By now you all will have heard of the shooting perpetrated near the University of California, Santa Barbara on Friday, May 23rd, 2014. The shooter was 22 years old, the son of a successful assistant director of major Hollywood films, and did not seem to want for anything materially. Except for the bodies of young women. According to his youtube video (now taken down), he was repeatedly rejected by women for romantic interest as well as by popular students as he sought friends. “Girls gave their affection and sex and love to other men but never to me.” His words drip with entitlement and anger.
“Tomorrow is the day of retribution. The day in which I will have my revenge.” And “I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one. The true alpha male.” This is just a taste of what his video was like. This young man was apparently so angry that he felt it his right to take ‘revenge’ on a crowd of unsuspecting women who had nothing to do with him.
We could talk all day about sin and its consequences in the shooter’s heart and the lives of those murdered and injured women. We could talk about how the Bible says that violent force belongs to the government to keep order, and how Jesus is the last warrior at the end of time while we are called not to fight any more. But I think a conversation about what to do next is more helpful. How do we prevent another tragedy like this one?
ENTITLEMENT & HUMILITY
It is my belief that the first step to prevent another tragedy of this kind is for parents, ministers, and friends to train the children and young people around us to be humble; they must avoid entitlement. For good or for ill, every human being’s core values and problems begin at home as children. This means we need to provide solid teaching and encouragement to our children and young people we know.
This also means we have to become humble people who carry no entitlement. I’m going to say it again. We have to put our entitlements to rest. When you read the word “we” in this blog, please understand that I am not trying to say “YOU” in a nice way. I am fully aware of my own feelings of entitlement and so I include myself here. I must put my entitlements to rest, and so must we all. If we put ourselves first, entitlement will breed in our hearts.
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 6, Jesus is recorded as saying, “43 For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
We will be known by our ‘fruit.’ In the case of this shooter, his fruit turned out spoiled. Rotten. Bitter. As a result of that, we know some of what was in his heart: deep, embittered entitlement. Humility is the antidote to entitlement, but we must work to become humble and stay that way.
ANGER & PEACE
“Anger, the inner arsonist, held a match to her brain.” -Jane Kenyon, “Portrait of a Figure Near Water.”
If you were to ask my family and close friends what one of my main faults is, they will tell you that it’s my temper. I get angry easily, and often. It is a struggle I’ve fought for over a decade now. Anger can be more than a temporary emotion. It can be a bubbling force threatening to explode. As a child, I acted out by breaking things or hitting people. I’m not proud to say that. Maybe this violent young man from UCSB and I are a lot alike in that way. I don’t know.
What I do know is that anger is a powerful force. It can be extremely destructive. I won’t go through more examples because we all know plenty of them. But anger can also be extremely constructive. When Jesus got angry, he cleared the Jerusalem temple so that the people who wanted to worship there could do so without being blocked by money traders or distracted by activities that weren’t about worship. When man sinned, God’s wrath began. But He sent Jesus to die in the place of sinners, that we who rebelled against Him might glorify Him and live with Him for eternity.
Destructive anger brings violence and devastation. Destructive anger murders innocent young women while they are out having dinner with friends on the streets of Santa Barbara, celebrating the end of the school year.
Constructive anger builds. Constructive anger creates peace. Constructive anger creates an opportunity for worship, and for being reconciled with God.
We must teach our children and the young people we know that anger has to be channeled into constructive thoughts and actions. Along with that teaching, we must model such constructive anger. We all get angry. But we need to demonstrate to them how to channel it into something good.
WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
The way to avoid another tragedy like the one at UCSB is not better gun control. Humanity is violent, and the people who are willing to kill will find a way. How many mass knife attacks have occurred in China in the last 5 years? I have lost count.
The way to avoid another tragedy like the one at UCSB is not necessarily better access to mental health professionals. Access is already available, and while such methods are helpful, they are not the only element in this equation.
We must model and educate our children and the other young people we know about entitlement, humility, anger, and peace. This is and will be hard work. We may want to avoid saying something to our kids because it’s been a long day, or everyone has problems, so we think “Surely MY child wouldn’t do something like that.” But giving up on hard work like this results in tragedies like the victims of the Isla Vista shooting.
If you’re on board with me so far, consider pointing our children and young people to the best example we have of humility and constructive anger. Jesus showed us what constructive anger looks like. He showed us humility. Jesus, the only innocent human being in history, died as a criminal so that criminals, you and I and our young people, might live as innocents.
Do have any other suggestions for how we respond to this tragedy in order to prevent others like it in the future? What other steps can we take?
Pray with me for the injured, the murdered victims, and their families. I do not know all their names as yet, but I will update this post as I learn them. Out of seven dead (six victims and the shooter), two confirmations of names I found are:
Veronika Weiss, who was 19 years old.
Katie Cooper, 22 years old.
Christopher Ross Michael-Martinez, 20 years old.