15 January 2014

Guns in churches "protect against Satan" [PH Series posting 1]

I'm starting a new series of postings which I will label "PH Series", that is, Personal History Series, where I will collect several anecdotes from my personal history, events and incidents which, to me, are quite memorable for certain reasons. I start by reposting the following story.

In the 90s I lived in Austin, Texas. One of the things that impressed me tremendously was the relation of people with guns. The following describes an incident which took place in a church. I think it's quite revealing of the mentality of (many) people, and this is why I kept a copy of the newspaper which reported the story.

In September 1999, a crazy guy entered a Baptist church in Fort Worth, and opened fire. He managed to kill several people before shooting himself. (A common phenomenon in the US. Mass shootings take place frequently.)

Back then I remembered how I was impressed, not by the shooting itself, but by the reaction of victims' relatives. Not a single one of them thought that guns was the problem. Rather, they thought it was Satan who did it and responded by saying "we need more guns!"

This was the first time I heard such an irrational statement. It impressed me so, that I made a copy of the New York Times article (click on the photo for detailed image):

The story impressed me a lot. I underlined some statements which I found incredibly disturbing, and here they are (emphasis is mine):

  • Blame is placed on society and the apocalypse, but not on guns.
  • No one blamed guns
  • Some say they see the massacre at Wedgwood Baptist Church as the making of martyrs and a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. They point to the reports that the shooter, Larry Gene Ashbrook, shouted anti-religious obscenities as he attacked.  
  • Ms. Bernall is spoken of by many evangelicals as a modern Christian martyr because she was asked by one of the gunmen whether she believed in God, to which she defiantly answered, "Yes I do," and was instantly shot. Her story is being passed among many churches and youth groups, her parents have written a book, , and there is a campaign to have students wear T-shirts to school saying "Yes, I believe in God." 
  • [T]he victims at Wedgwood Baptist were killed for their faith.
  • "It is the enemy conducting spiritual warfare. It's an attack on Christianity in general, on Christians, and it's Satan trying to stop God's work in the earth. He'll use whoever he wants, whoever he can. The guy who did this was obviously angry. Satan uses anger."  
  • "I don't believe this is necessarily the end [of the world]," Ms. Turner added, "but it's definitely getting closer."
  • Inside the blood donation center, the soundtrack from the movie "Top Gun" carried over a partition to the padded reclining chairs where two men were having their arms swabbed with yellow sterilizer.  
Here, then, my friends, is what many Americans (and some others) believe: If someone shoots and kills people in a church (or elsewhere) using a gun, the last thing we should blame is the gun. We can blame Satan, the absence of more guns, attack on Christianity, that people are losing their faith, anything but guns.


  1. I do think one of the most dangerous mind-sets is to try to see fulfillment of bible prophecy in anything and everything. It really skews one's view of reality. At least it did mine.

  2. Exactly. At the time, I was so "impressed" by this article that I copied it and kept it as a most "profound" document. I couldn't, simply couldn't, have imagined that people, the victims' relatives and friends, would argue like "guns is not a problem, it's Satan who steers the gunman's hand." This is the pinnacle of irrationality.

  3. Yes, indeed...

    Today I was approached by a young woman giving information about ACLU. She was basically trying to collect signatures (and some money) to support the movement against legislation which makes abortion difficult or illegal. She told me that more and more states make pro-choice more and more difficult. We had a little chat. I asked her if she considered the correlation between one's religious beliefs and the trend against pro-choice. I think this made her feel uncomfortable.

    What I'm trying to say is that it is not only religion and its consequences but also the fact that people are not willing to talk about it. It's still a taboo issue.

    By the way, it's a taboo issue in Sweden too. Even the most "radical" feminists, gender equality advocates, etc. (this is a "religion" in Sweden) will refuse to consider the historical reason of women's underprivileged roles in relation to religion. I am not talking of lay people only, but, also, of researchers in gender studies.



What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant