on live television, right?
I think looking at [it] honestly, some of the most emotionally intense were just people that were [saying], "Why in the world did God not warn my boyfriend or my girlfriend or my daughter to just get out of the building?" Or you talk to the guy who was the last guy to make it out of one of the rooms that got shot up, and everybody after him was killed… he made it out the window. Or you talk to the girl who literally hid under a dead body when Seung-Hui Cho was in the room. What in the world was God doing? I get that he doesn't stop everything. I get that sometimes I get a flat tire, and my car breaks down. But he should have seen this! Those are just soul-ripping questions.
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