Giving the Devil His Due

I wrote here at Crisis back in March 2018 about the all-too-common link between mass shooters and fatherlessness. That was in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida incident. Looking at a list of the worst mass shooters in U.S. history, it was clear that the vast majority came from broken families lacking a consistent biological father throughout their rearing and development. Very few had good, stable dads.

That’s a sad situation. It’s also sad, I noted, that our culture’s fundamental transformers are dedicated to a new family structure that, by definition, deliberately excludes dads. Same-sex-“married” mothers are homes without dads. Worse, the cultural revolutionaries are also committed to fostering homes that deliberately exclude moms: same-sex-“married” fathers are homes without moms. And if we dare urge caution or question the wisdom of these structures, then we’re the insensitive ones. More than that, we’re bigots, homophobes, haters.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that every fatherless home is a dead-ringer candidate to produce a mass shooter. That would be a ridiculous generalization. There is, however, a long-acknowledged pattern of notable social problems for children raised in fatherless homes.

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

Sign up to get Crisis articles delivered to your inbox daily

Email subscribe inline (#4)

As details emerge on the family lives of the mass shooters in El Paso and Dayton, it looks like one of the two came from a broken home where the father left the family. The El Paso shooter was Patrick Crusius; his father, Bryan Crusius, has openly shared details of decades of heavy drug and alcohol abuse that wrecked marriages and relationships. The Dayton shooter, Connor Betts, seems to have had a more typical upbringing, with a dad at home.

Of course, we’ve heard much more about the politics of Crusius, given that he was a Trump supporter. Betts, by contrast, was a registered Democrat who supported Elizabeth Warren, socialism, and antifa, with a penchant for denouncing Republicans he didn’t like as “Nazis” and “fascists.” “Kill every fascist,” he tweeted last year. In June he tweeted: “I want socialism, and I’ll not wait for the idiots to finally come round understanding.”

Betts was vocal about his militant left-wing politics. “When I heard he was the shooter, I was not surprised he did something like this,” said David Partridge, a friend of Betts from school. “You will hear over the coming days many other people were not surprised.”

So, Betts and Crusius differed in politics and home life, including the presence of a father. Is there a crucial commonality among them? Yes, and it’s an equally uncomfortable one that our culture likewise prefers not to talk about: evil. This is about the presence of evil.

That reality is unmistakably clear in Crusiu’s blank face and empty eyes. It’s even clearer in the statements of Betts and those who knew him. “He was in a dark place,” a young woman who knew Betts told Fox News. “He heard voices in his head.”

She’s far from alone in saying that. The young man’s former girlfriend attested to his hearing voices, being tormented by “dark, evil things,” and having what was reported as “hallucinations” of some sort. Other friends described him as “kind of dark.” What is chilling about Betts was that he literally tweeted “Hail Satan” and “HAIL SATAN ETERNAL.” He ended some tweets with the hashtag #HAILSATAN and stated in his Twitter bio that he was “going to hell and I’m not coming back.”

That is a spiritual motivation.

President Trump offered a “mental health” explanation for the two shooters, for which he was immediately rebuked by opponents who, no doubt, prefer to try to pin the blame on him. The American Psychological Association issued a statement smacking down Trump, arguing that the vast majority of people who are mentally ill don’t become mass shooters. Trump pointing to a “mental health problem” was deemed an unfair slap at the millions diagnosed with some form of mental illness who are not violent.

Well, okay. Point taken. It’s hard to criticize Trump, though, for basically saying what everyone says and knows: these guys are really messed up. Something isn’t right in their heads. For Betts, something “dark” was in his head.

That being the case, how about a spiritual explanation?

To be sure, the degree to which Betts might have been devoted to the Devil as his influence, or was possibly bordering the demonic, is something I certainly don’t know. That would require the testimony of certified exorcists who examined the boy. Still, a dark supernatural influence seems a culprit hard to ignore in this case—not to mention those of other past shooters. Our culture should never cavalierly shrug off the reality that these episodes prove first and foremost that evil exists. This is evil personified—wicked, depraved.

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact,” said Malcolm Muggeridge. It will be resisted in these latest shootings, especially by those hoping to conjure up other demons to blame: insufficient gun laws, the NRA, Trump.

Still worse, when the supernatural is brought into this conversation, it’s not always favorable to God. The modern world is more prone to ask, Where was God? rather than Where was the Devil?—as if this might be God’s fault for not stopping it.

“The only time some men … ever think of God,” stated Fulton Sheen, “is when they want to find someone to blame for their own sins. Without ever saying so, they assume that man is responsible for everything good and beautiful in the world, but God is responsible for its wickedness and its wars…. They ignore the fact that God is like a playwright who wrote a beautiful drama, gave it to men to act with all the directions for acting, and then made a botch of it.”

In his book, God and War, Sheen said that when the unbeliever asks Where is your God now? the believer should respond: “Where are your gods now? Where is your god Progress in the face of two world wars within 21 years? Where is your god Science, now that it consecrates its energies to destruction? Where is your god Evolution now that the world is turned backward into one vast slaughterhouse?”

Those questions posed by Sheen in the last century are even more apt now, when the West has turned its back on God even more vigorously. We don’t give the Devil his due.

Charles Baudelaire said that the Devil’s greatest trick has been to persuade us that he doesn’t exist. It looks Connor Betts emphatically disagreed. He made his dark case, and now he’s not coming back.

[Photo credit: El Paso Police Department via Getty Images]



  • Paul Kengor

    Paul Kengor is Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, executive director of the Center for Vision and Values. He is the author, most recently, of The Devil and Karl Marx (TAN Books, 2020).

tagged as: Politics

Join the Conversation

in our Telegram Chat

Or find us on

Editor's picks

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

Signup to receive new Crisis articles daily

Email subscribe stack
Share to...