Is religion partly to blame for the Atlanta shootings?

Is religion partly to blame for the Atlanta shootings?

Sorry for the clickbait headline. I’m not condemning all religion, but I do want to take a look at the church that gunman Robert Aaron Long attended.

By most accounts, Long was a devout member of the Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Georgia. Whether you think sex addiction is a thing, Long had an obvious problem not only with visiting massage parlors but with porn as well. His massage parlor activity even cost him his relationship with a woman from Chattanooga.

But getting back to the church, they have it written in their bylaws that…

…“adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, polygamy, pedophilia, pornography, or any attempt to change one’s sex, or disagreement with one’s biological sex” as “sinful and offensive to God.”

I’m with them on the bestiality, incest, polygamy, and pedophilia as being bad things, but the rest reminds me of a ‘church’ from across town. All that’s missing is a few garishly colored and offensive protest signs. It’s Westboro. I’m talking about Westboro. I live in Topeka and Westboro is here.

With that kind of attitude toward sexuality, it’s no surprise that Long had such a twisted view about his own issues.

Speaking of his issues, Long recognized he had a problem. He even sought help for his addiction. The problem with that is that he refused any kind of psychiatric help and instead stuck with spiritual help only. While at a 12-step program dealing with his addiction, Long told his roommate that he insisted on sticking to spiritual counseling. There’s nothing wrong with spiritual counseling, but when it’s obviously not working, there’s no sin against seeking psychiatric help. Unless this church viewed psychiatry as some affront against God. From what we’ve seen from some ultra-conservative churches during the lockdown era, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case. After leaving the 12-step program, Long sought out an addiction treatment facility that used counseling “integrated with Christian principles.” Obviously, it didn’t take.

After the murders you would think a supposed church of Christ would reach out to the community in some way. Instead, this church tried to wipe their existence from social media and moved to excommunicate Long from their congregation.

Over the weekend, a friend and I had a discussion over whether Long was an incel or not. My point was that there was no indication of Long being an incel and there was no grand declaration or manifesto from Long. My friend then said that he had to have been radicalized somewhere like 4chan or one of the other usual incel hangouts. He was radicalized all right, but it was by a church that in my opinion leaned more toward hate than acceptance.

Maybe it’s because I was raised in a different church, but for most of my life I always heard that God is love and that God forgives. Churches like the one Long attended have lost that message somewhere along the way and became churches of intolerance rather than following the teachings of Christ about love and forgiveness.

This is in no way meant to absolve Long from the repugnant crimes he committed. It should never be forgotten that he killed eight people in cold blood because he couldn’t take responsibility for his own actions. Somewhere along the line, Long disregarded the commandment of ‘Thou shall not kill’ to try to resolve a problem that he created. However, when someone with mental health issues is indoctrinated in such a problematic and insular environment, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when someone commits such an atrocity in God’s name.

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