The Arizona Murders: Pure Evil or Pop Psychology?

On January 8th, a nihilistic, atheistic, conspiracy theorist named Jared Loughner murdered six people and injured 18 more including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The disturbing act propelled a massive hailstorm of media speculation concerning the young man’s psychological background and mental state.

I am not an expert of psychology by any stretch of the imagination. My only introduction to any formal psychological training came when I briefly thought about minoring in it during college. After just one class, I was turned off and convinced Freud was not much more than an overeducated creeper.

Since the tragedy every major network with a resident psychologist has tried to psychoanalyze the mind of Loughner: social constraints, political persuasions, chemical reactions, and stunted emotional growth has all been posited as the source of his madness. The whole world has gone straight Dr. Phil in it’s obsession with the dark mind(lessness) of this murderer. In the midst of our diagnosing something has been tragically lost.

I agree with Kevin DeYoung when he says the root of the issue is found in this: The word “evil.” 

When people want to make such a horrific event a soapbox opportunity for gun rights or heated campaign rhetoric I cringe a bit. These are ancillary to the heart issue. Loughner wasn’t just a madman in the psychological sense, he was an evil man in the most real and concrete sense.

Why in the world would the media be so reluctant to call a cold-blooded murderer exactly what he is?

Because that would imply a moral code with absolutes, and being absolutely sure about right and wrong is almost as big a cultural party foul as being literally deranged. A crazy man who killed and died as a mere psychological anomaly is easier for our consciences to swallow than a man who is shockingly evil and died to maybe find himself in an actual eternal hell.

Jesus said Satan, the greatest manifestation of evil, was a “murderer from the very beginning” (John 8:44). How are we to label people like Loughner who side with the evil one? Just victims of a mental disorder? Merely brainwashed? Society’s failures?


“Evil” is the word for them. If we lose that biblical label we must necessarily lose the ability to label anything “Good” also. If there is no good there is no God (Luke 18:18-19), and that is the very mental state a man like Loughner found himself in. 

Godless, lost, sinful and evil.

We are all of these apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

May Christ, and not pop psychology, be found to be the only cure for these scourges on our human soul (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Bryan Daniels

Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

3 thoughts on “The Arizona Murders: Pure Evil or Pop Psychology?”

  1. I agree with everything you have written. At the memorial service we saw liberal politician’s one after another read scripture trying to comfort the country with it. Why is it that the same people would vote to ban and remove that same scripture from our schools? We can’t educate our children on it, but we can use it as a crutch in a time of need. In life there is good and evil, right and wrong and of course absolutes. There can not be both five chairs and six chairs in a single room at the same time. Sometimes people do wrong just because it is what they want to do. Not because they have some chemical imbalance in their brain or because they have justified it in their mind. It is curious to me how we can as a society move so strongly towards relativistic thinking and then get so upset when someone does something evil. After all it was right to them.

    Today I heard caller after caller tell a conservative talk show host that he is wrong for publicly criticizing our president and other liberal officials. It was frightening hearing how many people believe that in disagreeing with our president you are inciting violence against him. They kept telling this man that when he says that our president has failed at something he is justifying violence against him in peoples minds. Are they not doing the same thing to the show host in telling him he is wrong? What ever happened to personal responsibility and culpability for ones actions. No matter what someone else says, I am still responsible for my actions.

    In life you have to make choices about what things you will never do no matter what. As a Christian I find guidance in these absolutes through God’s word. As a Christian man I have resolved to never commit murder. I wouldn’t hesitate to kill to protect my family, but I would never murder for any reason. Given this and the absence of such absolutes in an atheistic world view, it isn’t a far jump for someone to justify murdering for whatever reason they can come up with. After all if there is no external soul, what does it matter if you take a life. If we simply cease to exists, why does it matter. No harm no foul right? I simply would never do it because it is a violation of God’s law and I have a respect for human life due to us being made in his image.

    How do you develop a respect for human life when you believe we are nothing more than sophisticated goo. It frightens me as a husband and father that others do not share in my same regard for human life. President Obama almost had to wipe away a tear when speaking of the nine year old girl who died, but he signed into law as a senator a bill that would have allowed her to be murdered immediately after she was born.

    Without God, I see no reason for resolutes or rationale for that matter. It is in his absence in lives that we find such atrocities as last weeks murders.

    1. Great thoughts Kyle!

      People have a problem with consistency for sure. Someone may say, “Well I know this atheist who is really nice and he does volunteer work…..” Sure, that may happen, but the atheist is not being consistent with his philosophy, namely that natural selection is his guiding principle, so his life should be based on mere survival and not self sacrifice of any kind. An atheist may love his children sacrificially, but he must acknowledge that loving sacrificially is counterintuitive to his whole framework. Yet loving people sacrificially is wholly logically consistent with the Christian worldview.
      Great comment!

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