POWERS OF EVIL AND GOODNESS IN KIDS
A mother concerned about her
daughter, went to her room to look for a ''teen'' Bible, for tips. What she
found was a sickening stack of letters from the girl's best friend. One
concluded: ''Kill your parents! Murder is the answer to all of your
problems. Make those scumbags pay for your suffering.''
Another was illustrated with
''grisly drawings of a couple (''Ma'' and ''Pa'') strung up by their
intestines, daggers hanging from their hearts.'' Later the mom learned that
her daughter had written similar murderous fantasies, sadly concluding,
''Despite the best efforts of parents and relatives, teachers and friends a
good kid will go bad ways.''
Who was the girl? Cassie Bernall,
the most famous martyr of Littleton!
Cassie was asked by a killer, who
put a gun to her head, ''Do you believe in God?'' As a student recalls,
''She paused, like she didn't know what she was going to say, and then she
said, 'Yes.' She must have been scared but her voice didn't sound shaky. It
was strong. Then they asked her, `Why?' though they didn't give her a chance
to respond. They just blew her away.''
A powerful new book, ''she said
YES: the unlikely martyrdom of cassie bernall'' by her mother, Misty
Bernall, is must reading by teens and their parents particularly those kids
caught in the power of evil and their parents who must develop the courage
to stand up to it.
''When a person is gripped by an
evil idea, it doesn't matter whether she's merely a troubled teenager or a
dangerous adult, that evil has a power of its own,'' Misty wrote. Partly out
of a personal fear of her and partly from a fear for her, ''heading toward a
cliff edge,'' they contacted the sheriff's office with the letters, and
copies for the parents of Cassie's friend, ''Mona.''
Cassie was furious, claiming she
would never kill her parents, who were blowing ''the whole thing way out of
proportion.'' Day after day, week after week, Cassie would erupt in fits of
anger and despair, yelling, ''I'm going to kill myself! Do you want to watch
me? I'll do it, just watch. I'll kill myself. I'll put a knife right here,
through my chest.''
Her parents felt like slapping her,
but put their arms around her, saying ''I love you.'' Cassie later
wrote, ''Thoughts of suicide obsessed me for days but I was too frightened
to actually do it, so I ''compromised'' by scratching my hands and wrist
with a sharp metal file until I bled.''
Her parents took her out of her
high school and put her in a private Christian school. They began
regular searches of her room and backpack, forbade any contact with Mona,
monitored her phone use with even a voice-activated tape recorder. Cassie
had been good at ''playing straight,'' telling her parents that she was
saying after school to pull up her art grade, not telling them there was no
supervision, pot smoking and drinking. They could not trust her anymore. So
she had only one freedom going to a church youth group.
Their youth pastor told the
Bernalls, ''In almost every case I've seen where parents take a strong
stand, it's worked. It opens up a brand-new relationship. At first, it's a
war, because the kid's going to fight back, but deep inside his heart he's
saying, `I like this. I like it that my mother's begun talking with me. I
like it that my father's coming home early to see me.''
At the private school, she met
Jamie, a bleached blond with big chains and metal beads who befriended her.
Jamie recalls Cassie said nobody liked her. ''She was just really bitter and
wallowed in hopelessness. A few times we talked about God but she told me
that she had give her soul to Satan through one of her friends. She said,
`There's no way I can love God.'''
Jamie invited her to a youth
retreat. The Bernalls thought it was an enormous risk. What if she ran away?
But they let her go. The theme of the weekend was overcoming the temptations
of evil and breaking out of the selfish life. The singing moved some kids to
bring drug paraphernalia to the altar. Cassie poured out all the things she
felt bad about and wanted to give up. Later with Jamie and three boys,
Cassie stood outside in the mountains looking at the stars ''totally in awe
She came home, hugged her mother
saying, ''Mom, I've changed. I've totally changed.''
Her father recalls, ''When she left
she had still been this gloomy, head-down, say-nothing girl. But the day she
came back, she was bouncy and excited about what happened to her.''
She was transformed. A friend
recalled, ''When I think of Cassie I always think of what Saint Francis said
about how you shouldn't seek to be loved as much as you should just love.
That was like embedded in her.''
A week before dying Cassie said,
"Mom, I'm not afraid to die because I will be in heaven." After her
death, Misty found a scrap of paper marked ''1998'' on which Cassie had
written: ''I try to stand up for my faith at school...It can be
discouraging, but it can also be rewarding...I will die for my God. I will
die for my faith. It's the least I can do for Christ dying for me.''
Nor was Cassie unique. The killers
also asked Rachel Scott and Val Schnurr if they believed in God. Both said
YES and were shot. Rachel died and Val was shot twice but survived.
Already, their example has inspired
tens of thousands of teens to commit lives to Christ.
Copyright 1999 Michael J. McManus.
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