Church Killer Writes to God

In December, my dad and I wrote about the murders at New Life Church:

On December 9, it was two Christians who fought for life. While attending church, Larry Bourbonnais yelled at a killer to distract him. Later he said, “After Columbine, I promised my daughters that if I’m ever in that kind of situation, that I would do something.” Jeanne Assam likewise rose to the challenge and stopped the killer. Tragically, the killer had already struck. And so New Life Church will also mourn the deaths of loved ones over Christmas.

The murderer targeted Christians; he wrote that some Christians “are to blame for most of the problems in the world.” This prompted one Christian to reply that “the living God and his followers offend the world, the flesh, and the devil merely by reflecting light in the darkness.”

But whatever the problems of Christianity (real or imagined), whatever offense others may find in it, such things are irrelevant to the heinous crime. In a civilized world, people work out their disagreements through rational debate in the public square. …

It does seem that the killer may have had some legitimate complaints (but who doesn’t). According to The Denver Post, his “home-school curriculum… forbids dating, rock music and ‘wrong clothes.’ It advises young men and women to live at home until their parents release them and counsels parents to choose marriage partners for their offspring.”

Even assuming that the guy grew up oppressed, any real man would simply have left home and started a life of his own.

The article from the Post that described the murderer’s “ultra-religious home-school curriculum” was written by Nancy Lofholm (“Shooter’s lessons strict, rule-driven,” 12/12/2007).

Today The Denver Post revealed a new detail of the story:

A killer who gunned down four people last month at a church in Colorado Springs and a youth mission in Arvada wrote a letter addressed “To God” that was recovered along with other items from his car.

The letter was listed in an evidence and property invoice of items that Colorado Springs police recovered from a 1992 Toyota Camry belonging to Matthew Murray. The documents were obtained by Newsradio 850 KOA. …

[The killer’s] car was found and seized by investigators in the New Life parking lot.

The note to God was found in the rear passenger seat, along with two books: “I Had to Say Something” by Mike Jones and “Serial Murderers and Their Victims” by Eric W. Hickey, according to the invoice.

The Jones book is an expose about his experience as a male prostitute and his sexual encounters with former New Life pastor Ted Haggard. Jones’ revelations led to Haggard leaving the church. (“Church shooter left letter ‘To God’ in car,” Kieran Nicholson, 1/17/2008)

I called 850 KOA, and a representative of the station said that, while the station has obtained an inventory list, it has not obtained the letter itself. I assume that the contents of the letter will be released at some point.

The fact that the murderer wrote a letter “To God” indicates that the murderer believed in God. Even if the murderer rejected the legitimate authority of God, the murderer seems to have been acting from a theistic premise, the presumption that God exists. (Whatever the letter may say about the existence of God, which we won’t know until the letter’s release, the fact remains that it is addressed to God.) Likewise, the Christian critic who suggested that the murders were the work of “the devil” (the line comes from a December 14 e-mail by John Andrews) assumes a theistic perspective.

There is obviously a huge difference between rebelling against God and concluding that God does not exist.

It is also obvious that the murders had little to do with theism. Plenty of disgruntled Christians never resort to violence. On the other hand, many Christians, as well as many atheists, have committed heinous crimes. In the modern world, Christians, theists angry with God, and atheists can, whatever their differences, join together in condemning such acts of violence.