The Briefing 05-27-14

The Briefing 05-27-14

The Briefing


 May 27, 2014

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


It’s Tuesday, May 27, 2014. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.


It’s happened again; this time in Santa Barbara, California. There near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara, a madman unleashed what is described as methodological murder, killing at least six people before killing himself; also injuring seven other, some of them gravely. And now we know more details about what took place and as these come clearer into view, it becomes also clear that this is an incident that is going to require some very careful thinking and perhaps even some rethinking about what we know or think we know about these cases of mass murder. As Ian Lovett and Adam Nagourney of The New York Times report, a gunman, who documented his rage against women for rejecting him, killed six people and wounded seven others during a spasm of terror on last Friday night. Three were stabbed to death in his apartment: two were believed to be his roommates; the third was a visitor, it is presumed. He then went out and methodologically shot as he drove through the crowded streets of Isla Vista, a community near Santa Barbara. The gunman is now identified as Elliot O. Rodger, a 22-year-old, and he left behind a manifesto he has described as “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution.” He carefully chose the date of his murders, that is, as May 25th, as the last day of the semester in order to catch students before they went home to be with their families. “It all has come down to this,” he said, “Tomorrow is the day of retribution; the day I will have my retribution against humanity, against all of you. For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires, all because girls have never been attracted to me and all these years I’ve had to rot in loneliness.” In a video he left behind, he also said, “I do not know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it.”


Santa Barbara police now believe that he began his method of retribution at about 9:27 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time this past Friday night. Investigators have spent the weekend trying to put it together and trying to gather evidence from nine separate crime scenes, including a deli, including this young man’s apartment, and including at least seven other places where either murder or assaults took place. So what we had in Santa Barbara on Friday night was a scene of absolute horror in which a young man, armed to the teeth and obviously mad, deeply insane, unleashed terror upon his classmates at the University of California Santa Barbara and anyone else who got in his way. He particularly targeted pretty young women and also athletic young men because in his manifesto and his video he said he was tortured by young women who were pretty because they did not have interest in him and because of the athletic young men because he said those girls did find interesting.


This kind of mass murder is not as unprecedented as we would wish that it would be. Events such as this have happened in the United States and elsewhere around the world. What makes this particular mass murder of such deep concern is that we now know so much about this young perpetrator and we know that there was a great deal of concern about him and about his mental state, and in spite of all of this, he was allowed to build a massive arsenal with which to conduct this kind of mass murder, and in the state of California that has some of the nation’s most restrictive gun laws. How in the world could this happen?


The situation turns out to be even more horrifying when Monday’s edition of The New York Times arrives, indicating that this young man’s parents had deep concerns about him and that just minutes after he began his rampage they opened the file of that 141-page document. They were immediately concerned, called law enforcement officials, and headed themselves from the Los Angeles area to Santa Barbara to try to intervene. It was too late. Police now believe that all of his killings had taken place even before his parents left Los Angeles. Elliot Rodger had written in that document his parents opened, “I couldn’t believe how wrong everything was turning out.” He indicated the fact he was going to kill his roommates and then he was going to turn his own apartment with his roommates dead into a platform for murder. As it turned out, his parents left, but did not arrive in time nor did law enforcement. As Adam Nagourney of The New York Times reports:


His parents’ frantic trip to Isla Vista was just one missed chance to avert the tragedy. In this case, the parents’ emergency call to the police and their arrival came well after the killing spree was over.


But it is the following paragraph in the Nagourney’s account that is even more chilling:


Only weeks earlier, in late April, deputies from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office had stopped by Mr. Rodger’s apartment at the request of state mental health officials, acting on an expression of concern by his mother. They left after a calm and polite Mr. Rodger assured them that there was nothing to worry about. The officers reported that Mr. Rodger was shy and had told them that he was having difficulties in his social life, but that he didn’t need to be taken in for mental health reasons.


News reports coming out of Santa Barbara indicate that this young man already was known for a long history of unusual and antisocial behavior. It was already known that he had given threats to kill people, including himself and others. As The New York Times also reports, he had posted on sites where other young men shared their rages and frustrations of being sexual virgins and complained about the difficulty of meeting women. He referred to himself as an INCEL—urban shorthand for involuntary celibate. This is not a young man who comes from a situation of poverty and want. Indeed, his father, Peter Rodger, is a British citizen who lives in Los Angeles. He’s well-known in Hollywood. He’s written screenplays and was the second unit director for the film “The Hunger Games.”


It is now known that Mr. Rodger was from a very young age described as emotionally disturbed. As The New York Times says, this was particularly since the divorce of his parents when he was in the first grade. One of his grade-school classmates, looking back, said, “We said right from the get-go that that kid was going to lose it someday and just freak out. Everyone made fun of him and stuff.” The Times also reports that Sheriff Bill Brown of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s office told CBS’s Face the Nation that his deputies had visited Mr. Rodger in April and on that visit, as was previously reported, they found him calm and lucid. They said he didn’t meet the criteria, in the view of deputies, by which the young man might have been brought in for observation. However, they were very close to uncovering a plot for mass murder. In his manifesto, Elliot Rodger wrote about that event. When the deputies came to the door, he said:


As soon as I saw those cops, the biggest fear I’d ever felt in my life overcame me. I had the striking and devastating fear that someone had somehow discovered what I was planning to do and reported me for it. If that was the case, the police would have searched my room, found all of my guns and weapons, along with my writings about what I plan to do with them. I would have been thrown in jail, denied of the chance to exact revenge on my enemies. I can’t imagine a hell darker than that.


So as we try to put this all together, it becomes very clear that this was a young man who was known from the time he was in elementary school to have been gravely emotionally disturbed. This is a young man whose mother had been so concerned she called mental health authorities who visited him in April and found him simply calm and somewhat socially in need. And we also now know that as though Sheriff’s deputies visited the young man they were within virtual feet of uncovering his stash of weapons, and not only that, but the manifesto in which he had already written out his intention to commit mass murder.


And if all that isn’t strange enough, this is the state of California. Jennifer Medina, also in The New York Times, writes, even in a state with restrictive laws, the young man was able to amass weapons and ammunition. And this leads to all kinds of perplexing questions. How in the world could this happen in California? California, after all, had supposedly passed the kind of gun control legislation that would prevent this from happening. For example, under federal law, anyone who has been involuntarily committed to psychiatric treatment is to be barred from buying firearms, but in California, there are stricter laws that prevail. In California, the state is also allowed to bar individuals who are considered a threat to themselves or others, who have ever made a threat against a specific person or to a therapist, who report such a threat to law enforcement. But, again, Sheriff Bill Brown of Santa Barbara said that when his deputies visited the young man’s apartment in April, they found nothing to indicate that he was “a danger to himself or anyone else.” The sheriff went on to say, “He just didn’t meet the criteria for any further intervention at that point.”


So what is the meaning of all this? From a Christian worldview perspective, there are so many lessons here and all of them horrifyingly real; all of them deeply troubling. The first is that in a Genesis 3 world there are persons who are horribly mentally tortured, and in this case, obviously have deep emotional and mental problems. But that goes hand-in-hand with the fact that we are, quite obviously, clearly unable to detect those persons who have these kinds of disturbances or to evaluate in any rational manner—or, for that matter, with much accuracy—whether they are actually a threat to themselves or to others. This is young man who on Friday night last week killed at least six people, injured seven others, and then killed himself. He was only stopped from further murders by the fact that police were after him and in that context he killed himself. This is a young man who would’ve killed far more had he had the opportunity. He had the weaponry. And so one of the lessons we learn from this is our inability to read another person’s heart and mind. We can certainly read signs of disturbance or trouble, but even mental health professionals in this case failed to understand that this was a young man who was so deeply troubled that he actually was poised to commit mass murder.


Something else we learn from all of this is that in spite of all the attempts to the contrary, this young man was able to convince people that he was sufficiently rational, safe, and sane to be able to amass a massive collection of guns, and this in the state that supposedly has among the nation’s strictest gun-control laws, indicating that no matter how you might try to control the guns, it’s the people who eventually become the problem. There is plenty of opportunity for a sane and rational discussion about gun-control laws, but this is now pointing out the bottom line fact that those laws are not the panacea that many people might believe them to be.


Another horrifying insight from all of this is the realization that during the 1970s and beyond our society’s quest for the ultimate affirmation of personal autonomy meant that we have made it virtually impossible in many situations to admit someone for psychiatric care against their will. Involuntary commitment to that kind of treatment or even evaluation is something that is increasingly difficult to get. And here you have a young man who from his earliest years of life was already identified by children, his fellow classmates, as being a danger, and many years later he is still free; not only free, but free to collect these weapons, and not only that, but to hit the streets by Isla Vista with murderous intent and effect.


Finally, another dark realization that also is very important from a Christian worldview perspective; it doesn’t just happen here. In the very same days that The New York Times and other newspapers were carrying the haunting news out of Santa Barbara, California, other headlines were also contained within those same daily editions; for instance, this new story out of Brussels, Belgium. Andrew Higgins reports, “Three Shot Dead at a Brussels Jewish Museum.” Here at the Jewish Museum on Saturday, the day after what took place in Santa Barbara, an unidentified gunman opened fire, killing three people. In an understatement, the Brussels police said this appears to have been an anti-Semitic attack. Then Andrew Jacobs, reporting from Beijing, China, says that:


Law enforcement officials in the western region of Xinjiang have identified five men they said were responsible for an attack on an outdoor vegetable market on Thursday that killed 43 people and injured more than 90, many of them elderly shoppers.


Now as you look at the details here, it turns out that the mass murder that was undertaken in China, killing at least 43 people, did not involve handguns. In other words, guns aren’t the only way to kill people. These involved vehicles. This was a mowing down of people in a vegetable market. And then you look at the news from Brussels and you realize that Belgium, as a part of the European Union, has some of the most restrictive gun control laws imaginable. And that didn’t keep a madman from killing at least three people in a Jewish Museum.


Even as our hearts and our prayers go out to all who either grieve or have suffered loss or pain in terms of these horrifying attacks, the realization is that there is something deep that is being revealed here. And it’s something far deeper than is being discussed in the secular media. This isn’t just a failure of policy. This is a failure of our ability to read human hearts and minds. This isn’t just a failure of the laws. This is a failure in a Genesis 3 world of any adequate structure to keep mayhem from breaking out. At the end of the day, we have to be constantly, urgently thankful for the restraining power of God’s grace, of God’s law, and God’s presence in a world that keeps even more of these murderous attacks from breaking out. There is no place on planet Earth that is truly safe. That’s something that we’re supposed to know and that knowledge is what should make us yearn for eternity and it should add urgency to our preaching of the gospel.


Staying on the international scene for just a moment, the 28-member countries that make up the European Union are now voting on a new European Parliament and almost everyone in the international media has noticed a very interesting development. The nationalistic parties are on the ascendancy, both on the left and the right in much of Europe, leading to the fact that many of the people who are voting for this election are actually voting to end the very idea of the European Parliament or the European Union. And that has led observers such as Gabriele Parussini of The Wall Street Journal to point out that as there are candidates on the ballot, it’s actually the European Parliament itself and perhaps even the European Union that is going to be on the ballot. Parussini reports the European Union, many now complain, has become a bureaucratic machine that excels at dispensing edicts on how cheese is labeled while ignoring everyday problems such as unemployment and illegal immigration. Now there are enormous practical problems in something called the European Parliament. It cost tons of money. They don’t even have one capitol; they have two. In order to meet political expectations, they keep moving from one place to the other at enormous cost, and everything that takes place, every word, whether spoken or written, has to be translated into 20 languages. It’s something that is absolutely unsustainable and, furthermore, the very secular and liberal European Parliament seems to spend most of its time doing things that drive European citizens crazy. Not surprisingly, the European Parliament turns out to be largely incompetent to deal with the big questions like immigration and unemployment, but it spends its time regulating caviar and champagne and cheese; not to mention gobbling up a great deal of tax money.


But a very interesting insight on this comes from Paul Krugman, the very liberal economist who writes a column at The New York Times. He writes about the “Crisis of the Eurocrats.” He writes this:


A century ago, Europe tore itself apart in what was, for a time, known as the Great War — four years of death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. Later, of course, the conflict was renamed World War I — because a quarter-century later Europe did it all over again.


But that was a long time ago. It’s hard to imagine war in today’s Europe, which has coalesced around democratic values and even taken its first steps toward political union. Indeed, as I write this, elections are being held all across Europe, not to choose national governments, but to select members of the European Parliament. To be sure, the Parliament has very limited powers, but its mere existence is a triumph for the European idea.



Now there’s a typical American liberal joining in with European liberals to say, “If there’s a European Parliament, it must be a very good idea.” But, as his column continues, it turns out, it’s not quite that way. He also writes:


The truth is that the European project — peace guaranteed by democracy and prosperity — is in deep trouble; the Continent still has peace, but it’s falling short on prosperity and, in a subtler way, democracy. And, if Europe stumbles, it will be a very bad thing not just for Europe itself but for the world as a whole.


Now what I want to draw our attention to is what he said are the two fundamental issues that are supposed to establish the basis for peace and democracy in Europe. You’ll recall what he said. He said that the guarantee of the European project is supposed to be peace that is held together by democracy and prosperity. What could go wrong? Well here’s what could go wrong: governments could be unable to deliver on prosperity. And that’s exactly what Paul Krugman the economist affirms in this very column. So, in other words, if you hold together the idea of your union on prosperity, you better prosper, and if prosperity ever falls apart—or, for that matter, even declines or slows down—the entire project is in trouble.


I raise this point in order to affirm a very important Christian worldview observation. Governments are incompetent to deliver on something like prosperity. If a government promises prosperity and establishes prosperity as the very ground of its credibility, then beware. No government can produce prosperity. Prosperity requires an entire civilization. It requires individual units such as functioning families. It requires freedom and liberty. It also requires, if democracy is a part of the equation, a fundamentally free market. When you look at Europe today, you come to understand why prosperity isn’t happening. And when you look at this article by Paul Krugman, you come to understand why those who lead the European Parliament have no idea why some of their own voters would want to put them out of business.


The Isla Vista story took a great deal of our time today. Sometimes that’s just the way it is.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to Remember the periodic releases of Ask Anything: Weekend Edition. The season for the spring of 2014 has come to a close, but we’re still taking your questions. Call at 877-505-2058. That’s 877-505-2058. We’ll try to use your question when we start the new series later in the summer. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to For information on Boyce College, just go to I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

Podcast Transcript

1) Isla Vista shootings reminder of inability to read a person’s mind or heart

Video Rant, Then Deadly Rampage in California Town, New York Times (Ian Lovett and Adam Nagourney)

Parents’ Nightmare: Futile Race to Stop Killings, New York Times (Adam Nagourney)

Even in a State With Restrictive Laws, Gunman Amassed Weapons and Ammunition, New York Times (Jennifer Medina)

2) Murder not due to failure of policy, but of any structure to prevent murderous intent

3 Shot Dead at Brussels Jewish Museum, New York Times (Andrew Higgins)

Suspects in China Market Attack Are Identified, New York Times (Andrew Jacobs)

3) EU Parliament promise of prosperity undermining support among Europeans

As Europe Votes, Rightist Leads Campaign Against the EU Itself, Wall Street Journal (Gabriele Parussini)

Crisis of the Eurocrats, New York Times (Paul Krugman)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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