The church of the Atlanta spa shooter claims no responsibility for the shootings. I don’t believe them.
On Friday, a message was posted to the Crabapple First Baptist Church website, responding to the Atlanta spa shootings which the church admits were done by one of its members. In this post, they write that “We watched (The shooter) grow up and accepted him into church membership when he made his own profession of faith in Jesus Christ. These unthinkable and egregious murders directly contradict his own confession of faith in Jesus and the gospel.” Continuing, they state that “…this extreme and wicked act is nothing less than rebellion against our Holy God and His Word. (The shooter’s) actions are antithetical to everything that we believe and teach as a church,” as well as that “No blame can be placed upon the victims. He alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires. The women that he solicited for sexual acts are not responsible for his perverse sexual desires nor do they bear any blame in these murders. These actions are the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind for which (The shooter) is completely responsible.”
This response is, of course, totally understandable. there’s really nothing else the church could say, especially since a lot of press covering the shooting has been about the shooter’s church affiliation, and with good reason. As The New York Times reports: “The suspect told the police that he had a ‘sexual addiction’ and had carried out the shootings at the massage parlors to eliminate his ‘temptation,’ the authorities said on Wednesday.” According to another article covering the subject, the church in question was a fairly conservative one, something that is backed up by a NYT article specifically about the church’s post, which comments that “Crabapple strictly prohibits sex outside of marriage, and (The Shooter) had previously checked himself into a Christian rehab clinic to combat what he perceived as an addiction.” Clearly, this man had deeply religious reasons motivating him, and worst of all, these were exacerbated by a church that told him that what he was doing was a sin.
This brings me back to what I think is the most interesting part of the Crabapple post, which is the language involved. Aside from the obvious denouncement of the man's actions, they also seem to be cleverly placing all the blame for the crimes onto the shooter, with phrases like “He alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires.” In context, the sentence isn’t so bad, since it’s in a paragraph rejecting the claims that the victims are to blame, something that is clearly not true. But the paragraph also acts as a trojan horse for the true purpose of the sentence, which is to make you think of the shooter as a lone gunman, who was only motivated by his individual, wicked desires. as we have seen, this clearly cannot be the case. The shooter was a very religious man, and you cannot detach the man’s spiritual issues from the crime. He killed the women because he blamed them for his spiritual temptation. The only reason he cared about this temptation was because of his faith. But by framing it as “He alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires,” you really do make it seem like the church had nothing to do with these killings.
And in a way, they may have a point. Can we really blame the church for the entire killing? Even if they were a negative influence on him, it still doesn't explain some of the other details, such as the fact that this man saw murder as his only option to end his temptation. Even if I think the church was teaching harmful things, I highly doubt they were teaching him that it’s moral to kill, and judging by the churches post it does seem like they genuinely condemn the killings. Judging by the details of the church being fairly conservative, you could say that maybe the sexist and racist undertones of the killings were provoked by the church to some degree, but I’d guess that the shooter was just raised in a conservative family, and that’s why they went to that church, not the other way around. Overall, I do think the majority of the blame can be put on the shooter, and his general upbringing.
Still, I’m not completely satisfied, because of that one word: temptation. If anything might have been provoked by the church, it was definitely the idea that his sexual deviancy was a sin, that needed to be purged. Maybe that was helped along by his family, but if so, that begs the question: why did they find his actions immoral? If I were to guess, I would assume that it’s because of their religion, and more importantly, the teachings of their church. I ma not think the church is at fault for many things, but the teaching that ones sexual desires are sinful is absolutely the fault of the church. Maybe, if this man hadn’t been taught to loathe his own desires, then we wouldn't be in this mess. In the post, the church talks about how the shooter, not the victims, were the one responsible for his perverse desires, and when it comes to the victims being innocent, I agree. But tell me, who told this man that his desires were perverse?
As I close this off, I want to make something very clear: this man was a monster. He killed innocent women out of selfishness for his own salvation, blaming these women for desires that they had no control over. They merely offered him a service, that he accepted. But monsters don’t just appear out of the abyss, and this shooter wasn’t just born with an unhealthy outlook to his desires. those were molded, and I personally do believe that the Crabapple church had a part to play. I will say that this is all obviously opinion, but I don’t think it takes a genius to realize where this mans ideas came from.