CLEVELAND, Oct. 7, 2015 – As the gunman at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, classroom asked victims to identify their faith asking “Are you Christian?” it must have been terrifying. A popular social media meme following the shooting was “The most courageous person in America was the second person shot and killed at Umpqua.”
For that person knew that by answering “yes,” he or she would be killed by a madman.
This is a defining moment for Christian martyrdom in America as the nation’s religious faithful once again came face to face with what Christians across the globe have dealt with for years:
Christians are being murdered for their faith.
There is a war on Christianity, and President Obama refuses to acknowledge it, speak out against it or take steps to prevent it. Tragically in many ways, his administration’s action to marginalize and minimize Christianity in America gives free reign to those extreme Islamic terrorists and other haters of Christianity in America.
Where is the line in the sand when the president will finally acknowledge that there are terrorists, both in the Middle East and here on our shores, who are willing and able to exterminate Christians because of their beliefs? When will he defend Christians who want to practice their faith and not have to sacrifice their very lives for that faith?
The answer is tragically quite simple. This president’s moral values and principles are missing in action. Obama had an opportunity to share the last dying embrace of those college victims’ faith when they bravely answered “yes” to their Christianity before they were executed.
Obama neither acknowledged nor bore witness to their stand for Christianity even in the face of their certain death. Instead of recognizing the bravery their faith gave them, the president decided to utilize his bully pulpit to attack American gun owners and attack the Second Amendment right to bear arms as the cause of the murderous attacks.
The only problem with that thinking is that the killer’s weapons were legally purchased, and the state of Oregon has one of the strictest gun laws in the nation.
It is disappointing that a president, our mourner in chief, would, instead of first bringing comfort, instead step into the political gutter. In fact, Obama proudly and loudly proclaimed to the White House press corps that day, during a hastily gathered press conference, that he would make the shootings political.
But this is not the first time he has failed in his response to religious targeting. A year after the shooting of six members of a Sikh congregation, there were still complaints as to his response to the tragedy that happened in September 2012. Amardeep Kaleka, whose father was murdered in the shooting, joined HuffPost Live’s Dena Takruri to reflect on the anniversary and the challenging road ahead.
Commenting on President Obama’s response to the hate crime, Kaleka noted both his impersonal body language and “generic answer” during the press conference immediately following the Oak Creek shooting. “He doesn’t understand the gravitas of him being elected as a black president and what that means for neo-Nazi groups and the Klan, which are recruiting heavily from the United States Army. The United States Army is exactly where the person who did this on August 5th came from — and I do not say his name.”
What the nation and especially the families of the victims had to witness was a weak and tepid response of a president who could not fathom what courage it took to stand up before a crazed murderer and proclaim their faith in God.
Think about what these heroes of Christianity had to consider what Jesus instructed to do in the Bible:
Luke 12: 8-9 “ 8 And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”
Imagine the anguish that each person who admitted to Christian faith had to feel in the last moments of life and how their loved ones will feel for the rest of their life.
The New York Post reported that Mercer began “asking people one by one what their religion was. ‘Are you a Christian?’ he would ask them, and if you’re a Christian, stand up. And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you are going to see God in just about one second.’”
“And then he shot and killed them,” said Stacy Boylen a parent of one of the survivors of the shootings.
Now is the time to hold this president and all others who discard the slaughter of Christian innocents, whether they be students in a college classroom in Oregon or nearly two dozen Coptic Christians beheaded on a Libyan beach by ISIS.
There is a war on Christianity, and murderers in the Middle East or in America need to know that Christians will not falter in their faith or abandon their God-given religious rights, even if Obama will not defend or acknowledge these rights.
In conclusion, pause for a moment and ask yourself the question that these courageous Christians were asked: “Are you a Christian?”
These nine persons answered yes (Courtesy KOIN6):
Lucero Alcaraz, 19, of Roseburg
The father of 19-year-old Lucero Alcaraz fought back tears and anger outside of his Roseburg home Friday.
“There is no sense in talking about it. It’s in vain,” Ezequiel Alcaraz said in Spanish. “What’s the point in showing our pain?”
Lucero’s sister, Maria Leticia Alcaraz, posted to Facebook that her sister was missing, then broke the news that she was dead.
“Never in a million years would I have imagined going through something like this. She was my best friend and my sister,” she wrote. “I can’t begin to describe how I feel. I’m full of anger, pain, sadness, regret that I didn’t get the chance to see her or prevent this from happening.”
Maria Leticia Alcaraz wrote of being proud of her sister for getting scholarships that would cover her college costs and for the fact that she was in college honors and wrote that she “would have been a great pediatric nurse.”
“You were going to do great things,” she wrote.
Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18, of Myrtle Creek
Rebecka Ann Carnes of Myrtle Creek, age 18. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, said that Carnes is the great-granddaughter of his first cousin. In a written statement, Merkley wrote: “Rebecka’s beautiful spirit will be enormously missed.”
A GoFundMe site has been set up for Carnes by her cousin, Lisa Crawford. As of Friday afternoon, the site had raised more than $1,200 to help Carnes’ parents “with Becka’s final expenses.”
“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to have watched Becka grow up,” Crawford wrote on the site. “She had just started a new job and college classes. This isn’t how life is supposed to work and I am struggling to wrap my mind around the entire situation.”
Crawford asked said that the people in Carnes’ life “loved her fiercely and are devastated.”
“Don’t let life ever become so busy that you don’t have a moment to stop and be kind to someone,” Crawford wrote. “Let love and gentleness shine in the wake of this violence.”
Treven Taylor Anspach, 20, of Sutherlin
Treven Taylor Anspach of Sutherlin was 20 years old when he was shot and killed at Umpqua Community College.
In a written statement read by officials, his family said that he was “one of the most positive young men, always looking for the best in life.”
“Treven was larger than life and brought out the best in those around him,” his family wrote.
Quinn Glen Cooper, 18, of Roseburg
Quinn Glen Cooper of Roseburg, age 18. In a statement issued
Friday, his family wrote that “Quinn was funny, sweet, compassionate and such a wonderful loving person.”
“He always stood up for people,” the statement reads. He was going to take his brown belt test next week, and loved dancing and voice acting and playing Ingress with his older brother, Cody.
“Our lives are shattered beyond repair,” his family wrote. “We send our condolences to all the families who have been so tragically affected by this deranged gunman. No one should ever have to feel the pain we are feeling. Please remember the victims and their families. Please remember Quinn.”
Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59, of Roseburg
Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59, loved the outdoors, her 18-year-old daughter and her two Great Pyrenees dogs, said Robert Stryk, the owner of Pyrenees Vineyards in Myrtle Creek, where Dietz worked as a caretaker for many years.
Dietz was taking classes at the same college as her daughter, who was unhurt in the shooting, Stryk said.
“That’s really the tragedy here, is that this is a woman who was just trying to better herself,” he said.
Dietz’s ex-husband, Eric, is the vineyard manager, and they were still close friends, Stryk said.
Eric Dietz, who had posted updates on his Facebook page while searching for news of his daughter and ex-wife, on Friday posted a picture of Kim and confirmation of her death “with deep grief in my heart.”
Stryk said that the two had met in Southern California, but that Kim Dietz was originally from England.
“She was a very energetic, very kind, kind soul,” he said. “Kim was an exceptional woman.”
Lucas Eibel, 18, of Roseburg
A statement by his family says that Eibel, who was studying chemistry, loved Future Farmers of America and volunteering at Wildlife Safari and Saving Grace animal shelter.
“He was an amazing soccer player,” a family statement reads. His family also noted his academic achievements, including graduating Roseburg High School with high academic marks, receiving a Ford Family Foundation scholarship and receiving an Umpqua Community College scholars award.
Jason Dale Johnson, 34, of Winston
Jason Johnson had just started his first week at the college, his mother told NBC News Friday.
Tonja Johnson Engel said that her son had struggled with drug abuse, but decided to continue his education after completing a six-month rehab program with the Salvation Army in Portland.
“The other day, he looked at me and hugged me and said, ‘Mom, how long have you been waiting for one of your kids to go to college?’ And I said, ‘Oh, about 20 years,’” Engel told NBC News.
She said that her son kissed her before he left for class Thursday morning.
“Love ya,” Engel said her son told her, “I’ll see you this afternoon.”
In a family statement read by police Friday, Jason’s mother said that Jason was proud of himself for enrolling in school, and so was his mom. They felt that Jason had finally found his path. His family says that he will be loved and missed.
Professor Lawrence Levine, 67, of Glide
Lawrence Levine of Glide, 67, was an assistant professor of English at the college. Levine was a member of Steamboaters, a fly fishing and conservation group.
Dale Greenley, a fellow member of the group, said Levine was an avid fisherman who used to be a guide on the north Umpqua River.
“He was kind of quiet and laid back, he didn’t say much,” Greenley said. “But he was a good writer.”
Sarena Dawn Moore, 44, of Myrtle Creek
Sarena Dawn Moore of Myrtle Creek, age 44, was a member of
Grants Pass Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which had a post on its Facebook page mourning her death.
“Our sister Sarena Moore, member of our church, was among those killed,” the statement read. “She was 44. Please pray for her sons and family, pray for all victims.”
In a Facebook post, Moore’s brother Rick Goin thanked supporters for their thoughts, prayers and well wishes.