Colorado Shooting And Mental Illness

What is the main culprit? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Another shooting has taken place and I know the media went one way immediately and jumped to race. Well, that didn’t age well. While conservatives like myself disagree with them on that, too many times, conservatives will also say the other culprit that exists in these cases in their minds along with the media and that is mental illness.

I realize that the family is saying that the shooter (Let’s not mention his name) was mentally ill. They could be right, but that is not an assessment to be made lightly. Many of us have a problem, and rightly so, when someone claims to be an internet doctor where they diagnose themselves going on Web M.D. After all, you look up symptoms for a common cold and walk away thinking you have terminal cancer.

The same applies to mental illness. Diagnosing yourself is not recommended. One is supposed to go see a therapist or trained psychiatrist, someone professional, to get a diagnosis. It’s also not wise to diagnose someone from a distance. These are not light claims.

Yet whenever a shooting like this takes place, mental illness is brought up immediately. Why? Well, surely someone who would do a great evil like this is mentally ill. No one in their right mind would do this.

Why not?

People who have no mental illness do things that are wrong everyday. Sure, not to the level of a mass shooting, but they do evil and some do so with a clear conscience. I consider abortion a great evil and people go and get one in their right minds because they buy into the idea that they are not killing a human person.

Not only that, but we speak of mental illness as if it were a clear term all throughout. It’s not. Mental illness is a wide umbrella that contains many conditions under it. Consider if I said hospitals are for people who are sick. Okay. That doesn’t mean you need to go to the ER for the common cold despite that being a sickness. It’s more for people who have serious conditions like cancer or who need to do some serious operation.

The same with mental illness. Many people with mental illnesses would not do a great evil like this just like many regular people wouldn’t. Technically, I can be said to have a mental illness. Sure. I can struggle with anger many times and have my own evil I struggle with, but I am not a mass murderer.

So why do we do this? Because I don’t think we want to face the fact that people really can do great evil and do it in their right minds. That’s hard on all of us. You want to know in reality who does have the potential to be the next mass shooter?

Every single one of us.

None of us is immune to evil. Sure, some are more likely than others, but if we look at who committed the greatest evils in the past, it’s been perfectly ordinary people. Consider the Milgram experiments. Perfectly ordinary people were willing to give someone what they thought was 450 volts.

Perfectly. Ordinary. People.

Think about that. You could say that wouldn’t be you, but isn’t that what most people who did this in the experiments would have said? Now you could say all of those were the ones with mental illness, but that would be begging the question.

I really suspect none of us want to face the evil that is within us. How many people have had to go to therapy suddenly because just one day, they uncovered something in their past and it gave them extremely strong emotions at the time that were difficult to handle? All of us who are ordinary people have been greatly hurt at some time in the past and have to deal with it.

Let’s suppose I meet two men in my work in ministry in the church. Both of them want to avoid getting into sexual sin. One says that he is really strong against pornography and won’t fall into it. The other one is worried sick that he will. I am more concerned about the former one. My thinking is that the moment you think you cannot give in to a sin, you are far closer to giving in to it than you think.

The media will continue to make race an issue, but as one on the spectrum, I want to deal with mental illness here instead. People who are mentally ill are not automatically evil. They, or rather we, need some help at times just like everyone else does. We have our struggles. We are your neighbors. We go to church with you, shop with you, play games with you, marry you, and go out to eat with you.

We’re not all mass shooters just like not all normal people aren’t mass shooters. However, we all of us alike have the capacity of great evil in us. Let’s all confront that together instead of just mentioning one group specifically.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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