We went to church on Sunday shortly after news broke about the shooting in Texas. My wife didn't want to sit in our usual spot. She said she'd be more comfortable near the fire exit.
I wanted to tell her she was overreacting. I wanted to tell her it's crazy to start planning our escape route every time we go to a public place. I wanted to tell her we're at church, nobody will hurt us here, we're safe. But I couldn't tell her any of that.
There have been three mass casualty attacks in the last five weeks. Two church shootings since September. The deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history was in October. The second deadliest was last year. The fifth deadliest was on Sunday.
Something is happening. Something bad.
I know the statistics still assure us that we're almost definitely not going to die in the middle of some coward's killing spree. We'll die of something else. Cancer, probably. Or heart disease. But statistics are just numbers. They didn't protect the people in Texas. Or Las Vegas. Or New York. The Thing That Doesn't Happen Around Here happened there, to them, and it's happening more and more to people it was almost definitely not going to happen to.
Things are changing in this country.
It's not just the attacks themselves that I find so disturbing. The way people react to them is almost as bad. We seem to treat this stuff like it's not even real, like the people who died weren't actual people. We carry on as though we're living in a video game or something. As soon as the bodies hit the ground, we run to our battle stations and start fighting amidst corpses like vultures. There's something so routine and lifeless and inhuman in the whole spectacle. Is anyone even really angry about these killings anymore? Or sad? Or anything? It seems like it's just an excuse to bicker; flinging our dull talking points at one another before we get bored and have to wait again, longingly, for the next bloody slaughter to come along and give us something to gossip about for a day or two.
Is "wait longingly" an unfair characterization? I don't think so. Look at how people respond. They openly root for the killer to be this or that demographic. They crack smarmy jokes. They gloat. Once the race and political orientation of the murderer is identified, you can practically here one half of the country shouting "YES!" while the other half dejectedly groans like they just came one 7 away from a jackpot on a slot machine.
If you're wondering where all of these killers are coming from — check Twitter. It's filled with future candidates: People who truly do not recognize the humanity in their fellow man. And they're not just on Twitter. They're out there in the "real world," laughing at a guy while he drowns, or torturing a disabled man for fun, or taking selfies with a woman who's just been beaten unconscious, or back on the internet watching a teenager livestream his own suicide. What really separates these people from Devin Kelley? Whatever it is, the wall between them is very thin. The key thing they share — the key thing that so many of us share — is utter and complete indifference.
We like to accuse mass shooters of being "hateful," but we're wrong. They aren't hateful at all. Hate would be an improvement. Hate is human, at least. Hate is real. But these animals aren't human enough to hate their victims. They just don't care. They don't care about anything. Even if Kelley was motivated to some extent by anti-Christian sentiment — and I still believe he was — I wouldn't use the word "hate." What was going on in his heart was baser and more demonic than mere human hatred.
That's why, usually, we don't hear about these guys running into a building and screaming angrily while they unload on the crowd. We hear instead about a man with a blank face casually and silently emptying his clip into strangers. No emotion. No facial expression. Saying nothing. Stopping only to reload. Showing the demeanor of someone waiting in line at the post office. Empty. Hollow. Nothing at all going on inside.
That's what's different now. That's why I have this real and terrible feeling that things are going to get much, much worse. What terrifies me about our culture is the moral emptiness and indifference, shared by killer and bored spectator alike, that has come to define us as a people. This is the seed Satan has been planting, and now I fear it has matured. The Devil has been working in the background, in the darkness, with subtlety, but the fruit is finally ripe and he is coming to harvest it.
Of course, being so relentlessly stupid and clueless, we still don't understand what's going on around us. We chalk it all up to a "mental health crisis," as if there's some mysterious mental illness spreading like syphilis throughout the land. Or we conclude that we just haven't settled on the right combination of laws and regulations. We seem to ignore the fact that a great many of these mass killers had been on psychotropic medicines, and they either acquired their weapons illegally or they acquired them because the existing laws weren't properly enforced (as was the case in Texas). We are already the most medicated and regulated civilization in human history, yet these things have only increased in frequency.
Laws won't heal the human spirit. Neither will prescription pills. We can't treat moral corruption like we treat headaches. It's not always a "chemical imbalancement" that propels a guy to murder women and children. Often, that desire is rooted much deeper, all the way down in the depths of his depraved and rotten soul.
There is a very troubling combination coming together. We dehumanize each other while medicalizing and politicizing evil. The result is indifference and detachment all the way around. Exactly the atmosphere where Satan thrives. It is the atmosphere of Hell itself, leaking like noxious fumes into our world. And there is only one antidote that really works. His name is Christ.