President Trump called the mass murder in Las Vegas “an act of pure evil”. What does it mean to be pure evil? The answer has different meanings in Western culture and Orthodox Christianity.
Evil in the West means some form of mental derangement. Mass murder represents the most extreme form of abnormal psychology. When one of these horrific events happens, the West and its mass media are always shocked that an individual could carry out such an action. The search for answers centers on psychological explanations. The triggers could be religious or political fanaticism, sudden personal crisis, drug use or an underlying psychotic condition. Unfortunately, these answers do not provide either prevention or cure. The conversation turns immediately to gun control. But stringent gun control in cities still hasn’t stopped the murders.
Orthodoxy offers a different analysis. Evil is not a function of the material world but rather exists in the spiritual world. The human being has one foot in the material physical world and one foot in the spiritual world. The secular west has rejected this explanation as being a medieval worldview. In the Western secular belief system, any phenomena not explained, will be explained in time. God and evil need not enter the discussion. Yet as these mass murders keep happening and psychological efforts fail, an Orthodox Christian explanation is worth exploring.
The shooter’s brother said that the shooter did not have any religious or political affiliations. Can we assume that the shooter was experiencing a spiritual void? Orthodoxy states that such a condition invites evil into an individual’s live. The spiritual world invades the physical mind.
To the outside world, the shooter was a recluse, but not dangerous; certainly not pure evil. In Orthodoxy, it is sin and acting upon temptation that opens the door to evil. In extreme cases, it leads to pure evil.
The shooter was a high stakes gambler. In this discussion in US mass media, there is no mention of the negative effects of professional gambling on a person. He was on the contrary, a successful high stakes gambler, often winning against the house. The gambling industry was quick to claim that he did not have gambling debts although that doesn’t exclude a gambling addiction. The windows in the high-rise hotels are difficult to break, to prevent suicides from gambling losses. He needed a sledgehammer to crack the window.
In Hollywood movies, this type of person who could beat the house is glorified. The shooter should have had a high self-esteem. In Las Vegas, high rollers are often provided with many complimentary perks to encourage them to continuing gambling. They receive free hotel suits, free dinners and are offered free cocktails by beautiful women, all working against them to take their money. As thrill of high risk becomes duller and duller, the gambler needs a higher dose of risk, just like a drug addict.
Las Vegas proudly claims to be “Sin City”. Excess is all things is the norm and most behaviors are encouraged. The city also boasts the slogan “ what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. Vegas encourages sin and giving into temptations. Afterwards, upon leaving Vegas, there are no consequences to this behavior. There is no repentance necessary. In Vegas there is no superior moral law, only man-made law where almost anything goes.
There has been another case of a professional gambler creating mass murder.In June the attack on a Manila casino left 37 dead. That shooter had problems in his personal life including deep gambling debts.
The spiritual emptiness of these men can only be cured in the spiritual world. The choice we all face is: do we fill this void with Christ or let evil overtake us? We are powerless to fill this void on our own. No matter how hard we try.