He didn’t fit the profile of a mass murderer. He wasn’t a young man of Middle Eastern heritage, with ties to a radical religious group. And he wasn’t a young, mentally unstable loner, whose neighbors would later say that he “was quiet and kept to himself.” No, Stephen Paddock didn’t fit the usual profiles of a mass murderer.
Then why did he slaughter 58 concert goers that Saturday night a couple of weeks ago in Las Vegas? The criminal experts are confounded. Paddock was a 64 year old white man with apparently no ties to any radical religious or political group. He was very well off financially. What would cause him to rain down terror with his arsenal of guns on unsuspecting victims from his 32nd floor hotel room? As of the time of writing this column, no one seems to know. And that’s what makes the crime that much more disturbing.
It’s disturbing, because we believe that if you have lots of money then you have to be happy. We have been taught that being financially secure is the ultimate goal of every American. Stephen Paddock should have been happy. And besides, a 64 year old person should know better.
Why did he massacre those concert goers? What were his motives? We may never know. But there is another question that should be asked. Why are we living in such a culture where such actions take place?
Years ago, I read an interesting quote from Thomas Sowell, African-American economist, author and social theorist. He stated that there are four factors that constrain human behavior. They are: (1) love of God, (2) fear of God, (3) love of man, and (4) fear of man. If he is right, and I believe he is, we may be able to better understand the situation in our culture today.
Basically, culture, that’s us, has decided that God is irrelevant, not important. I know a lot of TV preachers say America is becoming anti-Christian, but I think that is wrong. To be “anti” something you have to care about it enough to want to get rid of it. Of course, there are some who want to see Christianity eliminated, but the majority of society itself could care less. To them, Christianity, the church, and therefore God, is not important. So why would the love or fear of God matter in controlling their actions? In their eyes, he’s irrelevant.
Welcome to, as author Charles Colson put it, “post-Christian America.” Polling shows more Americans now profess “no religion” than all Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherans combined. So if God is irrelevant, why should the love or fear of God constrain us? And if God is unimportant, why should I care about or love my fellow human beings whom he created, except for selfish reasons? So those 22,000 concert goers end up becoming a sophisticated target practice.
Author Philip Yancey writes, “I’ve concluded that God goes where he’s wanted. As the corruption and economic indexes prove, Christianity can be good for a society. But as that society achieves a level of comfort and prosperity, its citizens feel less the need for religious faith. They live off the moral capital of the past. Meanwhile God quietly moves on, to a place that senses more need.”
Maybe we will never understand the motives of Stephen Paddock. He didn’t fit the usual profile of a mass murderer. But he fit another profile. And it’s one that we all fit. The profile we all share is, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) And that profile predicts a conclusion that we have seen all too well the past couple of weeks. Sadly, it is, “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23)
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.