why mass murders remain mysteries


I was reading about the Aurora shooter, James Holmes, in the August issue of TIME magazine and learned, not surprisingly, that many people have tried to “figure out” the folks behind the triggers of mass murders. After such horrifying events as Columbine, Virginia Tech, and the Arizona shooting outside a grocery store, the wounds feel raw and people want answers.

Last week, a junior high girl asked me, “What would make a man do such a horrible thing?”

Her question resonates with families, friends, and social scientists in the FBI and Secret Service. We want to know why and we want to know what we can do to prevent senseless killings in the future. The research, unfortunately, is inconclusive. Though there are “sociological traits and behavioral cues that are associated with mass violence,” there are also a host of outliers that resist simple categorization.

The article closes with this,

In other words, there were few reasons to predict that Holmes was more dangerous than anybody else in Aurora. What law could account for such a person? Madmen will untie themselves from legal restrictions as easily as they depart from moral ones. But Holmes’ case, like the others, will be endlessly scrutinized, all in the hopes of recognizing signs that could stop the next mass murderer. (TIME article, “Preventing Mass Murder, Can We Identify Dangerous Men Before They Kill?” by John Cloud)

That doesn’t sound very hopeful. But there is something very important – do you see it?

“…Holmes was no more dangerous than anybody else in Aurora.”

Now, that sounds to me like total depravity, but let’s talk like laypeople for a minute. Basically, with all the research and months-long studies by the best of the best, we still cannot come up with a powerpoint presentation that explains exactly why mass murderers do what they do. We cannot figure out what makes them snap, except that they seem to be a lot like… well, a lot like “us.”

Hold on a minute. I know it sounds scary, but there’s something beautiful hidden here, so don’t miss it.

The article is right – it’s hopeless. Even “science” has failed to give us an answer this time (ironically, what some call “science” might be leading people towards this kind of behavior – see The Sunset Limited).

Hopeless happens to be exactly where God’s story starts making a whole lot of sense. The only one with enough power to break in to such a frustrating human system is someone completely outside of it, someone who doesn’t operate under the same constraints. If God can reach down and meet me in my hopeless state, then He can certainly meet my neighbors and the guy I met at the pool and the next mass murderer. Because, remember, he’s just like us.

It won’t ever find its way onto the list of sociological traits and behavioral cues, but isn’t it true that the heart of a man reveals his motive?

With every tragedy, we are shaken from our stupor and forced to look at the human heart. We don’t know who the next mass murderer will be or where he will strike, but we do know his actions come from a wayward heart.

So, who will share the message that the most wayward of hearts – hearts that seem to delight in evil – have an invitation to come home?
Who will admit that we are all capable of evil and we desperately need to be freed from the sin that binds us?

Who will solve the mystery of mass murders – that it is all about the heart?


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