Here at Mr. Standfast I don't ususally write much about world events. Though my nation is at war, and in the midst of a bitterly-fought election contest, till now you would have found no evidence of this here. But the events yesterday in Ossetia are simply two disturbing, too profoundly evil, to allow to pass without comment. The latest report from BBC News is here, and a series of photos from the scene here.
But I needn't go on providing links. The world knows now that in a place called Beslan, in the province of Ossetia, in Russia, evil has once again cast off all reserve. There is nothing that can be said in the face of such horror, except to cry to God for help.
One more link: Adam Nicholson (here)writes:
Each carried body is a bitter parody of a sleeping child cared for in the arms of its father, in which every line is the same as it should be, but the meaning of every line is the opposite of what you hope it might be. The death and wounding of children - by women terrorists, for goodness sake - shown like this, when the wounded parents must do the carrying, and carry on doing the carrying after the crisis is over, is the denial of everything that matters most in life: the chance that the future might be better than the past; and the hope, which is in each child's face, that the world will be good to them.Nicholson goes on from there to question, in the face of such horror as this, any religion or creed "that implies somehow that God is good and capable and has organised a good and kind universe."
It is a reminder that pitilessness lies near the heart of the universe.
Finally, Nicholson says this:
Faced with Beslan, with the blood-soaked children lying on the stretchers, with the grief-shattered faces of the waiting parents, with the knowledge that the pain you see is only the beginning of the pain to come, I don't understand how anyone could maintain that this is a good world.This is not the time, perhaps, for disquisitions on religion. This is the time for mourning. But Nicholson's words force me to recall that as Christians we should not be surpised by what has happened. And indeed, it will happen again. But it is not that God is pitiless. God's sorrow is greater than mine or Adam Nicholson's or anyone else's at this moment. I don't have any sugared words of consolation for those who grieve. There is no consolation at this moment. I only wish to say this: let us not attribute pitilessness to God because men do evil. Let us, rather, look to the evil within ourselves. It is pity, indeed, in the heart of God, that has till now prevented him from destroying this once "very good" creation that sin has stained now again with the blood of the innocent.
This warfare began long ago, and it will continue till Christ comes to redeem creation. In the meantime, let us not resign ourselves to defeat, as if evil must at all times win. In Beslan we see vividly the nature of our enemy. How we respond now makes all the difference. As Lincoln said, "This fiery ordeal will light us down in honor or dishonor." The question now is, as it always has been, which side -- or more precisely, whose side -- shall we choose?
Lord, in grief and horror we lift up the families of the Beslan dead. Like them we are confused, we are angry, and we know not what to say or do, but we turn to you, Father, and lay it all before you. Have mercy on us. Give us light. Save us. Let not our response to this evil do nothing more than compound the evil, as is so often the case, but let both justice and mercy be served at once. Strengthen us, Father, and give us hope. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.