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THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Staring death in the face

Antoinette Connelll

THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Staring death in the face

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WHAT IF, you were staring down the barrel of a gun in the hands of a man who had just shot several people?

What if, you knew for certain that the wrong response to his question could be deadly?

Would you speak truthfully, with a loaded gun pointed at your head?

Some people mercifully will not know the feeling of looking death in the face or being challenged in a literal do-or-die situation. But for an unfortunate few, the reality was oh too real recently.

We modern-day Christians sometimes believe that we are living in an age of persecution. We forget that there was a time when followers of Christ ended up being beheaded, crucified, stoned or otherwise eliminated because of their beliefs. There was a time when Christians were harassed oppressed or killed for not conforming to the religious system of the day.

I don’t accept that many of us felt that today we would be called upon to deny or admit to our belief in God. Still there were a few who did have to do it.

But we would never imagine that today we would be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice.

The terrifying experiences of students and staff at the Umpqua community college have begun to surface after 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage at the institution. Nine were killed and at least seven injured before Harper-Mercer died in a shootout with police.

If we believe the account of Anastasia Boylan, 18, as retold by her father Stacey Boylan, she played dead and watched as Harper-Mercer paused to toy with his quarry trapped in the room.

Declared their faith

“Others had been injured and then this man had enough time – I don’t know how much time elapsed – he was able to stand there and start asking people one by one what their religion was.

“‘Are you a Christian?’ he would ask them, and “if you are a Christian then stand up” and they would stand up. He’d say “because you are a Christian you’re going to see God in about one second” and then he shot and killed them. And he kept going down the line doing this to people.

“How much time do you need?

“She said he had a handgun. It wasn’t a big rifle or an assault rifle. This was a single handgun and he had enough ammunition and enough time to drop the magazine out of it, put another one in and continue his thing. How does he have that much time at a facility? I don’t understand that. How he could have that much time to kill that many people.” – The Guardian (online October 2)

As a Christian I can’t begin to imagine the horror of having to face that decision but I do applaud those who, upon realising the fate of those who affirmed that they were Christians, went ahead and declared their faith. That takes an inordinate amount of courage that could only have divine intervention.

Thoughts of death do at times enter my mind but not to the extent that it would consume a considerable portion of my life here. I’ve learnt to release any anxiety associated with the mystery of dying. It is a fact, life ends in death.

However, do I want someone to decide how I go? I have absolutely no control over that so why worry.

The fear of the unknown affects how we feel about death. But that fear should dissipate if you have the answers in your religious beliefs. In the face of reward there is a comfort in knowing where you are going. Of course faced with a horrible punishment there might be some reservation about the afterlife.

But as I ponder the actions of the courageous who went before us, I am still a bit troubled by those who feel that under these circumstances God has abandoned his people.

Antoinette Connell is a News Editor. Email [email protected]