Making sense of Tragedy

When awful things like the recent mass killings occur, it is natural to attempt to make sense of how these things could happen, and what could have led these individuals to do such horrible things. While each individual situation is different, our desire to identify cause and hopefully prevent future episodes is on our minds;

With that in mind, a church friend listed what he thought was responsible for the Uvalde school shooting, with most of the usual suspects, but high on the list he put “evolution” and the under it the hopelessness and despair it causes by making life meaningless. To me, it sounds like he is hitting the AIG, DI, and ICR sound bites a little too much, as I doubt the shooter could have even defined evolution,as a high school dropout in an area of the country that doesn’t mention evolution in the classroom typically, and I bet he didn’t spend his evenings watching PBS.

Anyway, as this impacts how we respond and involves both science and spiritual matters, what do you think motivates and creates these monsters in our society? Let’s leave access to weapons aside for the sake of discussion, and focus on the people.

I realize there is no one cause, but like scientific theories, suspect there may be some Occum’s razor type factors involved

I think this has a lot to do with family values which are no longer cherished now.
Leaving guns aside as you said, or even leaving religion somewhat aside, the family is what’s causing a lot of these failures in children.
I for example, can’t even fathom how a parent would allow their 18 year old kid buy a few assault weapons, wear a hazmat in class, ignoring psychological evaluations and just carry on happily in life ignoring all these signs.
Even in atheists societies like Cold War Russia where religion was banned but family values were upheld, can show us that having strong family-centered foundations can lead to very stable children and society.
The same was true in America where we had a lot of good family values back in the day, as well as good Christian values in schools.
This I think, contributes to the destabilization of our youth and the horrible hopelessness that is caused from these insane acts.

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Fatherlessness is one the main factors in my view. The father can also be there, but not love their sons.

Shadow kings rule or maintain there retreating dominion in each one of us.

Robert Bly spoke so well to this issue, well sort of, but he could see things most of us cannot. Jordan Peterson, for a few of things I’ve heard him say, isn’t that bad either. “Start by cleaning your room,” and he seems to really care about young men.

A couple thoughts from Robert Bly on the subject of fathers.

“I understand the amount of anger that women feel over the patriarchies demeaning of women, my wife and my mother feel tremendous anger about that. And yet all men are lumped together and we say all men are rapists or all men are patriarchal, that’s not socializing men to be responsible fathers. It’s shaming them again.”

“If you have an unparented child, something will happen. When you’re looking at gangs of young men, you’re looking at young men who have no older man in their life at all. And when a young man feels unparented, he will try to burn your city down for you. When a young woman feels unparented, she may become depressed or have a teenage baby, but a boy will become violent. And we have to realize that the greatest danger to the culture is coming from these young unparented males all over the world… it’s astonishing how they will change when they realize there’s older men who are interested in them.”

https://www.pbs.org/kued/nosafeplace/interv/bly.html

The first factor is testosterone. The second is a lack of melanin. Marry that to the Second Amendment and you get whatever goes wrong in the first seven years popping up in the third. It can’t happen anywhere else on Earth. It’s cultural. Because it’s white.

There’s this really consistent pathway. Early childhood trauma seems to be the foundation, whether violence in the home, sexual assault, parental suicides, extreme bullying. Then you see the build toward hopelessness, despair, isolation, self-loathing, oftentimes rejection from peers. That turns into a really identifiable crisis point where they’re acting differently. Sometimes they have previous suicide attempts.

What’s different from traditional suicide is that the self-hate turns against a group. They start asking themselves, “Whose fault is this?” Is it a racial group or women or a religious group, or is it my classmates? The hate turns outward. There’s also this quest for fame and notoriety.

…these are suicides

[When an older child murders younger children en masse they aren’t killing their classmates. They’re killing people who represent their peers at the time of their loss of self esteem? They’re doing something unforgivable? I am THIS unloved. They want the children’s parents to feel loss? Their loss. You WILL feel my pain. That’s what evolution has done. Not the teaching of it. The fact of it.]

It’s common for fundamentalists to blame evolution for every ill in society. Sometimes they claim that it’s because we removed group prayer from public schools.

The Discovery Institute Claims That Science Fueled the Buffalo Shooting

Why?

The Sunday after the tragedy in Texas our rector preached a sermon in favor of gun control. It wasn’t political at all. (He’s from the U.K.) He read the names of all the victims, and their pictures were displayed in the church. Very moving.

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The cultural influences promoting a devaluing of others contribute. Promotion of violence and pornography in the entertainment industry, the us versus them mentality of much of politics, greed and the “get ahead by any means” attitude - all of these teach us to view others as something for our use, not as fellow humans deserving of care and respect.

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May well have been the case in Uvalde, as he was living with a grandmother. Roger Olson has written about how young boys are the poorest supported group in America. Teenaged girls have dozens of support and advocacy groups available but teenaged boys have few. They might be directed to join the armed forces by a helpful counselor as a path to higher education, but most are left to their own devices. And to leave a testosterone filled person with an undeveloped prefrontal cortex to their own devices is risky.

Because that is what I want to discuss, as the gun issue addresses the symptoms but not the cause, not that it is not important, but just not the topic at hand and I would rather not derail it with that.

I agree that that is a biggy. We had school shootings before Covid, but the last two years have certainly seen a sharp divide in how lives are valued and how society reacts.

As a church, perhaps we have failed by allowing that same division to come into our fellowships and ministries, and have failed to reach out to the hurting and needy in such a way as to demonstrate our love and the love of God. If we fail to wash our hands, take a vaccine, or -gasp!- wear a mask to protect the innocent and vulnerable, what else can we expect.

Also, it appears this young man was a victim of bullying and rejection by his peers. That does not excuse his actions by any means, but reflects the societal forces that shape such an individual, and perhaps the consequences of allowing bullying to occur, both in school and in our adult society.

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The perspective that our bodies and minds are mechanisms that have wholly physical determinants and that matters of the heart, of faith or the sacred are all meaningless jumbo jumbo probably does factor in. But healthy human relationships with people we care about matter too, as does contact with nature. The feeling that we are nothing but … fill in the blank … is not healthy either, so excessive thoughts focused on rationally determining what should or shouldn’t matter which diminishes the felt/intuited dimension of our humanity is counterproductive.

Actually, honest rationality is all the more important so we can seek and find the God who is and who has revealed himself. He helps us recognize our own sinfulness and he can, he has and he does change hearts.

That is definitely more of a factor than the Second Amendment alone. The latter, as poorly regulated as it is today, just amplifies the final effect.

This is so well put. Thanks.

I think it comes down to mental disorders and people who feel overwhelmed with life. They feel like losers. They feel like they won’t ever get anywhere in life. Bills are to much. Jobs suck. Lovers cheat and leave. So they begin to get more and more bitter and angry and displace their unhappiness on others and some violent idea just consumes them.

I’ve yet to hear of a financially stable, sound minded guy in a wonderful relationship with lots of friends who just decides to go kill a lot of people. It’s always multiples of those things seemingly missing from their life.

I feel like having a committed and healthy romantic and sexual relationship with someone, having good friends of 2+ genders and being financially stable with a respected career would eliminate a lot of problems these people have that went on these crazy violent sprees.

There have been gun owning white males for centuries in the US, and these mass shootings were rare until recent times. I think there’s a bit more to it than that.

Ideation could be one of the factors, among many. As more and more mass shootings occur it becomes “normalized” and those with mental illness are going to be more likely to both contemplate such actions and push forward with it.

I also have to wonder if this is a side effect of the internet age. From what I understand, kids are facing a lot more harassment and hateful comments than previous generations, all the while partaking in an often anonymized and dehumanized community. If we took away social media and replaced it with real people in the real world, would it be better? Would that foster more of a connection with the people around us?

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these are really good comments. I’m not sure what to make of it–anonymity may be a big portion. A life of ease, without a leader or project to confer meaning, may be another.

I’ve read (and Pinker confirms) that violence in the past was quite a bit higher than currently (especially around the Revolutionary War and after the World Wars). My grandpa told me that growing up in the '30s, you expected to be bullied and fight for your place. Even in his little, peace-loving, church-going town, there were 3 boy gangs, split along ethnic (Polish, Dutch, and I think Anglo) lines. You could not even go to the theater alone safely. Alcoholism was rampant among many–more than now.

The pattern of mass shootings seems to be more, but domestic and small scale violence, including gun violence, was probably pretty bad in the past. It’s terrible now, but we seem to have a campaign against bullying.

I am intrigued by your observation on anonymity. Thanks.

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There have only been automatic weapons for a century and mass electronic communication for less, so their are technological factors. White supremacy is as old as America.

The first modern spree killing seems to have been in 1949 - radio era - but it only really took off from the mid-60s - mature TV era; live outside broadcasting. 30 years before the internet. And 20 before the first school shootings in the '80s. The massive increase in the late '90s - an order of magnitude - would seem to correlate with the internet and its toxic effects.

I’ll play with the stats.

The culture of blaming the ‘loss’ of family values is as at least as much a part of the phenomenon as whatever actual loss there may have been, if not much more so.

And uncontrollable social media in the WEIRD world is here until the collapse.

Older that that, as imported from and by you Brits and other Europeans!

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I am reminded of the way criminals in a prison blame their victims.

These shooting are happening in THIS country – creationist capital of the world, NOT in countries which are far more convinced of evolution.

But… this clearly correlates to something quite different. Turkey has less support for evolution but does not have greater gun violence than the U.S. Nor does it correlate to gun laws or gun ownership except in this one extreme of the U.S. which has more gun ownership and less gun control, by far, than any other place. The most we can say is that none of these are helping… and that includes creationism.

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We had no black populations. White supremacy seems to be a post-bellum American forte, as the outworking of over a century of British dominated slave trading. White supremacy in Europe has never had anywhere near the traction it has in the States. We just exported it at gunpoint. Slavery was never allowed on Great Britain. We are the greatest masters of hypocrisy in the world.

White supremacy seems to be a post-bellum American forte

Not so. There was repugnant discrimination against Black refugees fleeing Ukraine by other Central and East European ‘white’ ethnicities, including both those fleeing and those helping other refugees. (Roma refugees were ill-treated as well, but not as badly as Blacks.) The reputation of the French needs work too.

There was also the Bath School massacre in 1927 but those were deliberate explosions not guns by the school board treasurer.

Also Gilbert Twigg in 1903 in Winfield, Kansas killed several people by using a shotgun on a concert crowd.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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