Sunday, October 4, 2015

Death and Decisions in Oregon

Nine people died last Thursday, at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. A little while later, their killer also died:
  • Lucero Alcaraz, 19
  • Treven Taylor Anspach, 20
  • Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18
  • Quinn Glen Cooper, 18
  • Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59
  • Lucas Eibel, 18
  • Jason Dale Johnson, 33
  • Lawrence Levine, 67 (teacher)
  • Sarena Dawn Moore, 44
  • the killer, 26
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said that he was not going to use the killer's name, since one of the killer's goals was almost certainly to gain notoriety. (BBC News)

I think that is probably a good idea. What I have to say doesn't require the killer's name.

Being Christian

It's early days, but this mass killing seems to have at least one motive. The killer apparently did not like, or perhaps did not approve of, Christians.
"...Earlier, Stacy Boylan, whose daughter survived the shooting, told US television network CNN that his daughter described to him how the gunman asked his victims to state their religion before shooting them.

" ' "Are you a Christian?" he would ask them, "and if you are a Christian stand up," ' the father recalled.

"Mr Boylan said the gunman told the victims: 'because you're a Christian you're going to see God in just about one second'...."
(BBC News)
He also seems to have been dissatisfied with his social life, and wasn't particularly happy when he started killing people.1

Feelings aren't an excuse, though. Murder, deliberately killing an innocent person, is a bad idea, and we shouldn't do it. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258, 2268-2283)

Human life is sacred: all human life, including the killer's. We are all people, with equal dignity: no matter where we are, who we are, or how we act. (Catechism, 360, 1700-1706, 1932-1933, 1935)

That is why I mourn the killer's death — and the other deaths.

From Mr. Boylan's account, and survivor Kortney Moore's increasingly-edited one,2 I gather that some victims had to make a quick decision on Thursday.

They apparently had the opportunity to survive, or to acknowledge that they were Christians: and decided that Truth was more important than continued life. (Catechism, 2473)

They weren't the first folks who decided that following our Lord was more important than getting along with someone holding a weapon. I'm quite certain that they won't be the last. This sort of thing as been happening for about two millennia.

We still celebrate Stephen's decision, as part of the Christmas season. (Angelus, Feast of Saint Stephen, Pope Francis (December 26, 2013))
"They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.

"As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' 5

"Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them'; and when he said this, he fell asleep."
(Acts 7:58-60)
Saul shows up again, a few chapters later. After that interview, he was re-named Paul, and that's another topic. (Acts 9:3)

Giving us opportunities for martyrdom was state policy in the Roman Empire, off and on, from about 64 to 313. (Catechism, 1173, 2113; Anti-Christian policies in the Roman Empire, Wikipedia)

Eventually, folks started wondering why so many Christians preferred death to getting along. Pretty much the same thing has been happening in other hot spots ever since, and that's yet another topic.


Inevitably, politicos have started using this mass killing as an example of how they're right about something — generally involving guns.1

That adds to the list of things I'm not looking forward to in America's upcoming presidential election.

Politics are, I think, inevitable in a situation like this: including those of the now-deceased killer.

On an online profile that might be his, "...he listed hobbies including the internet and 'killing zombies', described his politics as 'conservative, republican' and said he was spiritual but not religious...."1

That 'not religious, but spiritual' description was linked to a group called 'doesn't like organized religion.' (NBC News)1

This, I suppose, is where I could start ranting. I won't. Like I said a few years back:
I'm reasonably certain that every largish group of people — conservatives, liberals, pinochle players, whatever — has a few crazies. That does not mean that we need a national registry of known pinochle players.

I'm also reasonably certain that every largish group is not composed entirely of perfect people who couldn't possibly have a naughty thought. That's certainly true of folks associated with "organized religion." (September 6, 2015)

I'm disappointed, but not dismayed, when one of my fellow-Christians does something daft. I'm not following them. We're all following the Man who wouldn't stay dead, and that's yet again another topic. (April 5, 2015; March 11, 2012)

Sin and Love

I talked about the Catholic take on original sin and free will last week. Also a mechanical duck. (September 27, 2015)

Sin is what happens when I decide that I'll do something I know is bad for myself, or others; and do it anyway: or decide to not do something I should. It's an offense against reason and truth: and God. (Catechism, 1849-1864)

Putting it more positively, avoiding sin means loving: God, my neighbor, and myself. My 'neighborhood' includes everybody — friends, folks I'll never meet, and enemies. Everybody. (Matthew 5:21-22, 44; Luke 10:25-27, 29-37; Catechism, 1789, 2302-2306)

It is not easy, since some folks are not at all lovable. But I must try. (September 27, 2015; July 12, 2015)


As I keep saying, love isn't approval. (September 11, 2015; September 6, 2015; March 15, 2015)

Life might be simpler if I split humanity into 'good' people whose attitudes and behavior appealed to me, and 'bad' people who rubbed me the wrong way.

That way lies the 'Holy Willie' version of virtue: which is a very bad idea. (March 22, 2015; July 27, 2014)

Our Lord was quite clear about what our attitude toward others should be:
"27 'You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy."

"But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,

"that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust."
(Matthew 5:43-45)
That last bit, "that you may be children of your heavenly Father," brings up the best news humanity's ever had: God loves us, and wants to adopt us. (John 3:17; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 52, 1825)

There's a catch, sort of. As adopted children of God, we're expected to reflect God's love for us: and everybody else. That may mean acknowledging that what someone does is wrong, and trying to help that person understand — which is not the same as heaping abuse on 'sinners.' At all.
"...judging others leads us to hypocrisy ... a person who judges gets it wrong...because he takes the place of God, who is the only judge: taking that place is taking the wrong place!..."
(Francis I)

"...although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God."
(Catechism, 1861)

"Stop judging, that you may not be judged."
(Jesus, in Matthew 7:1)
Finally, I think there are a lot of hurting people in Roseburg. No pressure: but prayer couldn't hurt.

More about love, hate, and getting a grip:

1 From the news:

(From Getty Images, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
("A vigil was held in a Roseburg park on Thursday evening"
(BBC News))
"Oregon college shooting: Gunman 'targeted Christians' "
BBC News (October 2, 2015)

"The gunman who killed nine people and wounded seven others in Oregon had targeted Christians, the father of one of the victims says....

"...Earlier, Stacy Boylan, whose daughter survived the shooting, told US television network CNN that his daughter described to him how the gunman asked his victims to state their religion before shooting them.

" ' "Are you a Christian?" he would ask them, "and if you are a Christian stand up," ' the father recalled.

"Mr Boylan said the gunman told the victims: 'because you're a Christian you're going to see God in just about one second'.

"Another student who survived the shooting, Kortney Moore, gave a similar account to a local newspaper, The News-Review....

"...In an online profile appearing to belong to the gunman, he listed hobbies including the internet and 'killing zombies', described his politics as 'conservative, republican' and said he was spiritual but not religious...."

"...A man listing the same birthday — and whose photo strongly resembles Mercer — also held a profile on a dating and penpal site for 'spiritual singles' that listed Los Angeles as his location.

" 'Looking for someone who shares my beliefs, and is similar to me,' the profile says, listing 'Internet, killing zombies, movies, music' and reading among hobbies and interests.

"The profile describes 'not religious, but spiritual' beliefs and was linked to a group called 'doesn't like organized religion.'..."
(Cassandra Vinograd, Pete Williams, Andrew Blankstein, Tom Winter; NBC News)

"The 26-year-old gunman in the deadly shooting spree in southern Oregon is believed to have left behind a document that glorified mass killings and bitterly referred to his lonely existence with few human contacts outside the Internet, a law enforcement official said Friday...."
(Trevor Hughes, Kevin Johnson; USA TODAY)
2 The anti-Christian aspect of this mass killing leaked into local news media, but I suspect most of us would never have learned about it without today's largely-unregulated and unmanaged social media.

The local/regional paper's current (as of Saturday, October 3, 2015) online version is rather low-key. That could be because follow-up investigation determined that Kortney Moore's account had been misquoted at first — or someone realized that reporting of Christians as victims would violate editorial policy, or maybe something else.

I really don't know:
"Oregon Shooting Report Taken From Local Paper"
The lack of credit was unintentional, a spokeswoman says.
Michael Calderone, The Huffington Post (October 1, 2015)

"The New York Times briefly removed a report Thursday describing how the Umpqua Community College gunman ordered people to stand up and state their religion, a brief story that had already been picked up by several news outlets and spread across social media.

"Fox News anchor Shep Smith read from the Times story on-air during his network's coverage of the shooting, but later noted in the broadcast that it was pulled from he Times' website.

"The Times' republished article now acknowledges the student's account of the shooting had been provided to "a local newspaper" and links to The News-Review of Roseburg, Oregon.

"A Times spokeswoman said the lack of attribution was not intentional and noted the article now links to the original source...."

"UCC SHOOTING RAMPAGE: At least 10 reported dead including shooter"
Ian Campbell, NRToday (October 1, 2015)

"...Kortney Moore, 18, from Rogue River, was in her Writing 115 class in Snyder Hall when one shot came through a window. She saw her teacher get shot in the head. The shooter was inside at that point, and he told people to get on the ground. The shooter was asking people to stand up and state their religion and then started firing away, Moore said. Moore was lying there with people who had been shot...."

On the whole, I prefer today's "cultural chaos" to the comparatively well-managed society of my youth:


John Launder said...

Another in the line of unending tragedies that would make you weep and leave Our Lord shaking his head.

Brian Gill said...

Indeed, John Launder: although I think that eventually this world's tragedies will end - and that we have reasonable hope.

Meanwhile, we have work to do. ("Neighbors, Love, and Upping the Ante:" - - - and the Long Haul (October 26, 2014))

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.