By now most of us have seen pictures of the mass murderer in Roseburg.
What he did was horrific, unjustifiable, and deserves the greatest condemnation.
But since he is dead, he is beyond human justice.
Why his manifesto says he did it gives us a window into his soul.
And a window into how evil takes root, grows, and comes to fully possess a human life.
What we’ve learned is not at all comforting:
He saw himself as the supreme victim in a world of blameworthy villains, as the only normal person in a world of insane people.
He and his mother both had Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of high functioning autism which is unable to give or receive social cues and clues.
Both of them were paranoid and were loners–super quiet, unknown to their neighbors, and rarely seen.
The mother bought an arsenal of guns because she feared the government might take them away.
She utterly failed to understand her pursuit of super-security was fueling and arming her son’s violent agenda to destroy the security of others.
Here’s what their sorry tale tells us:
The Peril of Social Disconnection
First, we have a tremendous problem in our society with social disconnection.
It’s now the norm to not really know our neighbors, to not look out for or look after each other, and live in our virtual/media isolation bubbles.
Recently, a study of addiction challenged the scientific orthodoxy that addiction is a brain chemistry issue.
What they found, when they created a social world for rats and ran the same experiment using opium water that was previously held with rats in isolation, is the rates of addiction drastically fell.
Their finding: addiction is mainly a disease of isolation, a by-product of profound aloneness and method of escaping the pain of loneliness.
With the destruction of the extended family, and with the industrialization and depersonalization of social services, we’ve created the perfect conditions to exponentially grow all kinds of toxic social pathologies.
And one of them is mass murder–the ultimate scream of rage against isolation.
The Peril of No Boundaries
The same elites that love their autonomy, cherish their freedom from all boundaries, and revel in the destruction of all roles, rules, and morals, have created a hell on earth for those who are less functional.
Ironically, the less functional and the more impaired someone is, the greater the structure and clearer the rules and the lesser autonomy they need to thrive in life.
In the culture wars, it’s not the social conservatives that are the losers.
It’s the less functional, more marginal, more routine-needing folks who crack under the torment of being bombarded with too many choices and no absolutes.
It’s like asking people in a wheel chair to climb Mt. Everest.
We’ve created a profoundly alone society full of virtual relationships and no rules and wonder why it pushes borderline people over the edge.
The Peril of No Help
Added to these evil-fuelling conditions is the irony of no practical help for the tormented souls, the ones most at risk of committing great evils, in our midst.
The mother and son lived in a timber-dependent county that was financially depleted and which therefore drastically cut back mental health services.
And, ironically, the local community college also eliminated its counselors from the payroll (and also required its security personnel to be unarmed).
Despite all the rhetoric, we’re pretty much on our own when it comes to heart and soul issues.
Neither our social services, nor non-profits, nor churches are well equipped to reach out to marginal people, reintegrate them into the human family, and help them cast out their demons–real or symbolic.
And it’s literally killing us.
So where is the evil in the Roseburg mass murder?
It’s not just in the shooter, or his family, or his locality.
It’s in all of us.
We each singly and together created a society and participated in a society of no connections, no boundaries, and no help.
It’s served our selfish interests and fed our autonomy.
Rather than arguing about guns, maybe it’s high time we all looked hard in the mirror and asked ourselves some tough questions.
Maybe it’s even time for a season of mass repentance, heart-brokenness before God, and turning from our wicked, autonomous ways and placing ourselves under His unfettered, redemptive control.
Then we can be part of the solution instead of indulging in a season of stupid, fruitless, blame-gaming.