On Sunday, a disturbed young man in Colorado named Matthew Murray shot and killed two people at a missionary training center in Arvada. He then went on to Colorado Springs, where he killed two more people at New Life Church before being shot dead by a church security guard.
Murray was heavily armed, carrying an assault rifle, two handguns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition. He had requested to stay in a dormitory at Youth with a Mission, the missionary training center, and had been refused. News outlets have reported that Murray had once been affiliated with the group but had been thrown out. He had been sending the group hate mail.
More revelations may come to light about Murray, but at this point it's clear he had some serious mental problems. Such horrific violence cannot have been the product of a normally functioning mind.
At a time like this, most people know what must be done: We express our sympathy for the families of those killed. Those who are religious may remember them in prayer. However we do it, it's a time to offer our support and our condolences.
Unless you're Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. If you are Tony Perkins, this is a time to whine, portray yourself as a victim and make utterly tactless comparisons between the shooting and alleged "hostility" toward Christians in the media.
In a statement e-mailed to supporters yesterday, this is what Perkins had to say: "It is hard not to draw a line between the hostility that is being fomented in our culture from some in the secular media toward Christians and evangelicals in particular and the acts of violence that took place in Colorado yesterday. But I will say no more for now other than that our friends at New Life Church and YWAM are in our thoughts and prayers."
It's hard to know how to respond to something this incoherent, mean-spirited and downright crude. What on earth is this man talking about? Even if there were "hostility" toward evangelicals in the secular media – a highly debatable point given how often Perkins appears on television news shows – it would in no way be equivalent to cold-blooded murder.
We at Americans United have strongly disagreed with the agenda of FRC and its Religious Right allies over the years. Nothing we have ever said or done suggests that we would tolerate one act of violence against them. No column in a newspaper, no matter how critical, is the same as taking someone's life.
The irony is, Murray was a product of a conservative Christian home. As The Washington Post reported, he was "home-schooled in a deeply religious Christian household." It would be foolish and offensive to suggest that this upbringing caused him to become violent. We simply do not know what demons Murray was wrestling with. Instead of trying to score cheap points with wild comparisons that don't hold up, Perkins would do better to offer support to all those affected by this tragedy.
If I could say one thing to Perkins right now, it would be this: I don't know who, if anyone, is editing the bulletins you send out. But you really need to hire someone sharp. You need someone who will put the brakes on you before you expose yourself as heartless, boorish zealot with more junk like this.