The Atlanta massage parlor killings

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I was out of town when a man killed eight people who were in massage parlors. Because I was in intensive meetings, I didn’t see or hear about the murders through news for several days. It may be that I do not yet understand all that happened. But here’s one thing I heard that disturbs me terribly: Apparently, the young killer claims to have sexual addiction issues. So, he … murders eight people?

I also heard some say on social media that this accused perpetrator made some claim to the Christian faith. Whatever the women may or may not have been involved in, no person — especially no Christian — can claim that “someone else is at fault” for his or her sin. No one makes another person do anything save, perhaps, by torture and coercion.

We live in a nation that tries to find someone to blame for every societal ill. “It’s the mother’s fault,” “It’s the father’s fault,” “it’s the government’s fault.” No, if we do wrong, it’s our fault. We made a choice and did the deed, whatever it was. An ancient confession of sin read, in part,” I have sinned by my own fault.” We have created a generation or two of victims. Except they’re not victims.

I will grant that drug addiction and alcoholism are classified as “diseases.” Having stipulated that, they are diseases that are always self-inflicted. There has never in the history of humankind been an alcoholic that didn’t start with a drink. There has never been a drug addict that didn’t become one without making that first choice to try a drug. I once visited a woman in the hospital who bitterly blamed God that she was dying of lung cancer. Yet, at the same time, she was sitting outside, hooked to an oxygen tank, smoking a cigarette.

It’s called “personal irresponsibility.” In other words, “Nothing is my fault.” The late Flip Wilson, a comedian, often played a character named Geraldine who, when confronted about her behavior, always responded, “The devil made me do it.” People laughed as they watched Wilson’s character, but Geraldine was a liar. Nobody made her do it. She did it, whatever “it” was, all by herself.

People blame the porn publishers and pushers for the sexual addiction rampant even in many people, even in Christians. But porn would go out of business almost overnight if people made different choices about what they viewed. We have drug cartels that make billions of dollars because millions of people want drugs, and they started that addiction as a choice.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be helped when they get into terrible bondage. However, to excuse their behavior as though it were someone else’s fault is counterproductive and just plain wrong.

One of the guiding principles of Alcoholics Anonymous is owning the problem. I once took a doctoral course on addiction. As part of the class, I had to go to several 12-step programs. I went to three sessions of Alcoholics Anonymous, two sessions of Narcotics Anonymous, and one session of Overeaters Anachronous. The standard greeting at AA was, “Hi, my name’s Bill and I’m an alcoholic.” A similar introduction is common in the other two programs.

The professor of the course was a priest who was confronted in a bar after he got into a bar fight with another patron. When the fight was broken up, one of the men who knew him said to him, “Father, you’re nothing but a drunk!”

In what became an epiphany moment, he realized it was true. He went back to his church where an AA group was in session. He walked in and sat down. Glad to have the church’s priest drop in, the leader said, “Father! Good to have you! To what do we owe the occasion?”

The priest (and here I change his name) said, “I’m Father Jim … and I’m an alcoholic.” It was the beginning of a new life for him.

We often blame other people, or institutions, or even God. “God made me this way,” we claim. Well, if we are committing sin, no, he did not. We did that all by ourselves. James 1:14-15 says, “We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead.” Again, “I have sinned by my own fault.”

This young man became a sexual addict (if that is indeed true) because he made choices. Nobody held a gun to his head and forced his actions. Law enforcement spokesmen say he had been a customer at two of the targeted establishments. And he alone (allegedly) bought a gun and, with apparent pre-meditation walked in, and made the conscious choice to murder eight people.

The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, says he wanted to “remove temptation.” He was also reportedly travelling to Florida, at the time of his arrest, where he planned to commit similar violence on a business involved with pornography. There’s nothing remotely “Christian” about Long’s actions and there is no excuse for his evil behavior.

There are legitimate questions to ask. If the police knew that sex was being exchanged for money, why did they not shut these businesses down and make arrests? Coweta County law enforcement has done just that several times. Why not these jurisdictions? But those questions cannot excuse the violence visited on these women. We are responsible for our own actions.

“The Fault in Our Stars” quote comes from a line in the play “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare. The line goes: “The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars / But in ourselves, for we are underlings.” This quote is suggesting that nothing is to blame for all of the world’s evil nature but ourselves. We sin by our own fault.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). The church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]

2 COMMENTS

  1. The_wing_t,
    Very well said, “I wonder why we can’t at least eliminate the obvious.” I’ve seen several as well in PTC area. I mentioned this in response to another article, but how and why do we allow these blatant sex work/human trafficking establishment to operate?? It very much makes me sad as well on all sides for these broken people. I’m angered at our elected city officials for not putting restrictions to prevent such places from setting up here and reacting more quickly to stop it.

  2. Mr. Epps – there are multiple massage “parlors” within a few miles drive of your church as well, and I can guarantee you that there is illicit activity going on in all of them. Maybe not on every visit, but at least on a regular basis. People looking for strictly a therapeutic or physical-therapy related massage don’t generally decide last minute, and they certainly aren’t going there at 9pm in the evening to do physical therapy. I feel sad for not only the men who are visiting to help them cope with life or to help them escape or “numb out”, but I also feel sad for the women who are working there. I’ve often wondered how we allow these establishments to exist. There is at least 1 in Peachtree City, as well as at least 1 in Sharpsburg. I’m not saying shutting these “businesses” down would prevent a man from stumbling, as there are countless other ways for men to do so. But I wonder why we can’t at least eliminate the obvious.