Like many of you, I have been following the University of Virginia rape story, a sensational, horrific, and (as it turns out) inaccurate account published last month by Rolling Stone magazine. As a U.Va. alum with three Wahoo daughters (two have graduated; Virginia is in her third year there now), the school is dear to my heart, and the students dearer still.
Even with the magazine’s reporting now discredited, almost everyone agrees that there are problems that still need fixing: Students drink too much, the “hookup culture” contributes to confusing relationships, and sexual misconduct – while arguably not the norm at U.Va. – certainly takes place, and no matter how you parse the statistics (and there have been dozens of studies trotted out), one rape is one rape too many.
If you’ve read even a handful of my blogs, you know that I don’t use this space for social or political commentary and – despite having a host of strong and not necessarily well-informed opinions – I don’t plan to start spouting off now. I wouldn’t even mention the story except for this photo, which Virginia texted to me early yesterday morning:
YOU ARE LOVED.
That’s the message on Beta Bridge, the oft-painted University landmark that doubles as a billboard for parties, charity events and – too often, at least this year – a community’s grief.
How fitting that these words – YOU ARE LOVED – would show up during Advent, a season when the space between heaven and earth seems to shrink, a time when we mortals may stop, even just for a moment, to consider how God sees the world. How he sees us. And how he longs to breathe new life into our lives, to fill our hearts with hope, and to show us how incredibly much we are loved.
You are loved. Amid a cacophony of finger pointing – It’s the fraternites’ fault! It’s the administration’s fault! It’s the parents! The government! The police! – this is a message that cuts through the noise. It’s a message that offers hope. It’s a message U.Va. needs to hear.
It’s a message we all – with our anger, our pride, our confusion, and our pain – need to hear.
Hear it now: You are loved.