Two months ago, I warned Stream readers of the New Paganism, a virulent form of racist nationalism that motivated the man charged with the mass slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand. In just the few weeks since Easter, we have seen four more worldviews that have motivated mass violence or the potential of it.
Media bias and political correctness have skewed our ability to see all five motivations clearly. The left will usually talk about guns and nothing else.
But guns alone do not explain mass violence. Neither does obscuring the identity of the victims, or the motivations of the murderers, for partisan purposes. Particular people with particular beliefs use those guns to kill a lot of people.
Here, in no particular order, is my list of the five motivations.
The first is Islamism. There is no other explanation for the murder of hundreds of Christians worshipping in their churches on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. ISIS has claimed credit for helping the local Islamists pull off the attacks. Government officials initially thought the attacks were in revenge for the New Zealand Mosque massacre.
But later reports “said planning may have been underway for several years.” The Sri Lankan Islamists wanted to kill Christians long before the New Zealand massacre.
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No ideology comes close to militant Islam when it comes to the number of violent incidents and victims of terrorism on the global stage. Not. even. close. Also, the mass murderers who are motivated by other ideologies tend to be lone wolf losers. Islamist attacks, by contrast, are often the result of sophisticated conspiracies with many players who know how to maximize casualties. This was the case in Sri Lanka.
The second is Christian. The young man charged with the murder at the Poway synagogue appears to have had many motivations. One of them was Christianity as he understands it. Indeed, it is precisely because the Poway shooter is so unusual that he bears close watching.
He contradicts all the usual stereotypes of mass shooters. He was a professing Christian. The Poway shooter did not have an absent father, but came from a good family. He did not profess an ideology, like the New Zealand shooter’s “ecofascist” paganism. He was not a loser, but a dean’s list student with a bright future.
His manifesto includes entire paragraphs of Bible quotes to justify his actions. He speaks an old school Christian anti-Semitism familiar to earlier generations. He is Orthodox Presbyterian, but his manifesto is filled with racist spins on Calvinist theology that have been condemned by his own church.
His manifesto is the most chilling statement I have read from any of the recent mass shooters, precisely because it claims for itself the cause of Christ while doing the work of Satan. How did this kid get from Point A to Point B? How many others like him might there be among our youth?
My best guess is not many. But this may be bigger than we think. It’s a story that bears watching.
The third is leftist extremism. We saw the latest episode of leftist mass violence just the other day in Colorado. The suspect’s projection of his own hatred of Christians onto Christians is unmistakable. Indeed, his language bears an eerie resemblance to the Pennsylvania legislator whose video of himself, harassing a peaceful pro-lifer outside an abortion clinic, went viral.
From Antifa thugs attacking MAGA hat-wearing Trump voters to the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise to the gay activist who attempted to massacre the employees of the Family Research Council, leftist violence and threats of violence have become a regular feature of our political landscape. I have even been a victim of it myself.
The fourth is pagan violence. I already wrote of it in this Stream article: “What We Saw in the New Zealand Mosque Murders? The New Paganism.” The killer’s “ecofascism” was just a form of modernized paganism.
The fifth is youthful idiocy combined with social media. That seems to be the explanation for what police claim was an attempted massacre in upstate New York. The suspects have pled innocent. It’s not ecofascism, like the New Zealand shooter. Nor a Hitlerite spin on Calvinism, like the Poway shooter. It appears to be just kids being stupid on Twitter.
They have a generalized hate of Muslims, but not the worldview motivating the New Zealand shooter. These kids do not seem to have thought deeply about much of anything. They seem driven more by the internet than by any deep ideological motivation.
We live in troubled times. Some, like those in the first four groups, will reach for some deep explanation for what ails the world. When they get it, they will seek to make things right through violence. Others, perhaps like that last group, do not even need the deep explanation. They just like violence.
If we who defend Western Civilization and its Judeo-Christian foundations are to prevent future adherents of these terrorist ideologies, we need to understand them. We need to make proper distinctions between them.
And — this is important — we need to do those things ourselves. The media and our elites will not do it for us. Their own politically correct blindness puts them — and us — at greater harm. Just as it falls to social conservatives to tell the truth about the culture of death when it comes to abortion and assisted suicide, so we must do in the matter of terrorism. In so doing, we can help policy makers better understand the threats we face and how they might best combat them.
Granted, those same policy makers do not want to hear us when they are the ones promoting death. But in the case of terrorism, they are just as likely as us to be its victims. We must fight to make them listen — for their sake and for ours.