In a post last week called “‘Christian’ imperialism,” inspired by yet another shooting spree by a disturbed young, white man in Colorado, I advanced the argument that the peculiarly ahistorical and narrow definition of Christianity that contemporary evangelical sects use may be to blame for the murder of a professed Catholic man. There was some follow-up reporting published yesterday. According to court documents filed recently, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain Newsreported yesterday that killer Derik Bonestroo’s intention was to kill non-Christians. So says the Post:
One of the employees at the meeting, April Wilson, told investigators that Bonestroo walked in dressed in black, carrying a gun, and fired into the ceiling, according to the documents.
He then declared: “If you’re not Christian, you’re going to die,” Wilson said.
Strangely, the Post story doesn’t make any mention of the fact that the victim told the murderer he was Catholic before being shot. The Rocky says, “Witnesses said when Bonestroo asked [Brian] Mahon’s religion, Mahon said ‘Catholic’ and Bonestroo shot him in the chest and head.”
While we can probably never know what was going through Bonestroo’s mind that morning (unless someone familiar with his thinking comes forward to provide some context), the language here suggests that it’s quite possible that Brian Mahon was killed because he told Bonestroo “I’m a Catholic,” instead of “I’m a Christian.” So, while mental illness and ready access to firearms are the more proximate causes of Bonestroo’s murderous rampage and Mahon’s death, it appears also to be linked to the exclusive definition of “Christian” that evangelicals promulgate. Bonestroo’s mind was clearly deranged in a number of ways, but it may well have been Bonestroo’s ignorance of Christian history that doomed Mahon in particular. What a tragic, tragic waste.