Mass shootings have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. It felt personal when it reached the Allen Premium Outlet Mall in Texas last Saturday afternoon. We have shopped there and have friends who live nearby. We mourn the eight innocent victims and pray for their family members, some of whom remain hospitalized.

The more common mass shootings become, God forbid that we would accept them as a normal part of our culture. Thankfully, there is a groundswell of people calling for change. One side of the political spectrum is calling for more gun control; the other is calling for addressing the problem of mental health. Both sides can present evidence to support their position.

I will not get into the political fray, but I have a theory on mass shooters. I am neither a research analyst, sociologist, political activist, nor NRA member. My theory is based on my personal observations, listening, reading, and a biblical worldview. It may not apply to every situation but it applies to most mass shooters.

I believe a mass shooter, more correctly, a mass murderer, is driven by hatred. On the surface, it can be hatred of a race, family, coworkers or fellow students, gender orientation, religious groups, or political ideology. This covers a wide range of societal categories, but I believe there is a singular, particular kind of hatred at the core of the perpetrator—self-hatred.

Emotional pain drives hatred, and when unchecked, it becomes all-consuming and seethes beneath the surface like magma, building pressure until it erupts like a volcano, destroying anyone in its path. The cause of the pain may be an array of bad life experiences—rejection, bullying, abandonment, low self-worth, etc. Why, then, do I say it is self-hatred? Because the act of mass murder is “suicide by cop.” The perpetrator’s ultimate intent is to die by the bullets of law enforcement.

He may hate those who hurt him, but he hates himself to the degree that he would rather die as a notorious criminal than live. Mass murder is a channel to express his hatred through terror. if he takes his own life, he will die in obscurity, validating that his life has no meaning. To die as a mass murderer is disgraceful, but to his tortured soul, dying with his name in headlines bring notoriety, which is better than never being known.

Is there a solution to this troubling trend of mass shootings? Changing gun laws might make it harder to obtain a gun; offering government-sponsored mental health programs could make help more accessible for those who genuinely need it. But if self-hatred is at the core of a mass murderer, then it is an issue of the soul; it is a spiritual issue. The solution is the Gospel. That might sound simplistic or just religious jargon, but it is true. The other two solutions can alter behavior, but only the Gospel can change the soul. Self-hatred cannot coexist with embracing the love of Christ. A life redeemed by the blood of Christ and transformed by the Holy Spirit will experience God’s love, joy, and peace. If there is a wound of rejection, abandonment, trauma, or another source of pain, God can heal and restore the soul. Psalm 34:17-19 says,

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

Our country is in desperate need of change. We all want the madness of mass shootings to stop. Politicians can act to change gun laws. Federal and local governments can invest in mental health services. But nothing will change unless God’s people rise and share the Gospel with a lost and troubled world. Change comes one life at a time. Behind the mask of a smiling face can be a hurting soul looking for a reason to live. Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT).

It has been reported that the shooter was a white supremacist. Seven of the eight victims were of Asian or Hispanic descent. We mourn their deaths:

  • Sofia and Daniela Mendoza (9 and 11)
  • Kyu Song and Cindy Cho (37 and 35) and their son James (3)
  • Christian LaCour (20)
  • Aishwarya Thatikonda (26)
  • Elio Cumana-Rivas (32)

The day after the shooting, I visited a church only a few miles from the Allen mall. Of the 3000+ worshipers, about 2900 were black, 100 were white, and I was the lone Asian. But neither race nor politics mattered. We didn’t focus on the evils of white supremacy; we didn’t focus on gun control; we didn’t focus on mental health programs. In unity, we prayed. We prayed for the families of the victims; we prayed for the seven injured who were hospitalized; we prayed for the parents of the shooter; we prayed for the law enforcement officers and first responders; we prayed for the shoppers at the mall who were traumatized by what they witnessed.

And we prayed for ourselves that we would share the Gospel with someone this week. One person sharing the Gospel can change a life. Three thousand people sharing the Gospel can change the community.