John on September 15, 2009 at 12:21 am
The Nation has published a book excerpt titled The Nightmare of Christianity by Max Blumenthal. It’s about spree killer Matthew Murray. Blumenthal walks his readers through everything that led up to the merciless killing of four young people from Murray’s point of view:
[A]s soon as Murray enrolled at YWAM’s training center in nearby Arvada in 2002, he found himself trapped in an authoritarian culture even more restrictive than home. He realized that, as another student of YWAM bluntly put it, the school’s training methods resembled “cult mind-controlling techniques.” Murray became paranoid, speaking aloud to voices only he could hear, according to a former roommate. He complained that six of his male peers had made a gay sex video and that others routinely abused drugs. Hypocrisy seemed to be all around him, or at least dark mirages of it.
Notice what Blumenthal has done here. He describes Murray as paranoid and delusional but then recounts his claims that members of YWAM had made a gay sex tape. Of course Blumenthal has no evidence such a thing happened, thus he writes that hypocrisy “seemed” to be all around Murray or at least “mirages” of it. In other words, this was probably part of Murray’s sickness, but what the hell let’s throw it out there anyway. It doesn’t matter what was really going on, only what Murray felt was happening.
Soon enough, Murray goes off the rails completely:
Murray lurched to the polar opposite edge of his parents’ fanatical faith, replacing their Bible as his inspiration with the writings of Aleister Crowley, a flamboyant, self-proclaimed Satanist…instead of fleeing hardcore Christian culture for secular humanism, a natural position for jaded skeptics like him, he traded his former faith for Crowley’s occultism.
In this paragraph Blumenthal reveals his cards. If only Murray had become an atheist…yes? Then what? Everything would have been all right? He would have gotten a job at Starbucks? Blumenthal doesn’t say, but that’s the implication. It’s the secular miracle. Step 1, become atheist. Step 2… Step 3, everything is wonderful! Just don’t ask about step 2, the details are a bit fuzzy.
He burrowed himself into the mass-marketed aesthetic of goth culture, from Satanist screeds to plastic pagan chum to the calculated gloom of commercial death metal, still finding time to download literally thousands of fetishistic porn images on his computer…As Murray nourished his death obsession, his behavior grew increasingly aggressive.
Note well, reader. None of this had anything to do with him becoming a mass murderer. Well, sure it coincided with his increasing aggressiveness, but it surely didn’t cause or abet it. And even if it did, we’re not interested in that. No, only the “final cause” is of interest. Blumenthal continues clawing his way there.
He was intent on suicide, but first Murray wanted to kill as many tongue-talking Pentecostal zealots as he could. Those who constantly invoked the wiles of Satan to frighten him into submission, or impelled him to wage “spiritual warfare” against the secular Enemy were the true spawn of the Devil. “You Christians brought this on yourselves,” Murray proclaimed. “All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you…as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world.”
Again, Blumenthal isn’t just asking us to understand Murray’s psychosis, he’s asking us to empathize. Empathize with this:
Without hesitation, Murray whipped out a .40 caliber semiautomatic Berretta pistol and opened fire on a group of staffers chatting away as they wandered out of a Christmas banquet. Tiffany Johnson was caught in Murray’s fusillade. An affable 24-year-old who said she spent one night every week ministering to adolescent skateboarders involved in “drugs, cutting, branding, and hurting others,” Johnson fell and died instantly. A studious 26-year-old named Philip Crouse, who spent part of a summer vacation constructing a house for impoverished residents of the Crow Indian reservation in Montana, was also hit while rushing to stop Murray. Crouse crumpled to the floor and died beside Johnson.
Recall that just a few paragraphs earlier Murray described YWAM as a nightmare of authoritarian mind control. Now, however, he writes with seeming appreciation for the admirable qualities of Murray’s victims. These weren’t robots, these were young adults who were giving of themselves to people in need. But that’s not how Murray saw them:
All four of Murray’s victims were youthful, mostly home-schooled and extremely idealistic. They could have been his roommates at YWAM or could have joined him in a Christian youth fellowship. They seemed so much like him, at least on the surface. So did he single them out? Although there is no conclusive answer, Murray’s acknowledged grievances hint at his motives. Each of his victims represented to him the obedient, unquestioning religious automaton he was required to be but never could become. They had embarked on the exotic foreign missions he had been rejected for, discovering friendship and even (nonsexual) wholesome romance while he languished in his room–his “buried kennel.” The blithe everyday existence of these shiny, happy Jesus people was Murray’s “Christian nightmare.”
Is this just Murray’s perspective or is this Blumenthal’s? It’s getting harder to tell.
After a few more paragraphs disparaging the media and the church’s reaction, we get to the grand climax of Blumenthal’s piece:
Murray’s parents were not neglectful of their son, nor were they intentionally abusive. By all accounts, they raised him in faithful accordance with the teachings of the Christian right’s leading self-help gurus. In their cloistered world, where home-schooling is viewed as an ideal alternative to “government schools,” and where the rod is rarely spared, they were model parents. Murray’s killing spree thus reflected less on his parents than on the all-encompassing authoritarian culture that Dobson had helped to shape…When confronted with their own crimes and sins, these movement icons found that faulting the prince of darkness was far easier than accepting personal responsibility.
First off, notice this isn’t Murray speaking anymore. Blumenthal isn’t channeling the dead here, he’s speaking about what it all means.
And what does it mean?
The shooting of four selfless, energetic young adults isn’t Murray’s fault. It’s not his parents fault. No, it’s James Dobson’s fault. It’s the religious right’s fault.
Forget the fact that the killer abandoned every belief Dobson holds about life and that he actively and energetically despised those beliefs as lies. Nevertheless, evangelical culture is responsible for making Murray kill four people.
Blumenthal’s piece reminds me of the stereotype of the wife-abusing drunk. Unhappy with his lot in life and unable to cope, the abuser turns his rage on the people around him. In Murray’s case he wasn’t content to simply backhand people to the floor. Instead he ramped up for a murder spree, one which he eventually carried out.
After the beat down the abuser inevitably absolves himself as he saunters away from his bleeding victim, “You brought this on yourself, b***h.” He wants her to know that it’s not his fault. She made him do it. If only she’d listened…
Having killed himself in his final onslaught at New Life church, Murray was never able to utter those words over his victim’s bodies. Lucky for us, Max Blumenthal is still around to do it for him.
Category: Crime & the Law |