By Jason Frenn
When I heard that six people were senselessly murdered in Tucson, including a federal judge and 9-year-old girl, my heart was greatly saddened. There were 14 wounded including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (R-Ariz.).
It didn’t take long for commentators in the media to give their opinions on why this tragedy took place. Among some of the explanations that seem a bit far reaching is the notion that the alleged shooter Jared Loughner was an ultraconservative who deplored the politics of the democratic congresswoman. Others assert (and I can see their point) that he was mentally ill. Still others suggest that he is an anarchist. In a time when even people of faith struggle to find an explanation beyond the psychological and sociological, perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves what we truly believe about the supernatural.
Even Rush Limbaugh said that the alleged demonic altar found in Loughner’s backyard was an indication of his “mental condition”. With all due respect to the talk show host, what seems to be an apparent shrine raised up for demonic adoration is not necessarily an indication of someone’s mental condition. It’s most likely an indication of his spiritual condition. Now, Mr. Limbaugh is not a theologian, so I don’t expect him to give an accurate theological assessment.
But he, like many, has fallen in line with what has become a general interpretation of what has happened. Too many times, people of faith write off tragedies such as this as simply the result of mental illness or ideological or political zeal. Shouldn’t we at least ask the question, “might the alleged assassin be demon possessed or heavily influenced by the forces of darkness?”
I am not suggesting that we go on a witch-hunt. Nor do I see demons around every corner. And I am in no way asserting that Satan is responsible for what has happened. Everyone has a free will. However, there are some evil occurrences that have no decent neurological or political explanation. They come as a result of someone giving his or her will over to the forces of darkness with the intention of destroying life.
How do we know evil exists? History has an occasional stamp of complete moral depravity that cannot be explained in sociological terms. Some occurrences are only explained through theological lenses. When we listen, for example, to the rhetoric of those who planned the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, we hear a deep and unregulated hatred against millions of people in many nations. Hate destroys the soul and over time makes those who harbor it enemies of God. I cannot honestly rule out the possibility that those responsible for 9/11 were not heavily influenced by the forces of evil. Nor when I look at those responsible for the Columbine shootings can I dismiss that their interaction with the occult had no impact on their actions either. And I think that most would agree that Hitler was driven by something diabolical.
I strongly hold the conviction that it’s too early to tell whether or not Loughner was influenced by Satan or was mentally ill or both. However, the question of whether or not his actions were diabolic is something worth asking.
In addition, my concern when we are quick to diagnose a tragedy like this as a consequence of mental illness, is that we inch closer to excusing the guilty from personal responsibility. When people chose to align themselves with darkness, hatred, rage, intolerance and violence, it is ultimately their decision to do so. Much like the alcoholic who is responsible for the decision to drink before getting behind the wheel, people are responsible for allowing their hearts to become poisoned and they are responsible for their actions. While Flip Wilson can humorously assert, “The Devil made me buy this dress,” that is not a valid excuse for those who make the choice to align themselves with evil.
Is it therefore impossible to believe that when someone’s heart becomes filled with hatred, anger, rage, unforgiveness and other poisons that the human will can wear down to a defenseless state where depravity and even possession is possible?
If the problem our society faces is in anyway spiritual, no gun control law can change the condition of the human heart. No amount of security enforced by governments can change the paradigm of the terrorist. There is no scanner or patdown procedure that can detect a heart that is determined to carry out a diabolical scheme. Until scientists can come up with a detector that can discover a corrupt heart, we will hardly prevent and always react to tragedies such as the ones mentioned in this article. The only true solution for the corruption of the human heart is repentance and redemption that is found by genuinely seeking the Creator.
Jason Frenn is a missionary and the author of “Power to Reinvent Yourself: How to Break the Destructive Patterns in Your Life.”