Monday, July 23, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 162 (& Rom 1 reply, 10): Responding to the Colorado Batman movie mass shooting, with ex-grad student James E Holmes as prime suspect, and to attempts by Cathy Cooper et al to twist it into an indictment of the Christian Faith and church attendance or involvement

Over the past few days, there has been a considerable web buzz on the Colorado mass shooting at a Batman movie tragedy, with aspects that are worth commenting on here at KF (especially since some are already trying to use this to blame the Christian faith as the prime suspect went with his family to a Lutheran church in his youth).

Before saying anything else, we must express condolences to the victims, families, and the bewildered family of the prime suspect.

As I have indicated, there is considerable speculation, and some are already trying to spin this sad case to serve an agenda.

In particular, I see from an atheistical blogger, a Ms Cathy Cooper, that:
My hypothesis, which is not new by the way, as I have pointed out numerous times, the great Christian philosopher Pelagius pointed out long ago, that if you promulgate the notion that people are born bad, and cannot help but to sin, but will still gain entrance into paradise as long as they "repent"-- they are more likely to sin, repent, sin, repent--and repeat when necessary.  Pelagius was wise, and realized that this belief would lead to "moral laxity"--which is quite evident in our predominantly Christian society, and amongst Christians in particular . . . when Christians are taught they are "born sinners" and cannot help but to sin, as they are taught it is not possible for them to be perfect, and that they are nevertheless given the "free gift" of salvation, they will have more of a tendency to act immorally, or, when Christians are taught they live in a world that is dominated by Satan, that it leads to immorality.  Either way, it leads to immorality and chaos, and Christianity provides believers with a basis for the belief that they are absolved from taking responsibility for their own bad behavior.  Jesus does that for them.
This is rubbish, and the fact that Cooper highlights a well known heretic, Pelagius, as a "great Christian philosopher," should be warning on that.

Here instead, as I pointed out in a UD blog thread, is a good slice of what the relevant, foundational prime source documents teach on the subject of salvation by grace through faith and its organic link to a life of growing in grace, truth, love, doing good and purity:
Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
1 Jn 3:7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
1 Cor 6:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Eph 4:17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. [NIV '84]
It is clear that the scriptures teach a sin-recovery model, that does not expect perfection in this world, but penitence, progress and substantial righteousness. With a 2,000 year track record of substantial success that is accessible to those willing to look for it and acknowledge the evident facts, out of respect for truth and fairness.

For, we are all obviously finite, fallible, morally fallen and struggling, and far too often gullible or ill-willed and even addicted to evil and deception. That is why C S Lewis said that the sinful fallen-ness of man is the Christian doctrine that can be proved from the newspapers.

This is the context of a close parallel to the Alcoholics Anonymous, twelve step recovery approach. I would argue that this sort of repentance and recovery process from addictive, life-dominating sins is a significant aspect of sound discipleship and spiritual growth.

But that is not all.

Over the weekend, I think some significant details have emerged that allow a rather tentative suggested explanation of what may have happened to the young man at the heart of this tragedy. 

(The tentatively inferred pattern is sufficiently significant that even if in the end it is not exactly correct for the case, it is sufficiently relevant to a real problem that we need to ponder it. )

So, I clip from a further comment in the UD thread:

>> . . . amidst the fog of back-forths and institutions told to keep mum, we have at least one key clue (in addition to the fact that he abused his grad student status to order hazardous materials and bought arms in advance):
. . . the owner of a gun range told the AP that Holmes applied to join the club last month [i.e. June 2012] but never became a member because of his behavior and a “bizarre” message on his voice mail.
He emailed an application to join the Lead Valley Range in Byers on June 25 in which he said he was not a user of illegal drugs or a convicted felon, said owner Glenn Rotkovich. When Rotkovich called to invite him to a mandatory orientation the following week, he said he heard a message on Holmes’ voice mail that was “bizarre — guttural, freakish at best.”
He left two other messages but eventually told his staff to watch out for Holmes at the July 1 orientation and not to accept him into the club, Rotkovich said . . .
Plainly, something was not right here, and it was brewing for months, taking in the time in which the materials etc were acquired.

Something else in the linked report, from his family and its home church:
The pastor for the family of the suspect also recalled a shy boy who was driven to succeed academically.
“He wasn’t an extrovert at all. If there was any conversation, it would be because I initiated it, not because he did,” said Jerald Borgie, senior pastor of Penasquitos Lutheran Church. Borgie said he never saw the suspect mingle with others his age at church.
[NB: --> Not exactly the picture Cooper et al want to paint of an active, deeply engaged church member acting out the deep flaws of the Christian Faith as it invariably leads to life destruction, social chaos and violence wherever it goes. (BTW, that sounds a lot to me like she has been reading and absorbing major one-sided New Atheist litanies and diatribes against the Christian faith. I suggest a read here on as a balance.)]
Holmes told the pastor he wanted to attend a University of California school and pursue graduate studies. Borgie, who last spoke with Holmes about six years ago, doesn’t remember the suspect being more specific about his goals.
“He had some goals. He wanted to succeed, he wanted to go out, and he wanted to be the best,” Borgie said. “He took pride in his academic abilities. A good student. He didn’t brag about it.”
The family has belonged to the church for about 10 years, Borgie said. The suspect’s mother, Arlene, attends services every week and volunteers her time . . .
If you have a bright, somewhat shy academically inclined kid of a family in your church, who is pursuing university studies for an advanced degree, it would be reasonable that a pastor would try to keep in touch. That suggests that the lack of interaction basically since Holmes went off to college was probably because the young man drifted from church involvement, which was already inadequate. (It is not normal for a young person actively involved in a church not to have visible friends at church. But, that is what the senior pastor reported. [The attempts by Cooper et al to blame the Christian Faith, look ever more tacky, in this light.])

Multiply that by the evolutionary materialistic scientism milieu of neuroscience and the top candidate explanation is that this young man was moving to the sort of worldview that dominates this field and similar fields. Which is the expected ideology. And indeed, the bright kid from church not prepared for the issues and rhetoric of the college campus going off to college with the Bible on the top of his clothes in his suitcase and coming back home with it under the bottom — or outright dumping it across his first year — is a stock story.

If we do not “own” and seriously ground our beliefs and values, in an aggressively atheistical climate, they will be vulnerable to collapse. Sometimes, with serious consequences. (Cf. here on in context.)

It looks like this young man was bright through the undergrad phases, from remarks on being able to take classes, just listen in — no notes — and hit the A range. Maybe, there were some poor study skills at work there, but that will come out later.

He had to try for the PhD level for the field, and seems to have gone to a direct PhD programme, a big jump from undergraduate studies. He was so promising that he got NIH funding.

After it looks like a year and a bit more, he hit a wall and quit after apparently doing poorly in comprehensives in the “spring.” 

In that window, he would have been in trouble and would have known it if he was heading for a disastrous first year assessment (especially if he had been preparing inadequately). I would normally recommend a Master’s programme for at least a year, then an upgrade to a PhD if there is some showing of the ability. But then, I believe strongly in creep then walk before you run, and run before you fly.

It would have been expected that someone as bright as this kid, if he hit the wall, would try again. But, he quit — notice, despite the gag order at the school, it has come out that his quitting was a surprise. 

This may well have been his first serious encounter with academic failure, and it may have blown up his probably fragile sense of self-worth; which was likely to be wrapped up in his persona as a bright and academically promising kid. He also probably had very little social and counselling support, in a context where a solid line to a good pastor, priest or Rabbi would be worth its weight in gold. I have known of suicide attempts or outright suicides triggered under those circumstances. Or, “nervous breakdown,” and the like.

This may be a case of even more spectacular breakdown. And, he may indeed have gone insane in the criminally relevant sense.

Obviously, a very sketchy explanation, but one that I would take as the one to beat based on what we are likely to find for now. 

For, it is not exactly uncommon for something like the above to happen, save that the degree of breakdown is not normally that spectacular. If violence happens in such cases, most often it is against oneself, i.e. a suicide attempt, maybe disguised to look like an accident. In some cases, it is by courting an accident, without even articulating this to oneself. Depression is a subtle, devious and destructive disease.

So, whether or not this is the actual best explanation when the dust settles, the pattern is one we do need to pay attention to.>>

In short, in an aggressively materialistic age, college can be a dangerous place, and increasingly high school, TV, the internet and so forth. 

One of the obvious steps is that we need to explicitly equip our young people to understand at some significant level, the two tidal wave threats that are hitting our region:

Two spiritual tidal waves now impacting our region with ever-mounting force
Then, we need to equip them to stand, giving good grounds for their faith and path of discispleship. We will need to keep an eye out for and seek out then help the wandering sheep also before they get into trouble way over their ability to handle.

Finally, I would suggest that as a direct programme of study or a supplement to other studies, our young people need something like the AACCS programme, and especially the sort of things that are covered in the theology survey and street issues courses. With of course solid grounding in basic discipleship, and engagement in a discipleship and service building cell group programme (which can be built on a Sunday School or a Youth fellowship programme).

So, I come back to the relevance of the proposed AACCS programme.

I think something like this should be a key part of the "college bridge" studies our young people undertake.

In closing, again: condolences to all affected by the sad events in Colorado. END