Two weeks ago, I complained about the Denver Post’s account of a “deeply religious” victim of the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre. For some vague, unknown reason (based on the Post story), the victim, Pierce O’Farrill, forgave the man who opened fire on him and dozens of others.
I want to know what the victim believes. I want to know why he feels compelled to forgive the gunman. I want to know specific details about his religious affiliation and faith background.
Does the story answer these questions to my satisfaction?
In my mind, the story raised all kinds of interesting questions that the newspaper failed to address.
Apparently, I was not alone in my curiosity.
Enter Eric Gorski, an award-winning journalist and former religion writer for The Associated Press and the Post. Now an investigative/projects writer for the Denver paper, Gorski answered my questions in an article that is labeled “Opinion” but reads more like a nice news analysis.
The first story did not provide any details on the Edge Church, the congregation to which the victim belongs. Gorski to the rescue:
AURORA — The Edge Church is a small church of about 300 people who gather to pray at a middle school that didn’t exist little more than a decade ago — a location the pastor strategically chose because it sits among newly sprouted subdivisions off the E-470 toll road.
Church staff and volunteers gather early each Sunday to unload black metal folding chairs and curtains out of a trailer, transforming a sterile auditorium into a holy place. There are bowls of mints and name tags on tables and three greeters at the front door.
Last weekend, there also were journalists from CNN, the local FOX affiliate, Focus on the Family, Christian Broadcasting Network and more, all on hand to hear the testimony of a young man in a sleeveless black T-shirt who had taken a bullet and found a way to forgive.
What is O’Fallin’s faith background? Gorski to the rescue:
Pierce O’Farrill was a spiritual drifter. Living in Florida fixing roofs after a devastating stretch of hurricanes, he dabbled in Buddhist meditation.
A friend nudged him toward the Gospel, and it “just sang to me,” O’Farrill said. The 28-year-old became a Christian six years ago but said he didn’t feel the need to join any church.
“My faith was very much just me and Jesus, nobody else,” he told me.
That changed after O’Farrill moved back to Colorado last year, his mother’s death and a breakup with a girlfriend weighing on him.
Through a friend, he found The Edge Church, so named because it wants to reach “people on the edge of life, the edge of faith, the edge of adversity,” said its 40-year-old pastor, Ryan Heller.
The church is Southern Baptist but doesn’t advertise it, Heller said, because it doesn’t want to exclude anyone.
Why did O’Farrill forgive his attacker? Gorski to the rescue:
What got O’Farrill so much media attention after the shooting was his forgiveness of the shooter. He emphasized that it isn’t him forgiving, that it was “Christ in my heart” who allowed him to forgive.
“Somebody taking that approach (of forgiveness) is unexpected,” said Craig Blomberg, a New Testament scholar at Denver Seminary in Littleton. “It’s countercultural.”
During one of last Sunday’s three services at The Edge Church, O’Farrill said, “Every single one of those victims is with God.” I asked Heller, the pastor, about that statement because it is not consistent with the evangelical belief that only those who have accepted Christ go to heaven — and the religious beliefs of all the dead haven’t been fully documented.
“We have a lot of people who are new in their faith in our church,” Heller replied. “Sometimes, it doesn’t come out all prim and proper.”
I could go on, but you get the point.
About that “deeply religious” victim? Kudos to Gorski for tackling “the rest of the story.”