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A Deep Sadness Amidst Unthinkable Crimes

When I first heard the painful story of Santa Barbara City College student Elliot Rodger, it was extremely hard to believe. Media reports detailed the rampage that resulted in six murders perpetrated by this troubled young man prior to his taking his own life.

News reports focused particularly on the comment of one of the victim’s fathers who expressed his anger at what he called “craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA” (National Rifle Association), suggesting that perhaps gun control of some sort might have prevented this tragic event.

But one has to wonder if this story of one man’s loneliness and deep-seated disregard for himself and for those he believed had rejected him is more about how we live today and less about whether or not guns should be banned.

We know, for example, that Elliot had been having serious psychological problems for quite some time and that his divorced parents had asked the police to intervene. Yet, nobody knows what it was that provoked this violent response to his emotional pain.

Having said that, I believe that, as a human family, we should be reflecting inwardly on this heartbreaking event. In that regard, there is one cultural attitude that I feel represents a growing problem, not just for troubled young people, but for all of us. That is the prevailing sense of not wanting to get involved in the life of another human being, no matter what. It is as though each person is on an island and nobody else needs to be around. With cell phones, texting, Facebook, and the like, social interaction is nearly passé.

Then there’s the cultural reset on what it means to respect another human being.

America has lived for 40 years with this legally protected crime. Elliot and his peers are among the millions who comprise the second generation of Americans who, for the most part, never give abortion a single thought, unless of course an inconvenient pregnancy occurs.

America has cheapened human dignity, self-respect, and all that is good about the human person. Our education system, at least the majority of it, has taught our children all about sex, all about birth control and abortion, and has done so from an earlier and earlier age.

The culture has accepted a wide variety of definitions of what a family is and has never blinked about the ever-increasing rate of divorce among couples. Sadly, it is a fact that so many children like Elliot feel alone or conflicted or are simply pining for a family life that perhaps they think is only a myth from the 1950s.

It seems to me that this extremely sad event is one that deserves our prayers, our reflection, and our rededication to the moral values that comprise and are contained in the Ten Commandments.

We cannot help Elliot deal with his demons. He has done that in a tragic way, but we can pray for him.

We cannot embrace his parents and assure them that we feel compassion for them in their time of grief.

But we can work very hard to focus more and more attention on the truth of Christ’s unconditional love and on the way of life that leads to hope instead of despair. Young people need to hear this, they need parameters, and they and their parents need to understand that the soul gripped by sadness and despair is a soul in need of the medicine only Christ can give.

St. John Paul II understood this instinctively, writing, “Love is greater than sin, than weakness, than the ‘futility of creation,’ it is stronger than death; it is a love always ready to raise up and forgive, always ready to go to meet the prodigal son. . . . This revelation of love is also described as mercy; and in man’s history this revelation of love and mercy has taken a form and a name: that of Jesus Christ.”

God have mercy on these victims and their families.

Little things often make a big difference. Understanding that, we offer three suggestions for things you can do as Christians to help make your part of the world a little better:

1) Smile at those who persecute you; embrace them with kindness.

2) Reach out to someone who is struggling. A cup of coffee or an unexpected lunch may touch someone who is feeling lost.

3) Offer to pray with someone you know is suffering.

Do little things with great love!