Vester E. Flanagan (Image source: KHNL-TV)
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We want to reduce everything to chemicals and neurology and synapses, but we leave no room for a man's soul, his will, his desire, his choice
It's called evil.
We never want to talk about evil in this country, do we? We rarely even say the word. We're so shallow and distracted in our thinking. Everything has to be political or psychological, easily solved through policies or laws or pharmaceuticals. But all the drugs and legislation in the world won't change the fact that humans are sinful and angry, and sometimes they do evil things on purpose, and not for any reason other than their own sick lust for vengeance, power, and pleasure.
That's what I saw when the video of the WDBJ shooting appeared on my newsfeed yesterday morning. I didn't see the result of "mental illness" or the side effects of bad policies or lax regulation or weak "gun control" or anything else. I saw envy and malice. I saw a man who calculated and planned his sin, then carried it out deliberately. I saw a choice. I saw evil.
Image source: KHNL-TV
I didn't think, "Oh, if only [fill in the blank] law had been passed, this wouldn't have happened!" or, "Man, if only the killer had been prescribed [fill in the blank medication] this could have been avoided!" No, I thought, "if only that man with free will and the same selfish, violent, malicious motivations that have inspired literally every act of evil ever committed in the history of mankind hadn't chosen to act upon them, those two people would still be alive." If only.
As you're no doubt aware, yesterday a "disgruntled" former employee of a news station in Virginia murdered a reporter and her cameraman on live TV. Vester Flanagan, also known as Bryce Williams, who is black, updated his social media feeds throughout the attack and in the proceeding hours. He filmed and live Tweeted the murder. He used his Twitter account to promote his Facebook platform during the killing, telling his followers to go check out the other site for footage.
This was a 21st century murder, through and through. And America played along; Thousands of people actually shared the murder video, enticing their Facebook friends and Twitter followers to click and watch two people die on camera.
It's called evil. This is where it leads.
Obviously, the racial makeup of the incident won't be particularly useful to the sleazy race hustlers of America, even though some of them couldn't wait more than a few seconds before embarrassing themselves by publicly assuming the killer was white. But the tool Falanagan used to carry out his deed did provide the mobs an opportunity to make political statements about gun control, literally within minutes of the shooting.
Hillary Clinton politicized the deaths while the bodies were still lying on the pavement. Hollywood actors and media members wasted no time in implicating the NRA. Naturally, the White House manned the battle stations, calling on Congress to pass "common sense gun control." Other politicians and left wingers around the country joined in the gun control chorus, choosing to make political props of the bodies before they were bagged, let alone buried.
Of course, none of these disgusting opportunists explained how "gun control" could have prevented the massacre. Flanagan owned the handgun legally and had no criminal record. What law could have prohibited him from obtaining the weapon, aside from an across the board ban on all guns everywhere for everyone? Is that what's being proposed? If not, why bring it up in relation to this story? We're always told gun confiscation is a hysterical right wing myth, but what other conceivable law could possibly apply to this particular situation?
Victims Alison Parker and Adam Ward were killed by Vester Flanagan. Source: NBC News
Meanwhile, Flanagan sent a lengthy manifesto to ABC News before committing suicide. He rambled that he killed Adam Ward and Alison Parker as revenge for the Charleston shooting, declared his intention to start a race war, and complained that he'd been discriminated against for being gay and black. It was the sort of whimpering, whining tale of faux-victimization that we've all heard a million times, often promoted by the media or the White House.
I imagine this detail -- that he was a racist, black homosexual targeting straight white people -- will severely shorten the amount of time this story spends in the headlines. Yet there's no doubt that if he'd been a homophobic white man murdering gay black people on TV, this would be easily the biggest story of the year. Blatant double standards and all that. We know how it works.
So while it's still briefly the lead story (or has it already been replaced by Donald Trump?), its worth reflecting on why this sort of thing happens. Not just the shootings, but the crass exploitation on the part of our politicians, our media, and, frankly, a good number of, as Hillary Clinton likes to say, "everyday Americans."
It's hard enough to deal with this seemingly constant onslaught of violence and depravity; it's simply too much to endure, on top of it all, these damned vultures gleefully picking over the warm corpses, searching for a gotcha moment. It's gross. It's depressing. It's sickening. It makes me wonder if many of us can feel anything anymore. Are we just men without chests, like CS Lewis said; vacant inside, hollow? Do we see the death, do we feel the pain, or is it all just a spectacle to us now? Is everything a circus?
[sharequote align="center"]Do we see the death, do we feel the pain, or is it all just a spectacle to us now?[/sharequote]
Do we spend all of our time ingesting morally ambiguous garbage as entertainment and then struggle, after a while, to tell the difference between the "pretend" despair we wallow in for fun, and the real tragedy actually happening out in the three dimensional world? Or are we so aware of everything, and so pressured to have a perspective about all of it, that for efficiency's sake we've had to stop actually reflecting and thinking about anything? Do we have a kind of industrial conveyor belt system of political prejudices and assumptions in our minds, processing each news item and quickly assembling and churning out a half baked, worthless opinion just so we can keep up with the next guy on Facebook?
I know. You're going to say: "Well, Matt, isn't that what you do for a living?" I try not to, I try to find something true and substantive to say, but I'm sure I've been guilty of reacting too quickly and too thoughtlessly to things sometimes.
We allow these butchers to accomplish the ultimate feat: not just killing innocent people, but luring the rest of us into participating in their evil. That isn't to say we are all guilty of murder, but when we exploit a grotesque travesty, using it to make an entirely disingenuous point about gun control or whatever, we disregard the dignity and sacredness and decency and beauty of human life. We play the killer's game. We look at things through his lens. We dance like puppets for him.
I think part of the problem is that we don't know what else to do. These days, when some broken, barbaric predator goes out and inflicts his wrath and hatred on unsuspecting victims, we don't know how to handle it, so we just spout rhetoric and leave it at that. Nothing improves. Nothing ever gets better. But if we could come back to a basic understanding -- or at least recognition -- of good and evil, then we could begin to understand why bad things happen, and how we might mitigate them in the future.
The answer to the "why," of course, is evil. Most directly, the evil of the individual man who made a choice to perpetrate this terrible crime. He was not programmed to do what he did -- he chose it. I'm sure in the coming days, along with hearing incessantly about the mythical "gun control," we'll also be told about his various supposed psychological illnesses. These will both be smokescreens.
Yes, certainly the man had mental problems -- if you listen to the Centers for Disease Control, almost half of the country does or will -- but most people don't go out shooting reporters in the head. What's the difference, then, between the nonviolent and violent "mentally disordered" person? Answer: choice. One chooses to do evil, the other doesn't.
Predictably, however, when you make the revolutionary suggestion that evil exists, you'll hear a lot of responses like this:
We look at the darkest, most disturbing actions carried out by the most hateful people, and rather than face the terrifying reality that, in fact, rational people choose to do evil, we retreat back into the comfortable fantasy that only crazy people do bad things.
We want to reduce everything to chemicals and neurology and synapses, but we leave no room for a man's soul, his will, his desire, his choice. And what has that achieved? I suppose it's achieved quite a bit, financially, for the pharmaceutical industry, yet the rest of us are still left to grapple with the hatred and despair they told us the pills would cure.
Of course, I don't discount mental illness completely, nor do I suppose Flanagan would have checked all the boxes on a "mental health" checklist. Obviously, the man had "issues," as they say. But my radical theory is that his deepest issues were spiritual. And the same could be said for all of us.
Flanagan grabbed that camera and that gun and shot two people in the head because he was consumed by his sin, and he was consumed by his sin because he chose to follow his bitterness, loathing, and contempt all the way down into the darkness, away from the light, away from God, away from Truth. He pushed God out and let evil in, and this is the result.
And there is something even beyond Flanagan and his individual choices. There isn't any one person who caused this attack more directly than Flanagan himself, but our whole country, our culture, is in a desperate spiritual state. Spiritual health, not mental health, is the real crisis of our time.
[sharequote align="center"]We have rejected God as a country, and we are seeing the hideous fruits of our godless civilization.[/sharequote]
We have rejected God as a country, and I believe we are seeing, every day, the hideous fruits of our godless civilization. I'm not saying more God-centered cultures don't have their fair share of murder and crime, but at least when you have an understanding of good and evil, you know how to process these events. You know how to grieve. You know where to look for redemption and healing.
Moreover, a culture that is, like ours, almost entirely lost and confused and devoured by its own self-centeredness creates an environment that actively fosters and encourages this sort of thing. It is not "politicizing" to point out that our nation is governed by people who've deliberately stoked the hatred that led to yesterday in Roanoke. As cities have burned, our deceptive, self-serving leaders haven't stood up and called for unity and justice; instead they've worked precisely to undermine both.
Our corrupt media, for their part, have invested themselves not in reporting the truth, but in creating an artificial narrative of white-on-black, straight-on-gay victimization. None of these people will ever, in this life, be held accountable for the evil they are doing, but the truth is apparent.
Powerful people with evil intentions encouraging less powerful people with evil intentions to seize power through force and death. That's the real problem in our country. There are very few virtuous men and women steering the ship. Mostly, we are captained by degenerates who honestly, truly, do not care if people die or if the whole country collapses around them, as long as they remain on top of the writhing heap.
So here we are. And I really think many of us are closer to being Flanagan than we like to think. The survivors at WDBJ tell us he was an "angry," "unhappy," self-entitled man who looked for slights and offenses and racism and homophobia everywhere. A lot of people have insisted that this proves he was insane. If that's the case, then we are surrounded by maniacs, because that description sounds extraordinarily familiar.
Once you take the first step -- rejecting God, embracing evil -- there is simply no telling what you'll do next. That's the horrifying truth. Time to face it.
As for how to prevent these tragedies, there isn't any foolproof plan, but I think we should crawl desperately to the Lord and ask for His direction and healing. I think we should spend more time on our knees in prayer. I think we should strive to be virtuous, humble people who find joy in goodness and love. I think we should be a nation that bows before God and declares Him our one and only King.
I'm not really sure what we should do next, but I think this would be a good place to start.
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