I have a policy when it comes to mass shootings and, in fact, most breaking news. I try to avoid hot takes because invariably hot takes, mine included, get something wrong.
The worse kinds of hot takes are attempts to score political points or build a narrative that hurts political opponents.
Why can’t we wait until we know more facts?
Last week, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long walked into three different spas in the Atlanta metro area, killed eight people, and wounded another. Six of the victims were Asian. According to police, Long blamed a sex addiction he said contradicted his religious beliefs.
Because he was a pastor’s kid, attended a Southern Baptist Church, and went to an evangelical treatment clinic, the Church, according to some, must have done something wrong to make this disciple.
What’s worse is that I saw some Christians make this argument. Now, I’ve followed Christ since 1992. I’ve attended a lot of churches and listened to a lot of sermons. I’ve done a lot of reading. I’ve been a pastor. I’ve taught and preached on what the Bible has to say about sex, relationships, and marriage.
Never once did I hear, read, or teach that to overcome sexual temptation, one has to kill those who tempt them or that women are to blame. (Now, there are disagreements regarding modesty, but, ultimately, the responsibility is on the person who lusts, not the object of that lust.) To blame the Church for his actions is nonsensical. I could see examining what he was taught at home and perhaps even his local church (who strongly condemned his actions and expelled him) to gain some insight. This isn’t to say the church shouldn’t use this as an opportunity for reflection, they should, and many Atlanta area churches did.
To blame the entire Church, especially without concrete evidence, is an obtuse thing to do. David French, who I have respect for, blamed evangelical purity culture. While I agree with much of what he said about purity culture, I agree with Justin Taylor, who asked, what evidence?
We don’t know what he was taught. Those facts haven’t come out. Can we stop with the hot takes? I’ve encountered people in my time in ministry who sat under sound teaching, and they still had strange beliefs contrary to what was being taught.
Perhaps he did fall under “toxic” teaching, but I don’t know that he did. And even if he did, it’s certainly not the entire Church’s fault (David didn’t say that, but some are).
He could be mentally ill.
Another hot take that followed is that he is obviously racist because six of his victims are Asian, so these shootings were hate crimes.
He has yet to be charged with a hate crime. Indeed, it seems reasonable to assume, but it is just an assumption. It’s clear his reasoning is muddled. So let’s wait for more facts.
I don’t know for sure, neither do you. Let’s wait for more facts to come out. I do know for sure that whatever his motivation, it was evil, period.
Then on Monday, ten people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a grocery store in Boulder, Co. killing ten, including a police officer.
Well, it turns out that the Boulder shooter wasn’t a white man, but Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, whose family emigrated from Syria.
Now, I also saw hot takes on the right who assumed that he was an Islamic terrorist because of his name. Jack Posobiec “reported” he had sympathies toward ISIS, something that has not been corroborated.
We don’t need hot takes from the left or the right.
Reportedly his friends and brother said he was bullied, which led to anti-social behavior, and he may have struggled with mental illness.
Perhaps law enforcement will uncover evidence that points to terrorism, but, so far, it does not look like it.
Again, wait for facts.
Then there are the hot takes from gun control activists who spout off before knowing anything about how the shooters’ weapons were obtained or if their pet solutions would have done anything to prevent (in most cases, they wouldn’t).
So let’s dispense with the hot takes. Let’s pursue truth. I think we can apply James 1:19 to current events.
Let’s be quick to listen and slow to speak. Those who do this radiate wisdom, those who don’t, not so much.