Before writing about a school shooting in my novel, Forlorn, I did a lot of research on past shootings, read media profiles of the shooters, watched endless movies and YouTube videos and read books concerning the psychology of mass murderers. Everyone has an opinion about what causes a kid to go berserk: lax gun laws, bullying, mental illness, psychopathy, “toxic masculinity,” white supremacy, the list is endless. Few if any mention demons (except in the most metaphorical sense), and probably with good reason. Start talking about demons and people begin to think you’re the crazy one.
But that’s exactly what I was most interested in. Could there be, I wondered, a spiritual aspect to these horrific events? For while many of the explanations for why young men open fire on innocent children go some of the way in helping us understand what we’re dealing with, we fail to name the elephant in the room: pure, unadulterated evil.
Evil is a concept that has been whitewashed by modern psychology. Evil doesn’t exist. There are only “pathologies.” I watched an interview Diane Sawyer did with the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters. At one point Diane asked, “Do you believe in evil?” Mrs. Klebold said, “No. I don’t think I do.” Later on, an FBI profiler says, “We don’t use the word evil. That’s a spiritual term.”
God is Dead
We live in an age that posits a primarily naturalistic worldview, which is basically nihilistic. God is dead. All that exists are matter and energy. Nothing means anything. There is no intrinsic morality, therefore anything is permissible.
Have you read Ready, Player One?
Friedrich Nietzsche addressed the problem of nihilism on the heels of Darwin’s theory of evolution, which led the philosopher to conclude that God did not exist, therefore nothing had intrinsic value. It was God who created the world and said, “It is good.” But if He didn’t, then it isn’t. Nietzsche conceded that this worldview would lead to passivity and depression. After all, what is there to look forward to in living a life that has no purpose?
But Nietzsche offered a solution to the problem: don’t be depressed. Be empowered.
There is no God, there is only Will. And what does the Will desire? Freedom. No rules but my rules. Power.
And this is what every murderer seeks.
The Will to Power
The idea of the will to power (however misused) was hugely attractive to murderous dictators. In the wake of Nietzsche and Darwin, the intellectual offspring of the so-called Enlightenment, Stalin, Hitler and Mao murdered over 100 million people. Stalin was rather covert in his appropriation of Niezschian principles, but Hitler’s concept of the superior race was lifted straight from Nietzsche’s “Superman,” as well as Darwin’s “Origin of the Species: Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. (Most people don’t know the full title of this work, and therefore miss its racial overtones.) Hitler’s propaganda film was titled, appropriately, The Triumph of the Will.
This is the calling card of Satan.
You don’t have to be a Satanist to embrace Satan. Nietzsche certainly didn’t believe in Satan anymore than he believed in God. Stalin, Hitler and Mao were all atheists. Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, didn’t believe in Satan as a supernatural entity but rather an extension of the consciousness (or so he claimed). Even the founder of the Satanic Temple insists he doesn’t believe in Satan. All you have to do is reject God and you are doing Satan’s work.
Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matt 12:30)
We live in a culture that has by and large rejected God. Oh, we mention Him sometimes (usually when we’re swearing). We make fun of religious people, or we point to radical Islam or the Christian Right and say, “Religion is the problem.” We say, “our prayers are with you” on Twitter, even though we don’t really mean it. This generation is the most anti-religious in history. Is it any wonder there is now a proliferation of children who believe they are supermen, with the freedom to assert their will over all others?
Kinda like what Satan did when he led a rebellion against God. Or Adam and Eve, when they ate of the forbidden fruit in order to become gods themselves.
The Culture of Death
The Columbine shooters hated many things, including everyone in the world. But most especially, they hated God. They wrote about their hatred for God incessantly in their journals and they asked many of their victims if they believed in God before shooting them. They’ve inspired a generation of mass shooters who worship them like gods (exactly what they wanted.)
Many other shooters have targeted Christians in their rampages, though not all, certainly. Most are professed atheists or have no religious affiliation whatsoever. They are their own gods. (Some attended church with their families, but lots of people go to church and even sing in the choir. This doesn’t mean they had any real faith.) All were loners, obsessed with violent movies, video games, and heavy metal music. A few experienced bullying (who hasn’t?) and abuse, but many came from loving, two-parent homes. They all have a fascination with death and firearms. A few were diagnosed with mental illness, though it should be pointed out that therapies and drugs did little good. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that psychotropic drugs might be a contributing factor to violent behavior.
Kip Kinkle was a fifteen-year old from a loving family who killed his parents and then went on a rampage at his school, killing two students and injuring dozens. This was a year before Columbine. Kinkle was also a professed atheist. There is a chilling moment during his interview with police, where he cries out, clearly in torment: “My head just doesn’t work right. God damn these VOICES inside my head. … I have to kill people. I don’t know why. … I have no other choice.”
A psychologist who examined Kip after his arrest said he “believed that Kip murdered his parents and opened fired on fellow students the next day (killing two and injuring 25) under the influence of these hallucinatory voices. He described Kip recounting the voices to him: “‘My Dad was sitting at the bar [in the kitchen]. The voices said, ‘Shoot him.’ I had no choice. The voices said I had no choice.’ and later, after he killed his mother, ‘The voices said, ‘Go to school and kill everybody. Look what you’ve already done.'” During cross-examination, Bolstad stated categorically, “I think the primary thing that was operating in his feeling and need to kill … were the voices.”
Anyone who knows about demonism knows about those voices.
The Power of Music
Interestingly, Kinkle carried out the murder of his parents while playing “Liebestod” from Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde very loudly on the home stereo. Wagner was a huge favorite of both Nietzsche and Hitler. (Hitler used Wagner’s “Rienzi” overture as the musical theme for his rallies.) Nietzsche was a gifted musician. He could play the piano by ear. He idolized Wagner, who was, in turn, a great admirer of Nietzsche’s work. Both shared the nihilistic worldview put forth initially by Schopenhauer:
Schopenhauer viewed life as essentially tragic, stressed the value of the arts in helping human beings cope with the miseries of existence, and accorded pride of place to music as the purest expression of the ceaselessly striving Will that underlay the world of appearances and constituted the inner essence of the world.
A hundred years later, a boy listens to Wagner’s music before going on a murder spree.
No, I am not saying that listening to Wagner or even Marilyn Manson (Kinkle’s favorite) will lead you to commit murder. But then again, none of these murderers were listening to Michael W. Smith or the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir either.
Violent music, art, comics, video games, and movies are all products of a nihilistic, no-rules-but-my-rules culture that despises the idea of God. They seem to have significant influence on the majority of these young killers, yet any attempt to talk about this issue is met with derision by the media.
We kicked God out of schools a long time ago. But we didn’t kick out Satan.
Forsaken, the sequel to Forlorn coming out in September, delves into the dark side of music. Music has power, there is no question. For good and evil. Marz, a rapper turned evangelist, puts it this way: “If a commercial during the Super Bowl is so effective at implanting and manipulating our desires that corporations spend millions of dollars for that 30 second spot, how much are we being subconsciously manipulated and programmed by the music we listen to for hours, weeks, months and years?”
Marz should know. He had been on world tours with bands like Insane Clown Posse and Korn, steeped in the dark world of drugs, alcohol, hedonism and witchcraft. One day he accepted Jesus and everything changed. “It was like blinders fell off of my eyes. I was seeing for the first time what my lyrics were — how I was speaking poison into the hearts and minds of the crowds at the shows.”
(Marz quit the music industry for a time, but has since returned with new music celebrating and glorifying God. Check it out. I’m excited that he is going to perform at the launch party for Forsaken — September 15, 2018 at The HUB in Hamburg, New York.)
No Good Reason
When a mass shooter attacks, everyone, including me, wants to know why. The hard thing to accept is that in most cases, there is no good reason. The Las Vegas shooter was an older, well-off man with no known history of mental illness, or religious or political affiliation. The worst thing anyone could say about him was that he was “germophobe.”
Why did he do it? Maybe just because he could.
When a person rejects God, whether consciously or not, then the door is open to any sort of behavior, because there is no moral framework. You can be a good person, but then again, you don’t have to be. Because there is no such thing as good, anyway.
This is called a lie. And lies are what Satan is all about.
1 Peter 5:8 says that the devil is like a “roaring lion who prowls around seeking someone to devour.” And who do lions prey upon? The weakest, the youngest, the most vulnerable of the herd. Our youth are definitely at risk. But we ignore the spiritual battle for their souls at our own peril.