“He was very angry…”
So said a little girl who managed to escape the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Two more murder-suicides by angry young men have happened in the U.S. in the last week. This time close to home in a mall where I held my first job and in a small affluent town in Connecticut. My thoughts are that these tragic stories that have become a trend of the last decade since Columbine High always seem to have one thing in common: they are young men, and they are mad.
It may be unprecedented that this style of behavior is happening all over the place and there seems to be relatively little documentation (as of 2012) on the idea of people going on killing sprees and then killing themselves for no apparent reason. When a man murders to get revenge or to steal something, we get it. When a man goes on a premeditated killing spree of people he doesn’t know just for the sake of killing and then shooting himself, no one gets it. History doesn’t seem to have much to say to this sort of thing.
Are the men of our times going mad?
The Scientific American, in an article released in April of 2010, has the following to say:
In 1995 the late psychologist David Lykken of the University of Minnesota wrote that if we could magically place all boys and men between the ages of 12 and 28 in a cryogenic freeze, we would slash the rate of violent crime by two-thirds. The data bear out Lykken’s thought experiment. In the U.S., the rate of violent crime for girls and women aged 10 and older is one in 56; the corresponding figure among their male counterparts is one in nine. Men commit close to 90 percent of the murders in the U.S. and more murders than women in all the countries researchers have examined, according to a 1999 report by psychologist Anne Campbell of Durham University in England. (Arkowitz, 2010)
So what is going on in the American male world anyway?
There is another peculiar piece to add to the puzzle. The Journal of Criminal Justice has the following to say:
Whereas murderer–suicides were found to be highly depressed and overwhelmingly men… (Wormer, 1999)
So it would seem like this is a ‘disease’ that is beginning to spread (and it is definitely spreading) and young men in the United States are the ones most vulnerable to it. Has anyone considered these facts?
I have so far not seen any significant material that rationally addresses this clear pattern. I have also yet to find similar stories taking place in other countries. It used to be that a mad, deranged man might become an infamous serial killer or rapist. But now it’s angry, highly depressed young American boys who feel so torn inside by their world (which they have only just begun to experience) that are being led to believe that not only is their own life utterly worthless but the lives of their fellow humans as well and that the best thing they can do is destroy it all. Age, race, and gender make no difference to them. Pointedly, and I believe not insignificantly, Christians do seem to make a difference to them as they are repeatedly singled out in these tragic events. It is a sinful anger that takes its full course, all self-control lost. Anger at life itself.
Not four days had passed after the Clackamas Town Center shootings when another murder-suicide killing spree shook the nation nearly to its knees. This one forced even the President of the United States to make a statement. There’s nothing unusual about lots of people being murdered or killed in this world. But when it is a matter of many young boys finally driven to the point of believing that the entire human race is their enemy that they must kill all—women, children, and even babies–and so plan out a way to take as many human lives as possible before going out themselves, that says something very, very loud about the sociocultural world they come from. The pain the nation feels is from seeing the reality of what is essentially self-inflicted terrorism. Talk always arises of “mental illness”, “psychological problems” and other explanations which speak to little more than defective brain cells. But the macro-view of this trend in random murder-suicide sprees by loner 20-year old boys shows just that: a pattern. I, for one, can’t see it as just a random disorder. Obviously it’s not entirely consistent, but the trend appears to be happening around the world as we saw today in China as well. What did these knife-wielding men in China have to do with their victims? Nothing. Except for the fact that they were human, and they were vulnerable. It’s much more than mental illness that’s causing these horrific episodes. It is a total contempt for life. If these young boys committing these atrocities had weapons of mass destruction in their hands, I don’t think anyone of us would question what they would have done.
Since I am one to enjoy studying socioeconomic, and sociocultural topics around the world, I couldn’t resist running a search on comparative depression statistics around the world. France and the U.S. are the number one depressed countries in the world (Have you noticed the prevalence of anti-depression drug commercials lately? Yes there is a lot of money to be made here…). A 2011 BMC Medicine Study found that the two most ‘depressed’ countries were France, with a 21 percent prevalence, and the U.S., with a 19 percent prevalence. And research has, in fact, suggested depression as an illness of affluence.
So with a small look into the confounding situation of murder-suicide by young males going mad we find a pattern of affluence, wealthy nations with bad income disparity, depression, and males between the age of 12 and 28 going mad. Many common denominators, but it still fails to make sense.
Sons of Destruction
The last common denominator–males between 12 and 28 (the age of the male gunman in the Clackamas shooting was 22)–is a significant fact. Our sons of this generation make up the most fatherless generation in the history of this nation. 1/3 of our kids are without their fathers. According to Wade Horn, a Ph.D. and Assistant Secretary for Children and Families with the US Department of Health and Human Services,
Perhaps most tragically of all, children who grow up fatherless also are more likely to commit suicide than those who grow up in a home with both their mother and father.
What seems clear is that children growing up without their father in the home face an increased risk of developing significant problems. This does not mean that all children who grow up in fatherless homes will encounter problems. Indeed, many of them will do just fine. But research indicates that fatherless children face more obstacles than those who grow up with both a mom and a dad, and are at greater risk for a host of developmental problems. (Horn, 2004)
Anger is one of those developmental problems that occur in most children without a dad present in their lives. For sons in particular, that anger is often channeled into aggression and violent behavior. In extreme cases these sons are driven to mass-killing and suicide. All of these young lads who have gone on rampages killing total strangers and children mercilessly have come from turbulent homes with father not around or otherwise disconnected and unavailable. This is not to lay blame on these fathers. Rather it is to emphasize that powerful influence that a dad has on his children’s emotional life. The children have not known love or failed to recognize it. Their peers ignored them and “let them alone”. They became lonely. No one ever reached out to them. They became social outcasts. Mom tried her best but it means nothing to an angry boy. The kingdom of hell finally gets its grip on him and he obeys a powerful force beyond himself. There is no hesistation or second-guessing but an evil plan executed without repentance. And the rest is history.
Dad: The Path out of the Hell Hole
In a sense, we’re all to blame for the loss of our sons to destructive ways. We did not reach out to them when we should have. We were too absorbed in ourselves to bother with a hurting, torn young teenage boy with no identity in the world. We closed the door of life and all it has to offer in their faces by calling them weird, laughing at them, bullying them, and worst of all ignoring them. All they needed to know was Love.
Foremost however is the absence of the father and I believe that the only answer to this murder-suicide trend unfolding in our world today is to turn this principle human relationship around in the right direction. Darkness is getting a hold of our boys, and we need to get them back. Dad is the means by which value is instilled into the hearts of children. Jesus was the only teacher who taught us that we have a hard time recognizing just how valuable we are (Matt. 10:29-31). And it’s a value that is placed on each of us by the Dad of all dads: the very hairs of your head are numbered by him. Our society continues to rack it’s brain over the cause, especially as it’s an unprecedented problem. But there is another unprecedented problem unfolding in our time and I believe there is a direct correlation: a fatherless culture.
God has a very strong mandate in regards to this issue:
He will turn the hearts of the fathers [wisdom of the just] to their sons [the sons of disobedience], and the hearts of the sons to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” Malachi 4:6 NASB
The instantaneous reaction of our society to such tragedies has been to completely acquit itself of any and all responsibility whatsoever. That will never, ever solve the problem. A loving, healthy society takes responsibility for its children. Love will not just stand by while that which is loved destroys itself. God is so serious about the father-son relationship that he will take tough action if that relationship has been compromised to epidemic proportions. It’s his form of divine correction. It shows his deep and abiding connection with all of life. Is not seeing our “kids killing our kids” cursed enough to make us reconsider our ways? I hope so, for if it isn’t it’s only going to get worse until we do. Hope will come soon…
Arkowitz, et. al. (2010, 04). Are Men the More Belligerent Sex?. Scientific American. Retrieved 12, 2012, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-men-the-more-belligerent-sex
Horn, W. (2004, 03). My Family Story. World Congress of Families III. Retrieved 12, 2012, from http://worldcongress.org/wcf3_spkrs/wcf3_horn.htm
Wormer, K.; Odiah, C. (1999). “The psychology of suicide-murder and the death penalty”. Journal of Criminal Justice 27 (4): 361–370.
Cevallos, (2011, 07). Depression higher in wealthy nations, research suggests. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12, 2012, from http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/26/news/la-heb-depression-wealthy-countries-20110726
Bromet, E., et. al. (2011). Cross-national epidemiology of DSM-IV major depressive episode. BMC Medicine, 9 (90). doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-90