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Virginia Tech Tragedy: What is the Lesson for Our Children?

By Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer

CBN.comThere is a well-known Rodgers and Hammerstein song from the musical South Pacific called "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught." The song was published in 1949, just as the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum. African-American soldiers had fought in World War II to defend freedom and democracy, but when they returned home they faced legislated segregation in many parts of America -- and de facto segregation in most of America.

Rodgers and Hammerstein added their voices to the growing consensus that racism was evil and that it needed to end in America, at least in law -- and hopefully, in time, also in the hearts of Americans.

Sung by the character Lieutenant Cable, the song is preceded by a lyric saying racism is "not born in you! It happens after you’re born..." The song begins:

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear—
You’ve got to be carefully taught

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a different shade—
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late—
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate—
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
You’ve got to be carefully taught!


Despite the vocal opposition of many Americans at the time, Rodgers and Hammerstein were willing to risk the South Pacific production in order to make their point.

James A. Michener, the author of Tales of the South Pacific, the book that the musical South Pacific was based upon, remembered, "The authors replied stubbornly that this number represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in."

Obviously the point that Rodgers and Hammerstein made through this song was that much of what we become in life is as a result of what our parents teach us as children -- both good and bad.

One of the most important and sacred contributions we make in life is to educate our children.  The Bible is clear on the mandate that God gives parents to teach their children what is right and what is wrong:

Never forget the day when you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai, where he told me, ‘Summon the people before me, and I will personally instruct them. Then they will learn to fear me as long as they live, and they will teach their children to fear me also’ (Deut. 4:10, NLT).

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deut. 11:18-19, NIV).

We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come, the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children… (Psalm 78:4-6, NASB).

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse (Mal. 4:6, NIV).

The word “educate” comes from the Latin educo, which means “to lead out of.” We are to lead our children out of ignorance and selfishness and into the ways of God -- loving the Lord with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves. The writer of Proverbs declares, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6, NKJV).

So what are we to teach our children when a tragedy like the Virginia Tech massacre occurs?

It's difficult to answer that question, because there is not much about this that makes sense.

American soldiers faced the same kind of issues when they liberated the concentration camps in World War II and discovered the victims of the Nazi Holocaust. American officers and GIs alike wondered, "How can people do this to their fellow man?" Our soldiers stood on the brink, staring into the yawning abyss of evil, and recognized the depth of depravity that human beings are capable of reaching.

We have seen such depravity and evil this week here in America.

But we have also seen heroism and genuine love displayed during this tragedy. And it is that kind of love, I submit to you, that is the lesson for our children.

This sacrificial love was most clearly seen in the heroic actions of a Virginia Tech professor and Holocaust survivor, Liviu Librescu. Though he escaped the Nazis and the Communists, Mr. Librescu died in America trying to keep a gunman from murdering his students in the killing spree at Virginia Tech.

Professor Librescu was an aeronautics engineer and teacher at the school for 20 years, having moved to Virginia after living in Israel. His selfless actions saved the lives of several students as he used his body to barricade a classroom door before he was gunned down in Monday's massacre -- ironically, on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

His son, Joe Librescu, told The Associated Press that his mother received e-mails from students shortly after learning of her husband's death.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

Joe Librescu told CNN that one of the e-mails was from the last student left in the room. The student said he looked back and saw his teacher struggling to hold the door, and "he was torn between jumping out the window and coming and helping my dad."

"He chose, and possibly made the right decision, to jump out the window," Mr. Librescu said.

Just before he went to the cross, Jesus taught His disciples about true love. "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends" (John 15:13, NLT).

Professor Librescu demonstrated the same kind of love to his students by laying down his life that they would live. What a remarkable act. What a remarkable man. What a remarkable life.

What a tragic loss.

So what will I teach my children in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre?

I will teach them that man is a sinner in need of a savior. I will teach them that this mass murder is further evidence that there is, indeed, evil in this world. I will teach that life is sacred, and that life is precious.

But I will also tell them the story of a selfless Jewish man -- who witnessed some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind under the Nazis and Communists in his native Romania -- yet he willingly gave his life to save the lives of his students.

For you see, you've got to be taught before it's too late, before you are six, or seven, or eight, to love your fellow man, in the face of such hate.

You've got to be carefully taught.

Message Board: Share Your Thoughts on the Va. Tech Massacre

More Perspectives on Spiritual Life

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Craig von  BuseckCraig von Buseck is Ministries Director for CBN.com. Send him an e-mail with your comments on this article.

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