According to news reports, New Zealand police confirmed that a single attacker staged last week’s two shootings at Islamic mosques that killed 50 people in Christchurch, the worst mass-shooting event in that nation’s history. Law enforcement officials there charged a 28-year-old Australian suspect with murder.
Immediately global pundits and analysts stumbled over one another to rationalize that which is largely irrational to the secular mind, which are some of the seemingly random acts of mass murder and terrorism which are occurring at an all too common rate in our world.
Wasn’t this shooter a deranged or mentally insane racist? Could it have been a too liberal gun policy in that province? After all, the prevailing wisdom in mainstream media is that guns in and of themselves murder millions.
The killer posted an 87-page white supremacist manifesto online describing his motives. Interestingly enough, a gun store owner in the city, confirmed his shop sold the shooter four of the five guns used in the attack through a “police-verified online mail order process.” The order did not include any military grade semi-automatic weapons.
In other words, the assassin legally purchased his weapons as any another citizen could there, yet New Zealand’s Prime Minister said the government will provide more details on proposed gun law reforms within 10 days of the attack as if that will be the magic pill solution to such violence.
Perhaps this terrorist type attack could be blamed on a dysfunctional, upbringing and environment in which racism may have been fostered in his home and heart? While not dismissing the reality that such sociological factors play a role in such events, once again a more fundamental two-fold source is overlooked.
One, simply being the reality of evil existing in the heart of every unredeemed individual on the face of the earth, making them all capable of such not so random acts of violence, given providence and the proper circumstances and influences. However, that concept is too loathsome for the modern, secular and humanist mind to seriously consider.
Second, and as to the later cause, is one’s final source of authority. Where are murderers going to, or coming from, as to the predominant source of what they think and may do?
During the attack, the terrorist in New Zealand, livestreamed a video of his murders on Facebook. He also posted a link to his white nationalist manifesto online. In the document, under the heading “From where did you receive/research/develop your beliefs?” the murderer responds, “The internet, of course. You will not find the truth anywhere else.”
That is a frightening thought for more than one reason, though it is not uncommon for terrorists to release a rambling, barely coherent manifesto. While experts deem it usually wise to ignore them – since they only feed the murderer’s desire for attention, the document left by this shooter (whose name is better left omitted) may be worth examining, as to the insights his source may provide law enforcement to help deter or lessen such acts of terrorism in the future.
The New Zealand shooter is an extreme example of an increasingly common disaffected if not depressed person—mostly young men, (see Nicklas Cruz of the Stoneman Douglas shooting here in South Florida) whose worldview is shaped largely by an evil online culture.
In fact, one local police official in my community, warned church leaders at a seminar on Active Shooter Safety, that many mass or “active” shooters are motivated to surpass the ‘body-counts’ or casualties of prior mass murderers with a yearning to be part of a rogues gallery of evil and often use social media to predict, preview and legitimize their actions.
Some analysts are calling this, ‘terrorist trolling.’ The Oxford Dictionary defines “trolling” as making a deliberately offensive or provocative online post with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response. One commentator noted that “Trolling is commonly found in almost every area where people congregate online. But for many lost young men—a group that includes more than just white nationalists—trolling has become almost a way of life.”
It is reasoned that just as some children crave attention so much they exhibit inappropriate behaviors to gain attention from their parents, thousands of young men spend their days and nights trying to gain some sort of validation by trolling people online. This is why the internet is flooded with works, such as hate-filled memes, that are used not to persuade but to annoy. As the New Zealand shooter said, “Create memes, post memes, and spread memes. Memes have done more for the ethno-nationalist movement than any manifesto.”
The mass-murderer’s authority or main source of immorality and ethics has become largely driven by internet trolling and searching for meaning and notoriety by evil – online.
At this point, the biblically minded Christian, holding to a scriptural worldview, understands that God’s word alone is his or hers’ ultimate authority of meaning in life as well as our guide for the faith and practice of the born-again follower of Jesus Christ, as the apostle Paul taught Timothy and the church:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17, ESV).
We must remind the world beginning in our own communities that the Bible has the authority and the power to change lives, to bring people to God by reconciliation and redemption that comes through salvation.
The Bible is God’s revealed and specific word to a lost and dying humanity, not a mere source of interesting history and information. It is ‘sharper than any two-edged sword’, and according to Jesus is the truth that sets sinners free (John 8).
This is why as Psalm 19:10 says, the scriptures are, “More to be desired than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
Cultural observers are coming to find that none of the shooter’s trans-political views fits together or makes sense—they are all over the ideological map. The troll may or may not actually believe what he says. It is likely he may not even know himself, much less as an image-bearer of God.
The main idea of distancing one’s “true” self from one’s online persona is part and parcel of the social media universe. Online “posing”, lies in its origins. Ask Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for his initial inspiration in creating that app.
The only meaningful and permanent source of, and force of good that can combat mass-murder and terrorism, and any other demonically inspired influence to corrupt young and misguided souls looking for a sense of belonging and connection, is to connect such a person to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only the person and work of Christ has the ability to transform a life on the edge of such evil.