Looking back at the articles I have written over the past three years, there are a few themes I see. A lot of them have to do with the idea of “neighbor” and what it means to work for justice in our communities. Others are about recognizing that we do not have a full understanding — nor can we — of scriptural texts, what they meant at the time they were written, and how they apply to us today. And it may not be apparent, but many of them were written in an effort to ask forgiveness or acknowledge my own shortcomings (you, as readers, would not know that, but the ones for whom they were written could easily read between the lines and understand). And, just as I seek forgiveness, I often advocate forgiveness.
It is not often that I point a finger and proclaim guilt or complain that justice has not been done. Today, though, I am breaking this pattern. Recently in Snohomish County, Erick Walker was found guilty of multiple counts of drive-by shooting, assault, and manslaughter. He was not, however, found guilty of the murder of 15 year-old Molly Conley.
And it boggles my mind.
Walker knowingly loaded a gun full of bullets, took that gun on a joyride, and fired at homes and, in the case of Conley, a group of young women. He had to have known that is actions could lead to injury and death. The jury did not find that he intended to murder and, as a result, would not find him guilty on that count.
But what was his intent? If it was simply to scare people, to inflict terror on them, does this not make him a terrorist?
Actions — both positive and negative — have consequences. Mark 10:17-27 tells us about a rich, young ruler. He asks Jesus how he can inherit eternal life. After some discussion — mainly regarding the things that made the young man worthy — Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor. “When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” The young man chose and it was his own choice that led to his exclusion from the blessings. He knew and understood the expectation and made his choice.
Walker is an intelligent person who worked at Boeing. He had to have known that his actions had consequences and, even so, he chose.
Simply put, I am at a loss for how these actions — ones he knew he was taking — do not and did not constitute a guilty verdict on the charge of murder.
Kyle A. Franklin is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University, where he earned his Master’s in Religious Studies. He completed his bachelor’s degree in history and religion at Pacific Lutheran University in 2007 and has worked in both the ELCA Lutheran Church and the United Methodist Church.