How To Love a Mass Murderer
The nearly unquestioned assumption about school shootings is that they are usually perpetrated by the mentally ill. This psychiatrist disagrees:
The reason the mental health system fails to prevent mass shootings is that mental illness is rarely the cause of such violence. Even if all potential mass shooters did get psychiatric care, there is no reliable cure for angry young men who harbor violent fantasies. And the laws intended to stop the mentally ill from buying guns are too narrow and easily sidestepped; people like Nikolas Cruz and my patient are unlikely to qualify.
The psychiatrist’s proposed solution: ban guns.
Why is this the extent of the discussion? If mental illness isn’t responsible for this wave of horrific brutality, then what is?
I ran across a video yesterday of Jordan Peterson, another clinical psychiatrist, saying that what is fundamentally happening is that people are being crushed by the misery of their lives, by the weight of the knowledge of their own failures, and in the depths of their bitterness they decide simply to raise a fist to God and to all mankind:
Most remarkably, he says this with real understanding and even compassion for these broken men, reminding us that they too are human beings, and that all of us are also capable of going down that same dark road. It reminds me of something Fr. Seraphim Rose once said: we cannot allow ourselves to look on Judas as some sort of freak, or to fool ourselves into believing that our own passions and our own pride could never lead us down that same path of betrayal and despair.
As far as I can tell Jordan Peterson is not, in any traditional sense, a Christian. The Christology he expounds near the end of the video is at best extremely imprecise, but in all likelihood just plain heretical. And yet for all that, he is one of the only public figures in the world today who recognizes and states openly that what is going on in these people’s souls is something that cannot possibly be explained, much less cured, without reference to God. In fact, no one else seems to be talking about how to actually cure this disease at all. We are arguing over bandaids.
So why aren’t the countless Christians in our nation standing up and speaking like Peterson is speaking? The truth is that Christians have far more to offer the world than Jordan Peterson does: he seems to have a fairly profound understanding of the disease, but the only cure he can offer is merely a self-help book. Yet men all over the world are desperately clinging to every word he says, because they are absolutely starving for guidance in their lives. We can offer these men so much more than guidance. We can offer them Christ.
I am also reminded strongly of a story from Fr. Seraphim Rose’s early life, during his own period as a very angry, bitter, and nihilistic young man. On a mountaintop he drunkenly raised his fist and cursed God, daring Him to damn him to hell. He later wrote:
Atheism, true ‘existential’ atheism burning with hatred of a seemingly unjust or unmerciful God, is a spiritual state; it is a real attempt to grapple with the true God Whose ways are so inexplicable even to the most believing of men, and it has more than once been known to end in a blinding vision of Him Whom the real atheist truly seeks. It is Christ Who works in these souls….
Let us give heed to His words: “Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”