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?


Tchaikovsky, Curators, Aurora miracle, libraries of famous authors, and the music of KB

Well, here are some links I’m rolling out on this Tuesday. I’m dragging my feet a bit, but I’ve got to run before I lose motivation. Check these things out, friends, and let me know what you think.

  • When I was growing up, I would pull out classical bundles of music from the shelves in the piano room and ask my mom to play. She would always say, “Oh, honey… it’s been so long. I don’t even know if I can play this anymore…” but I could always tell she’d give in to my request and let dinner or the dishes or the laundry wait a few minutes so we could revel in the classics. This piece from BrainPickings,  “Tchaikovsky on Work Ethic vs. Inspiration brings me back to those moments in the music room, but not just because my mom worked hard at being a musician. Also because she worked hard at being a mom – inspiration came in both cases as a result of her work. This post is about a letter Tchaikovsky wrote to his benefactress and the whole thing is beautiful – please go read it!
  • Sometimes I don’t understand art, I’ll admit. But, maybe it’s the philosopher in me that loves what art says about who we are as a culture. Artists (and curators) kind of get to play the music that contemporary culture writes as it defines itself through values and norms. So, this piece in the NYT, The Fine Art of Being a Curator” struck me because of what it means for the music. Ahem.. So, if culture decides what is important right now, artists translate those things to canvas, buildings, statues, etc., then curators get to decide what does the best job of playing the music. Maybe this is another post in the making. The article is really very straightforward – talks about how curators are becoming more established as a field. I just can’t help but ask, “Who sets the standards for good art?” But that’s probably because I’m not, “in the know” about these kinds of things.
  • What would you say if a doctor told you that you had a brain defect that saved your life? That’s nearly what happened for a young Aurora woman after she was shot at the theatre during the Dark Knight premiere. Read the story here, A Smiling Providence in Aurora, Colorado from Denny Burk.
  • I love books and I love libraries – this post takes us inside the libraries of famous writers and I have to stop myself from drooling. Each nook looks so dreamy!
  • I like rap. This new album from KB “Weight of Glory” is pretty spectacular. I wanted to post a video that wasn’t all lyric, so check out this “behind the scenes” look at a young man who’s got serious talent and serious opportunity to bring the message of hope through his gift. Worth a listen, for real.

    Here’s the video he talks about to the song, “Open Letter”

That’s all for now. I’m going to go pound the pavement on a night run.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy