Beliefnet
If you were breathing a year ago, you remember what happened in Littleton, Colorado. The terror, the shock, the gripping fear, they were-and still are-very real.

And so are the victims. Anyone with access to the Internet can call up memorial sites and see the faces of teenagers killed by two fellow students. You feel the sorrow of their parents, their siblings, and their buddies while reading what these kids were really about: not faceless, nameless teenagers, but people like you with hopes for their lives.

And reportedly at least half of the dead teens were Christian.

Some of the victims--like Cassie Bernall, who is supposed to have answered yes when asked by one of the killers if she believed in God--have become inextricably linked with their Christian faith. Click on to www.yesibelieve.com and find stories about Cassie that use words like "martyr" and "prophet."

In the wake of the horror, Christian kids-evangelicals especially-became reenergized and more vocal about their faith. "There was a fervor and the kids snapped into ministry mode," said Jason Janz, assistant pastor at South Sheridan Baptist Church in Lakewood, Colorado.

Not everybody in the Littleton community has embraced news of the victims' faith, however. Soon after the shootings, public sympathy created by the violence called for a permanent memorial to be placed in a nearby park. Problem was, organizers faced strong support for a memorial with Christian themes, based on the faith of many of the victims.

"It's a sham," Robert Tiernan of the Colorado chapter of Freedom from Religion Foundation told the Washington Times. "It certainly makes a public park appear to be endorsing religion."

Any religious display in the park, he contended, would violate the separation of church and state.

Even some Christians have been critical of certain churches. Patrick Jones, Communications Director at Holy Apostles Catholic Church, Colorado Springs, who went to Littleton to aid in the crisis, said that a church must "be with," but not "come at" grieving people. "Christ doesn't beat people over the head with a hammer," he said. "He's never coming at them, as we see a lot of religion doing today."

So maybe those tricky details, the ones that mention the "G" word, ought to be kept to the obituary pages. Maybe all those stories about the religious lives of slain students somehow come off as sounding gratuitous to those who don't share the faith.

Saul Garlick, 16, vice president of communications of Denver Chai USA, a Jewish youth organization, doesn't think so. The testimonies, he said, caused him to look at his own spirituality.

"I was raised in such a strongly bound Jewish home that until now nothing really hit me," said Garlick. "Some kids in public school crack on me about being Jewish, but I just say `Be quiet. I love what I am and what I do.' That's why faith was so important for the Bernall family. It's something to fall on. That's how I would be."

Rather than feeling alienated by the attention given to the Christian faith of the youths, Scott Friedman, regional director of the Denver B'nai B'rith youth organization, said his "kids" correlated it to their own Jewish nature. "It's an issue of `a' faith, not `what' faith that is important," he said.

Shelly Hoffman, youth director for Denver Chai USA said her chapter saw a dramatic increase in membership after the shootings. "This year's been really great," she said. "There's a comfort level of being around people of a similar basis."

Maybe the aftermath of the tragedy itself caused many to rethink how they look at those whose beliefs differ.

Evan Faber, 19, former student-body president of nearby Manitou High School and Jewish said that the message is "universal togetherness."

Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver spoke at the largely evangelical memorial service just after the shootings. "Love is stronger than death," said the Archbishop, quoting from Song of Solomon, a book of the Bible.

We may never know what lurked in the souls of the killers. It's the kids who are gingerly picking up the shards of all that remains, to face the future with hope.or despair. For teens who still must walk the halls of Columbine High, and for students everywhere, it's their inner beliefs that either get them through it or not.

"If anything," said Garlick, "my faith gets strengthened."

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