No Joking Matter

In light of today’s activity on Southern Adventist University’s campus, I am impressed to write.

First of all, the rampant rumors and inaccurate information was unbelievable. But I’m not writing about that.

The argument that professors and staff should have the ability to carry personal weapons will inevitably be raised. But I’m not writing about that.

I am writing about the fact that so many people felt it was necessary to crack jokes and make flippant comments about the alarming situation on campus today. Here are some examples I pulled from Twitter:

“Newest SAU Pickup line: Hey baby, I’m the bomb. Wanna go out?”

“It’ll be interesting to see #Studio4109 spoof this one!”

“At SAU, you won’t die from a bomb. Heart disease and diabetes maybe, but not a bomb.”

“All I did was wear an Andrews shirt today!”

Caffeine was brought on campus.

A mad vegan avenger.

The secret recipe for Sam’s Chicken was stolen.

I was feeling too sick to my stomach to go on. But there are more. Many, many more.

As God-fearing people, and most especially as Christians, we are called to a life of compassion. And those comments and jokes are about as far from compassionate as you can get.

I have friends who work on that campus in security, as teachers, in administration. I have friends who are students. And someone threatened them today. My guess is that many people reading this do too.

My question is this: How dare you make a joke that people’s lives were in danger? Have we as a nation grown so desensitized that today was possibly “just another school shooting?”

Yes, it turns out that today was in fact just a threat. But no one knew that. In reality, today was bigger than “just a threat.” Today should have sent off warning bells in every Adventist’s mind. Because today, we were not in the Happy Valley Bubble. Today, we learned that we are not immune.

And still people make jokes.

The Amish are some of the most non-violent people in North America. Yet one of their schools was targeted for violence.

Not one of the elementary, middle, high schools or college campuses in the news last year, or the year before, thought they would be the target for violence. Until it happened.

Our Adventist schools are no different. Andrews University had an issue with violence in recent years. But still we choose to bury our heads in the sand, convinced that “it will never happen to us.”

Today happened. And it could have ended badly. I am not arguing that our private campuses should have better security or anything along those lines. That is for another post at another time. I’m arguing for compassion.

We do not live in a bubble. Just because we are Adventist, or Christian, or God-fearing, does not make us immune to the evils of this world. As someone posted recently, those reasons make us an even bigger target.

Next time you hear of a bomb threat, a school shooting, a fatal car accident, a baby who died from SIDS, or a mother who miscarried, don’t make a joke. Don’t be flippant. Be compassionate. Show you care.

Among the jokes and cracks, I was blessed to see the number of prayers being posted greatly outnumbered the negative comments. People from around the world were praying for Southern today. The story made USAToday and in some places beat out Justin Beiber for the top news slot. I’m not bragging that SAU made the news. I’m saying this is a big deal. What happened on campus has affected millions.

As Adventists, we were noticed today. I want us to be noticed for the power of prayer as it was seen around the world today. Not for the negative comments. No one knows if this threat could have been a disaster if it weren’t for the prayers sent up today. If no one took this seriously, maybe that man who threatened campus would have returned. We will never know.

I just hope that next time there is a threat to our bubble, and there will be a next time, that we take it seriously, and pray for those involved. And be compassionate.

For more information on what happened today:


8 thoughts on “No Joking Matter

  1. I saw those tweets too; however, I believe the world saw how we come together as a family in prayer today above all else. Check this out. Just throwing in my 2¢.

  2. They aren’t compassionate, and may even be done in poor taste, but often jokes are a coping method. They can release tension, help people get through this moment, and maybe a few beyond it. I am not a jokester, but I prefer to take it easy on those who do crack jokes because usually they come from a place of tension, fear, relief, and/or inability to cope or lack of other coping methods that are societally acceptable.

  3. Bekah: I understand that joking can be coping. My fear is that those making the jokes didn’t take the situation seriously. I’m afraid that those who joked about things this time will not be prepared for next time when it turns out to be more than a threat. Acknowledgement of the circumstances, and the severity, would soften the joke. Most of what I read were making fun of Southern, it’s rules, reputation, and idiosyncrasies. That is what I felt was inappropriate.

  4. To be fair to everyone. These jokes were posted after the situation was over. Nobody was hurt and humor is a way to bring joy and happiness into the world.

  5. Actually, Branden, they were not. While the ones I shared may have been posted after, I was following the twitter stream and there were many jokes being made while the school was still under lockdown.

    If the jokes had been made only after things had settled, it would not have bothered me as much.

  6. I would guess that the majority of the jokes posted about the event were posted by students who were actually in the midst of the crisis. Yes, it’s one thing to joke about a situation you weren’t in – and I think it’d be hard to find a Southern student who joked about the lockdown that would also joke about SIDS, a miscarriage, or all that other stuff (everyone knows you don’t joke about that). I think that it’s a little different if you were actually in the situation. In the room I was stuck in during the lockdown lots of people were joking in order to, yes, relieve tension. It didn’t show a lack of compassion, because we were the people there! I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as you write, IF the joker is one of the people who actually went through the incident in question.

  7. Denee, I can agree with you to a point. Yes, humor can relieve the tension in a stressful situation. My concern though is that those who joke in the middle of a situation won’t take it seriously next time. During the lockdown, no one knew if there really was a bomb or a gunman, or if any of the other rumors were true. There were emergency personnel from Campus Safety, Collegedale Police, and Hamilton County Sheriffs who put their lives on the line for the students and faculty at Southern. They didn’t know there wasn’t a bomb, but they were there, doing their job anyways to keep you safe. That is where I feel the joking should end. Bomb threats are real. And someday there may be another bomb threat that could actually lead to a disaster. And if people joke about it now, will we just be like the boy you cried wolf? Next time, will we not take it seriously, and will people get hurt because of that? That is why I don’t feel we should make light of things like this.

    “We’re on lockdown, but at least I’m stuck in the cafe with the food.” That is one thing, that is finding a bright side to a stressful situation.

    “My arms are the guns they are looking for,” or “Someone must have brought caffeine on campus,” are making light of a serious situation. That is where I see the difference.

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