As it most often is with such moments of shocking tragedy, the shootings at Virginia Tech last month leave us with far more questions than answers. And yet, in the aftermath of human calamity we seem to hunger for something that will make sense of it all. Where do we turn? Will answers lie in law enforcement, public policy and political process, the mental health system, or perhaps in faith communities? Answers that come too quickly are revealed, after the first blush, to border on the ludicrous. (If more students had been carrying concealed weapons, one of them might have taken down the shooter? Pardon me if I fail to grasp the logic in placing more guns into a population of late adolescents swimming in undifferentiated ego mass where one of the persistent problems is easy access to large quantities of alcohol). On one level, the shooting was about power. A young man with a tormented mind, sensed that he had been stripped of power; made powerless by those around him, and he sought empowerment by stealing ultimate power from as many people as he could, fully aware of the final consequences and unconcerned about the toll. Power is an interesting concept. As a culture we are drawn to it. Power equals strength and status. Everything from trucks to diet aids to laundry detergent is advertised as having more power. Even in religious bookstores, the word power dominates the titles. The message is clear: you need to have more power. The disturbed extreme of that message paid a visit to Virginia Tech. In the Old Testament, the word for power is about ability and creativity. The best example of that power comes in Genesis. God said it, it was, and it was good. Power is also a means of accomplishing divine purpose. In Exodus, God's power exerted upon nature facilitates the escape of the Israelites from captivity. God is seen as a force of history but not a capricious one. Divine power has divine purpose. Similarly in the New Testament, the power of God is seen in the person of Jesus, and even then he was not the kind of power that many expected. Jesus announced his ministry - his power - by reading from Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free." Power sets free, gives life and erodes barriers. The tragic flaw is in thinking that power lies in weapons or the ability to take a life and Virginia Tech is just a recent example of it. Real power does not dominate, manipulate or control. Real power is not taken, instead it is given away. To the woman caught in adultery he says, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." To the paralytic he declares, "Your faith has made you well." And to the criminal crucified next to him he comforts, "today you will be with me in paradise." Perhaps it is best if we leave the larger questions unanswered. Perhaps we should focus not on the big picture, but on the small picture; on the way we seek and seize and use power. Perhaps all we can do is stay in our grief and look honestly at how power works in our lives and how we empower others or take power from them. Poet Nikki Giovanni, who teaches at Virginia Tech, said "we are better than we think and not quite what we want to be." St. Paul looked at the cross and declared that God's power is made perfect in weakness. --Steve Hammer is the associate pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.

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