The Profile of a Mass Shooter

photo credit: Furryscaly via photopin cc
photo credit: Furryscaly via photopin cc

Once again, the United States has been rocked by a mass shooting in which mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, siblings, children, and grandparents have been brutally murdered. The shooting at the Washington Naval Yard was serious enough (meaning that enough people were killed) to give our nation collective pause—to take a momentary break from our daily pursuits, to express sadness for the senseless loss of life, and to express our continued sense of bewilderment over the escalating number of mass shooting events.

Guns are a factor, for sure, but as I’ve written before, the problem runs much deeper than the availability of weapons. Indeed, we have seen enough of these events to identify common themes at play in the lives of those who commit such acts of violence.

Most mass shooters have been men with identity issues (sometimes to the point of mental instability). Their struggles with insecurity may stem from broken or dysfunctional family environments, or from the systematic mistreatment by peers. Often, detectives uncover a pain-filled combination of the two factors. Immersed in a toxic environment of violent TV shows, movies, and video games that desensitize a heart to the value of human life, their emotions are like dry tinder just waiting for a spark—any spark—to ignite a wildfire.

photo credit: Ansel Edwards Photography via photopin cc
photo credit: Ansel Edwards Photography via photopin cc

In addition, there is another theme that is all too common in our increasingly fractured society—isolation. Don’t get me wrong—there is such a thing as good isolation, such as those times when we withdraw from the daily clamor of life to seek God and to recharge. This, however, is not that. The isolated world of a shooter is full of dark, brooding, life-stealing thoughts. In such situations, the human mind left to its own musings will come to no good conclusions.

What many of us fail to realize is that a shooting rampage is merely the culmination of an ongoing process. For every mass shooter, there are thousands, perhaps even millions of people living in their own isolated worlds, brooding over mistreatment, abandonment, betrayal, and a host of other unjust acts against their persons. Each bitter thought is an act of violence in its own right, and if allowed to run its course, some form of damage will certainly result.

This form of dangerous isolation is a type of “spiritual wilderness”—desolate territory where God appears to be absent and people uncaring. Most of us have these types of experiences to one degree or another; what marks the difference between life and death is the manner in which we process the adversity we face.

God is greater than any difficulty—even injustice—that any of us will ever face. But only those who trust Him, who learn to process their circumstances through the eye of faith, will emerge as champions over darkness and hate. No matter how bleak the horizon may appear, the eye of faith will look beyond the storm clouds to see dazzling rays of hope.

photo credit: Ashley Pollak via photopin cc
photo credit: Ashley Pollak via photopin cc

Though a wilderness experience of this sort may be nothing of our own choosing, how we process such circumstances is entirely ours. May we never forget that the sovereign Creator of the Universe is able to turn even sinful human choices toward His eternal purposes. That, after all, is one of the things that makes Him God. But what about us—will we believe?

(This post is loosely based on the content of my new book, Champions in the Wilderness, which is now available for sale through Amazon and through our new SfMe Media website. This site is now being phased out with this final post. All future blog entries will be posted to our new ministry website, You can subscribe by entering your email in the subscribe panel on the right-hand side of the new website.)

Imagine a World without Forgiveness

“Imagine there’s no heaven . . . It’s easy if you try . . . No hell below us . . .”

Photo by LifeHouseDesign (Flickr) - Creative Commons License 2.0

Such are the opening words of the opening track of John Lennon’s Imagine album that was released in 1971. Lennon’s desire was to help the human race recognize its oneness apart from the barriers that so often accompany greed, politics and religion. Noble thoughts for sure, but certainly misguided without the centrality of Jesus Christ.

Imagine another thought with me if you will—one of a world in which forgiveness did not exist.

Imagine yourself holding bitterness and anger toward every person who has hurt you even a little throughout the course of your life. Would you have any friends? How long could a marriage possibly last?  Can you picture the holiday gatherings?

Imagine everyone that you have ever hurt being bitter toward you. Has there ever been someone you have let down? Forgotten about? Offended? Looked at the wrong way? Imagine the same for everyone who even thought that you intended them ill will.

Photo by anairam_zeravla - MorgueFile

If forgiveness could not take place between us as individuals, our world would be even further than it is from John Lennon’s dream. How long would friendships last? What would hold communities together? War would never cease.

Now imagine that there was no forgiveness for your sins. Any and every thing that you’ve ever done to offend God (or hurt another person) would be held against you forever. The effects of every moral failure perpetual. Guilt eternal.

In a world without forgiveness would happiness or joy exist to any degree at all? Would words such as freedom, family and brotherhood have any meaning?

All of this speaks of darkness. Miserable, cold darkness. No happy thoughts. No joyful days. No pleasant memories. Only darkness. Miserable, cold, barren darkness.

Perhaps, somehow, the contrast between the warm light of love and the cold darkness of bitterness provides us with a small taste of the heaven and hell that all of our imagining can never eliminate.

Photo by natepowers - MorgueFile

Lennon was right in one regard. We are all connected and the manner in which we relate to each other has far reaching effects. Those who learn to walk in God’s love and forgiveness become sources of light all across the globe. Those who hold onto bitterness serve only to deepen the darkness that already exists.

What is your personal contribution to the landscape of our world? What are you growing in the hidden spaces of your heart?

I believe that most of my readers would readily choose light over darkness. But to live in the light, we must be light. And being light is impossible without learning to both receive and confer the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

No Room for Darkness!

Those who desire to advance the cause of Christ in our world obviously face many significant challenges. Among the difficulties is a multitude of temptations toward becoming embittered.

There are just so many situations in life where we are unappreciated, overlooked or neglected! Add to them unwarranted gossip and criticism, and worst of all—betrayal, and a cauldron of darkness can be the result.

The Apostle John was clear to say that walking in the light is essentially synonymous with walking in love toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. When fail to walk in love, we live in darkness, abiding in some way, shape or form under the dominion of death.

It certainly is natural that we would become embittered, hardened and jaded when our sacrifices are ignored or we are mistreated by the very people we are trying to help, but God’s call on our lives is not to a natural existence. He desires that we would draw upon His supernatural grace to overcome any such temptations.

In pondering this issue recently I came to a new clarity of understanding. By default darkness can only advance darkness and light can only advance light. We may be able to draw upon our gifts and talents in our efforts to build ministries and touch people, but if we want lasting influence that will honor God, walking in the light is not an option.

Over the past several years I have been provided with many wonderful opportunities to be offended by the actions or inaction of others. Though not without struggle, I’ve done my best to stay yielded to God, walking in forgiveness and to keeping my heart soft toward Him and toward others. More and more I am realizing that this isn’t simply a healthy approach to the issues of life and ministry—it is necessary. If I want to have an increased measure of influence in the world around me, it is imperative that I walk in the light.

Success attained apart from a solid foundation of heart transformation will eventually crumble to the detriment of all involved. There is quite simply no room for darkness in our hearts if we are to truly be ambassadors of the kingdom of light!