(Guest Post – Written last week.)
The shootings in Isla Vista/UCSB have weighed heavy on my heart. I’ve been reading the shooter’s “manifesto,” and what strikes me is that even though he was unique in acting out the way he did, there was very little unique about the state of his heart. His hopelessness and misery stemmed from very distorted perceptions-about the world, about life — which quite frankly, all too many of us share. Indeed, most won’t resort to violence to cope, but will resort to other things be it alcohol, drugs, video games, and even seemingly less harmful things like over-exercise, workaholism and food–addiction in any form really…
The following also struck me: UCSB is closed for school tomorrow, and throughout the weekend has been a quiet setting for candlelight vigils, prayer, and reflection…Only a few weeks before however, the surrounding town had just experienced one of the hardest party weekends in recent memory. The annual “Deltopia” 2014 literally ended in a riot with SB police involving tear gas, as students were smashing cars and dozens were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning and the like.
This crazy world of “hedonistic pleasure” won the envy of Friday’s shooter, Elliot Rodger. And yet, as an outsider looking in, he was unable to see (at the risk of generalizing here) the emptiness, fear, and insecurities the very “frat brothers” and “sorority sisters” he so longed to be like are themselves experiencing and acting out from. That they too long for acceptance, they too wonder if they’re “man enough” or “ripped enough” or “rich enough” to be validated in the world.
They too, are feeding on the same diet of lies, false promises, and distortions as Elliot Rodger each and every day. There was no racist comment, no sexist statement, no materialistic aspiration or beauty standard Elliot Rodger made in his manifesto that couldn’t have very well come out of a TV show, or the mouth of any average joe at a baseball game, a mom at a PTA meeting, or God forbid, by a church-going gossip or pastor.
Indeed the same hate, prejudice, superficiality, and greed he expressed in his manifesto sadly also pervades the church– if not moreso sometimes.
Elliot Rodger longed to be an “alpha male.” To date someone from the sorority “Alpha Phi.” If only, if only, he had been introduced to the ultimate Alpha, the Omega Jesus Christ. This Jesus, who didn’t even go to college. He didn’t even move out of his mom’s house until he was 30, and yes, he died a virgin.
He didn’t wear a suit and tie to work, or drive a Beemer. He was a carpenter for most of his life, and while he preached about for 3 years, he was homeless.
He didn’t fit in, he was despised and rejected by the “rich and famous” of his day (if they even knew him at all, as most wouldn’t have tread his ghetto neighborhood…)
And perhaps that’s why the very people who claim to follow him today didn’t and don’t share him, because we’re too busy trying to be like the ones who rejected him rather than be rejected. We don’t know him as well as we ought. We don’t walk into the neighborhoods he walked, talk to the strangers he talked to. We claim our souls are “saved” and yet we live like they’re still up for sale.
When is enough enough? When will we repent of our apathy and selfishness rather than blame someone else for the problems pervading our world? Why do we spend more energy locking our house, car, gun-safes, and church doors tight, rather than unlocking our hearts to those beyond our social circle? Our neighbors long to be loved, not suspected.
Why do we only pray to God for more earthly goods to hoard instead of selling all and making heavenly investment in the treasures that last?
Maybe if more people saw that there truly is an alternative way to live, an alternative of way of being — things can start to change. The way they did those immediate years following the resurrection of Christ. Christians, though few in number, flipped the whole Roman Empire upside down!
And we can do it again. So let’s vomit the lies, and feast on truth. Be drunk with the Spirit and share the Bread of Life with all and cure the hangover of despair washing over those around us.
Meditating on this passage:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. ~ St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 1
Editor’s note, for another post on this tragedy, that deals with materialism and spirituality, check out Alan Noble’s piece, The Unattainable Good Life Of Elliot Rodger.