Two more mass shootings, both carried out by young men with their whole life in front of them. Why? The motives for such horrendous actions may seem baffling to us, but given the right circumstances, we can all moved to hate and even act on hate. Hate is part of the human condition. It is one of the worst parts of what the Bible calls sinful human nature.
So the fundamentals of hate are within us. What brings them to a boiling point? One big factor is talk, both in a public forum and in self-talk. The El Paso shooter was motivated by racism and a perceived threat from immigrants. This is nothing new. Though the United States is a nation of immigrants for the most part, it has a long history of people struggling to accept people different than themselves. It is part of sinful human nature to be tribal–to stick with people of similar traits and to villainize those who are different. European immigrants at first discriminated against other European immigrants from other nations because of language and cultural differences. Then, once language barriers came down and more population mixing occurred that largely went away. The color of people’s skin is harder to change. So racism based on color persists to this day. When people don’t have positive relationships to counter tribal tendencies they can talk themselves into hate.
To someone who has no relationships with Central American people, the recent increase of immigration can seem like quite a threat. What kind of threat? A threat to job security, to culture, and to safety for starters. Is it really? Probably not. Add to the sense of danger rhetoric in the news and on hate-mongering forums and there is a lethal mix. A love for people in general that comes from knowing Jesus, would put a brake on such a spiral, but many people lack this relationship as well.
The Dayton killer’s motive is still unclear at the time of this writing. He seems to be a person who felt that his peers mistreated him and his response was a spiraling, unchecked hatred. This was a school shooting after graduation.
How do you stop such things? Gun control that would be comprehensive in its background checks and eliminate military type weapons would help, but it couldn’t stop this sort of thing. Perhaps the added difficulty in acquiring weapons would lead to less people being killed at a time or possible leads for law enforcement before it happens. Gun rights are valued, but the right to bear arms doesn’t extend to just any kind of weapon. Gun right advocates need to realize that taking no steps to limit gun access threatens the rights to guns altogether.
Politicians also need to be more careful about their rhetoric. This applies to everyone. The greatest acts of hate in history have occurred when leaders stirred them up.
Eliminating hate-mongering forums is another choice. This can be a slippery slope, because of the definition of what constitutes hate. Disagreeing with someone is not the same as hate. Free speech is an extremely valuable right, but we are not free to carelessly say anything if it threatens the safety of others.
Loving marginalized people would also help. We have to realize that harassment and bullying can have powerful effects down the road, whether in school, at work or in the home. Gunmen are often loners, so it is hard to know that they are even being formed. We need to see the pain of those around us, especially within the family.
I personally believe that mass killers do not act alone. All the circumstances that form them only make them ripe for use. Satan ultimately authors hate. He injects the seeds of hatred and makes sure they grow. Knowing God is the ultimate antidote for hate. When you truly know God, you see all people as God’s creation and in need of love and a Savior. You don’t want to kill them or hurt them. You don’t necessarily endorse everything they do, but you never hate them. Sadly, most people will never know God.
If we did our best at all the things mentioned above, would we eliminate gunmen? I don’t think so. Would we eliminate some of the violence? I bet we would.