Church shootings, in the headlines because of the attacks by Matthew Murray, 24, of Englewood, Colo., on two Christian groups last weekend, are on the rise across the United States, even though they’re not yet at epidemic proportions.
Murray killed two people at a Youth With A Mission missionary training center in Arvada, Colo., early last Sunday morning, then apparently posted some rantings on the Internet, and drove to the New Life Church in Colorado Springs where he killed two teen girls. He also wounded half a dozen others before he was confronted by a church member volunteering as a security guard, and was shot.
A tabulation of church shootings, or those closely related to a church setting, was done by Gary Cass, chairman of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, and include 10 such attacks over the last four years, including Murray’s two attacks.
“The tragic events in Colorado this past weekend underscore the fact that anti-Christian hostility is reaching a new, more violent level,” Cass told WND. “Churches used to be sanctuaries that were regarded as sacred, now all church leaders must be prepared to effectively defend themselves and use deadly force if necessary to protect their congregations from violent acts.”
He said a brief search found the following shootings, before last weekend’s attacks:
- August 12, 2007: A lone gunman, Eiken Elam Saimon, opened fire in a Missouri Micronesian church, killing a pastor and two other churchgoers.
- May 20, 2007: A standoff between police and a suspect in the shootings of three people in a Moscow, Idaho, Presbyterian Church ended with three dead, including one police officer.
- Although not at a church building, the Oct. 2, 2006, attack in Lancaster County, Pa., by a gunman who killed five girls and then himself at an Amish school targeted a religious site.
- May 21, 2006: Louisiana. Four were killed by a man at Jesus Christ Church.
- Feb. 26, 2006: Michigan. Two people were killed at Zion Hope Missionary Baptist Church by a man who reportedly went to the church looking for his girlfriend. He later killed himself.
- April 9, 2005: A 27-year-old airman died after being shot at a church in College Park, Ga., where he had once worked as a security guard.
- March 12, 2005: A man walked into the services of the Living Church of God in Milwaukee and open fired immediately, killing seven people.
- Oct. 5, 2003: A woman opened fire in Turner Monumental AME church in Kirkwood, east of Atlanta, killing the pastor and two others.
- Sept. 16, 1999: Seven young people were killed when a man opened fire during a prayer service for teen-agers at the Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Self-defense is not just a right, but a Christian duty. Jesus told his followers, ‘if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one,’” said Cass. “Christians are not to be a soft target for the hateful and deranged. Church leaders have a duty not to allow a crazed gunman to come and shoot up their congregation. Thank God for security officer Jeanne Assam and for New Life Church’s security preparations.”
As WND reported earlier, weeks before Murray armed himself with enough weaponry and ammunition to kill hundreds and staged the two attacks, he apparently boasted in an e-mail that he had discovered and practiced the teachings of controversial British occultist Aleister Crowley, called during his lifetime “the wickedest man in the world.”
Murray is believed to have been the gunman who shot and killed Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24, at the Youth With A Mission campus in Arvada, Colo., early last Sunday morning. Then, about 12 hours later, Murray died when confronted by armed security officer Jeanne Assam at New Life Church after he shot and killed sisters Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachael Works, 16, in the church parking lot. Half a dozen others were wounded in his attacks.
Philip Crouse, 24, from Alaska, was killed by an armed attacker while responding to a request for help by a lone individual at the Arvada, Colo., base of Youth With A Mission
WND reported at the time on the disturbing rantings Murray apparently left on several websites before – and even between – the attacks, including those reported by National Terror Alert, which documented a series of postings by “nghtmrchld26,” which said, “You Christians brought this on yourselves … All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you … as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world.”
“It is a sad reality of our times, but Christians must take up arms to protect themselves at church,” said Cass. He cited the postings by Murray, including the following:
“I’m coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth and I WILL shoot to kill. …,” a statement also attributed to Murray’s Internet postings.
“Mathew Murray was obviously a very troubled young man, but unfortunately he is not the only one,” Cass said.
The pastor behind the Good Fight website, which documents reports from rock stars themselves of their encounters with the occult and satanic influences through their experiences with rock music, says he believes an e-mail he got weeks ago was from Murray, and indicated trouble.
Pastor Joe Schimmel told WND he recalled the October e-mail when he read the postings, included in WND stories, attributed to Murray. He said he thinks it’s important for people to know what the attacker himself was feeling and thinking prior to his homicidal attack, especially since he’s been described in the media as a homeschooled student from a religious family.
Tiffany Johnson, 26, of Minnesota, was one of two Youth With A Mission staff members shot and killed by an attacker in Arvada, Colo.
The e-mail, although it came from a man who identified himself as “Brian,” most probably was from Murray, Schimmel says, because of long list of similarities. The e-mail notes the writer has “studied and practiced the teachings of Aleister Crowley/Thelema/The Golden Dawn, Qabbalah, H.P. Blavatsky/Theosophy, Manly P. Hall, Alice Bailey, and others.”
Crowley, who lived during the late 1800s and first half of the 1900s, was a bisexual, drug-addicted occultist practitioner and author who almost reveled in the media description of him as “the wickedest man in the world.”
During a court case in the 1930s, Crowley was described by a judge as dreadful. “I thought that everything which was vicious and bad had been produced at one time or another before me,” the judge concluded. “I have learned in this case that we can always learn something more … I have never heard such dreadful, horrible, blasphemous and abominable stuff as that which has been produced by [Crowley.]”
Crowley also founded Thelema, a religious belief that was drawn from his book, “Liber Al Vel Legis,” or Book of the Law, which gives only two commands: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” and “Love is the law, love under will.”
Crowley espoused a wide range of occultist activities and practices, and one of his compatriots reportedly died from drinking the blood of a cat during one ceremonial episode, according to documents on Crowley’s life. Many believe Crowley was a forerunner to Anton LeVay, who formalized his beliefs in “The Satanic Bible” and established the Church of Satan.
While Crowley dabbled in the occult, magic, trances, drugs, sex and blood rituals, Schimmel told WND the writer apparently had sold his soul to another devil: rock music.
The e-mail noted that “music is a very powerful thing,” and then continued with writings that appeared to have been assembled in the form of an article titled, “My Secret Drug Addiction”:
I have a powerful addiction to a powerful drug that most people in my life don’t know about. … I have found this drug to truly be a force to be reckoned with. This drug can completely alter blood pressure, heart rate, brainwave patterns and other bodily functions. … This drug will completely control a person’s mind, what thought’s (sic) they think and their emotions and how they feel. I found that this drug has the power to completely alter a person’s religious beliefs, their morality, and their values and their entire lifestyle. … I found this drug to be a powerful driving force and easy gateway into a world of sex, other drugs, rebellion, homosexuality, alcoholism and many other dark things. … The drug … is commonly known in our culture as … Rock Music.
Schimmel said his organization specifically documents and warns about the occult influences in rock music and modern society, and this rang an alarm when he first received it.
Schimmel said the writings line up with what he knows about Crowley, and his influence, which sparked multiple references during the rock era of the 1960s, when some songs even included a tribute to “Mr. Crowley,” he said.
He said his ministry has worked to show how Satanism can influence youth through music, and this was a factor not included in many media reports about the Colorado shootings.
But he said if the author had “practiced” Crowley’s teachings, “he’s opened himself up to a spiritual drug addiction.”
“What he really is, is a Satanist, subscribing to the teachings of Aleister Crowley,” said Schimmel, who told WND other leaders in the Crowley image have included Timothy O’Leary and Alfred Kinsey.
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