IDEMA: Why are there so many mass murders?

Since 1982, there have been 61 mass murders in America. Those murders have happened in 30 states, and most of the guns used in these murders were bought legally.
Dec 19, 2012


Our country is more violent than almost every nation on Earth.

Issues such as whether schools should have an armed person on the premises, whether assault weapons should be banned or restricted with thorough background checks, and the amount of money we spend on mental health support versus, for example, the military, will be debated — at least for a few days.

My perspective here — and I am writing a day after Adam Lanza did the unspeakable in Connecticut, slaughtering children and their adult protectors — is something else: the spiritual climate in our nation.  

Why is it that so many young people, dressed in black and armed to the teeth, target schools? Why are there so many angry young men out there? There do not seem to be women mass murders, or old people.

I think that a number of factors come into play here. 

Many young people grow up in homes without two parents, or parents that are away much of the time simply to make ends meet. Many homes are not like the homes dreamed of in the wonderful Christmas song, "I'll Be Home for Christmas." That song was written during World War II, and expressed the longings of weary soldiers who dreamed of home, snow, mistletoe and being with loved ones — even if that only remained a warm fantasy on the battlefield. How many people have such homes in reality? Sounds like Adam Lanza was lacking such a home.

Our hearts and minds are largely shaped by our childhood experiences. A warm, loving home gives us a fighting chance to face a harsh, cruel world in adulthood. But many young people today do not have such a loving home depicted, perhaps sentimentally, in Norman Rockwell's paintings. 

We love the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," because of its beautiful ending — with an intact family singing "Auld Lang Syne" in front of the Christmas tree — but most of the movie is about how a family was shattered by economic difficulties. Hollywood and Frank Capra gave us a happy ending. Too many families suffer the depression and even suicide arising from a financial crisis, just as George Bailey experienced, along with his family, in the movie.

Depression and anger are flip sides of the same coin, according to psychoanalytic theory. When depression turns into rage, that rage may be directed at the self, and a suicide may occur (e.g., George Bailey standing on the bridge about to kill himself). That rage may be directed outward (e.g., George Bailey slugging people in the bar before running to the bridge). After mass murderers project their anger out at others with deadly force, then usually they again turn their rage against themselves.

Depression plagues our society. Families are too often broken apart. People — especially young people — all too often do not have a church where they find love and community. Too many schools fail our kids, due in part to lack of resources. So, kids turn to Facebook, Twitter, television, films, etc., to find connection — but the rewards in love and warmth here are sadly lacking

We live in a celebrity-crazed culture, where mass murders know their deeds of evil will be covered 24/7. Does that contribute to the motivations of killers, knowing they will have notoriety? I found it disgusting that the media seemed to be making money from tragedy by inserting commercials for soap, reverse mortgages and drugs in the midst of showing people with heart-wrenching grief.

My last point is that we have confused mental illness with evil. If a person knows the difference between right and wrong, a court's criterion, then a person is choosing evil when killing others. He may very well be suffering from depression and anger, and undoubtedly should be under the care of a mental health professional, but let's not underestimate our capacity for evil. 

Genesis 6:5-6 says: "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart."

Perhaps that is how God still feels after all these recent mass murders.

We need more money put into mental health, we need better recognition of depressed angry kids, we need stronger families and churches and tighter communities, we need to make all people feel that they are loved and belong, we need greater compassion and empathy for each other. We don't slaughter people whose shoes we walk in. 

Our traditions, such as Christmas, have been watered down and commercialized to the point that we forget that Christmas is about God sending His son into the world to heal us and to show us the way to overcome violence, hatred and all the dark forces lurking in the recesses of the human heart.

All our great religious traditions — and especially Christianity — teach us that God has to be at the center of our universe, not the self. And that love of others is more important than all other moral principles. 

We don't murder those we love.

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune religion columnist



Your column, Rev Idema, highlights perhaps the greatest failing of our country. Some thoughts:

America has a deep and entrenched gun culture. The glorification of guns and violence permeates society - it's seen in our video games, movies, cartoons, TV, books, language. America is #1 in the world in assault weapons of mass destruction ownership. It is #1 among high income countries with the highest number of gun homicides, the number of guns per capita, and the highest rate of death due to assault weapons. In fact, America has more homicides by guns than all other high-income countries combined.

At the same time, the transformation of America's power structure is accelerating. Minorities are becoming majorities. There is greater access to information by the masses. The power of corporate control is growing. There is a decline in the role of religion in the social order.

Many - especially white males, and even more so, young white males, according to statistics - justify the need for lethal assault weapons as a safeguard against criminals, but it could be argued that these weapons are needed to combat the deep and pervading feelings of alienation and the much deeper threat to their power and privilege.

For those suffering with mental illness and/ or other mental disorders, a perfect storm of a violent culture, a society with current guns laws and attitudes that enables gun violence, and an overwhelming feeling of alienation and loss of power and privilege, of losing their bearings in a sea of insecurity, the white heat of anger and loss of all perspective that seems to take over leads to these killings with easily obtained weapons of mass destruction.

Not only do the victims and their families and friends, the survivors, and the lost souls of the perpetrators suffer for it, all of us in our society suffer for it one way or another.


"America is #1 in the world in assault weapons of mass destruction ownership."

Tell me, oh wise one, are these semi-automatic guns (same as those used by Roy Rogers as far as semi-automatic) now equipped with Sarin Gas, Mustard Gas, Anthrax, or hydrogen or nuclear accoutrements?

This liberal twaddle is over the top even for you. Of course, the cause couldn't be white males being feminized or discriminated against - only the loss of power and privilege.



Forget the guns, it is the use of antidepressant medications that lead to these type of of mass murders. There are numerous examples of people who have gone off on a shooting rampage and killed their classmates, their co-workers, members of their family and often took their own lives, then it was shortly discovered that they were taking an antidepressant. The apparency is that the person was mentally ill and went on a rage but when these cases have actually been looked at closer, what we find is that the person did not have any violent tendencies and in most cases was not even suicidal before they started treatment with their antidepressant medication.SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are the pharmaceutical companies latest cash cows. Their use has skyrocketed in the last ten years. Nicknamed “Chemical Babysitters” and designated anti depressants, they are causing dozens of murders, thousands of psychoses and are altering the minds of millions of users. All but a very few of the latest “Mass Murderers” have been on these drugs. Schools encourage parents to put their children on these drugs for the smallest signs of “non conformity”. Schools receive more money for “disabled” students. Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil are killing the youth in the US today

Walking Alive

I wonder, with your expertise on drugs, are the kids on these drugs labeled as "disabled" on some form the school uses to receive money so they get more, per your inane statement? Let's take everyone off anti-depressants and see how that works out for you. I say open up the mental institutions again (closed by Regan), forget their stinking 'rights' and lock them up for their protection and everyone's and DRUG THEM. I am serious.

Just a thought...if the mother had not been such a gun enthusiast and so militant toward the school, would the victims still be alive? The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.


Exatly Sirhansalot. Add a dose of enept parenting or none at all and this is what we get. Social workers and Therapist are not exempt from this melt they're the ones promoting and writing these SSRI prescriptions more than doctors. Toss in 60 years of liberal control on our education system and social programs and it becomes the perfect storm in what we are now experiencing today.

deuce liti

Typical that a trinitarian "christain" wouldn't get it.

Here's the answer that no one will like:

2 Timothy 3:1But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self‐assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal,3having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self‐control, fierce, without love of goodness,4betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God,5having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.


What is a trinitarian "christain" and who are you applying that label too??


Let's try that again.....What is a trinitarian "christain" and to whom are you applying that label??

Wayne Justinen

Canada, with gun laws touted as being a model for America to follow, has an almost identical rate of deaths in school shootings. One tenth the population and one tenth the casualty count.

Canadian law provides for an individual to carry a pistol to protect life, but still requires an applicant to demonstrate need. As with all jurisdictions which still have this archaic provision the result is that many are left defenseless in the face of deadly attack.

Unfortunately, the next school shooting will follow the same pattern as all that came before:

Suicidal killer starts killing teachers and students. They hide, or resist with bare hands while waiting for someone with a gun to show up and save them. Of course, the police show - with lots of guns - and find many dead innocents and one dead suicidal killer.

So, who needed the guns? Teachers or police?

Problem one is to survive the attack. All this talk about psychology and gun control is interesting, but hardly germaine to the vital issue of SURVIVING THE ATTACK.

When you have stopped these attacks from occurring, talk to me about gun control. I'll tell you to take a flying leap at a rolling donut. Do it now, and I may become abusive.

Teachers, staff, parents and grandparents are far more likely to be on site to deal with a suicidal killer than are police. Allowing political correctness to overshadow the safety of my grandchildren is an obscenity not to be contemplated.


My goodness deuce liti, aren't you bold. It must be some burden to know "the answer" that no one will like. So "the answer" is to open up King James, or the version of choice, pick some obscure passage from Revelations, and walla...must be tough knowing everything. I'm confident that the Scope trials and evolution, are just additional mistakes we mere humans make. Did you think the Mayans had it correct also because they wrote it down and had a calendar?

Most of this has to do with history repeating itself; if it does, I'm getting a dinosaur.


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