In the modern age, the first thing any reporter does when a story breaks is hop on the Internet and start searching for anything connected to a name. That’s what happened last week after Christopher Harper-Mercer carried six guns from his collection into Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, and opened fire on college students in a writing class, their professor, and anyone else in his path.
What did those reporters find? Several social media accounts turned up. A review of a purchase of Nazi-related memorabilia. A number of posts made anonymously or semi-anonymously in different places. A profile on a dating website — and a blog that mused about mass shootings. That was also where he sometimes posted pornographic posts.
Of all the coverage I’ve read or watched about the tragedy in Roseburg, I’ve seen only one or two mentions of this fact — that he was a user of pornography. Why would this not be mentioned? Perhaps it doesn’t seem germane to the issue. Perhaps it doesn’t fit the neat narrative arc that we’ve come to expect from mass shootings (which in itself might be a problem — as well as the fact that this sort of thing keeps happening.) Perhaps it just doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere at all. But I think that one fact, mentioned here and there amid the reams of coverage for this event, holds the key.
What’s the Connection?
What’s the connection between pornography use and mass murder?
Both involve viewing other people as objects.
Pornography breaks the 6th Commandment because its entire goal is to incite lust in the human heart. For the pornography user, the people in the media he (or she) consumes become no longer people, but mere objects used to gratify his (or her) lust. This can progress to the point where any real love or affection withers and dies, real relationships become increasingly difficult and distant, and the pornography user ends up alone and numb. Sadly, millions today know all too well what’s that’s like.
That same process of objectification of other people — treating them as objects to be used and then discarded, instead of human beings requiring empathy, respect, love, and care — is exactly what’s required for mass murder. How else can someone walk into a college classroom, or a kindergarten, or a mall, and open fire randomly on anyone in their path? It almost seems inconceivable to do that to another human being, or crowd of people. The only way someone can manage it is if they no longer view their victims as human beings.
Former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole says much the same thing in this video clip from CBS News. The process she describes is chilling. It reflects what James says in his epistle:
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (1:14-15)
Harper-Mercer is not the only example of the intersection of pornography use and murder. Osama bin Laden was apparently addicted to pornography. The US Navy SEALS found large amounts of it on hard drives they took from bin Laden’s compound for intelligence purposes. It only fits that someone who spent a good chunk of his days consuming pornography would feel no compunction at ordering the death of hundreds, if not thousands, of people — and would gladly have killed more if he could have.
Here’s another example: Remember Ted Bundy? In his final interview, given with Dr. James Dobson not long before he was executed, Bundy names pornography use as one of the main factors that sent him down his murderous path.
Now please note carefully what I am and am not saying. I am not saying that using pornography will turn you into a serial killer or a mass murderer. If that were true, our society would be in far worse trouble than it is, which is a disconcerting thought in and of itself. What I am saying is that pornography use always has a cost, and it’s higher than the user thinks at the time. Violence and sexual immorality flow out of the same dark fountain, the polluted wellspring of the sinful human heart. They have the same source and are often closer than we in modern-day America often are willing to admit. Jesus’ words are proven sadly true yet again:
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. — St. Matt. 15:19
Pornography is nothing to dabble with. It destroys relationships, marriages, careers, and it can destroy souls too. Untold pain and suffering results from this supposedly ‘victimless’ crime. The only cure is found in Jesus Christ, who bestows His blessings of grace, forgiveness, freedom from guilt, joy, and peace to those who turn from their sin and turn to Him, relying on Him alone. Otherwise the results are too horrific to contemplate.