How did the Atlanta spa shooter get to that point?

Was there a void where his mind’s eye should have seen the humanity of the eight people, six of them Asian American women, whom he killed?

At 2:37 pm on March 16, 2021, a black SUV pulled into a parking space in front of Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County, Georgia. The driver sat inside the vehicle for an hour. Then, at 3:37, the driver exited and began one of the worst massacres to ever afflict Asians in America, particularly Asian women.

I don’t believe in giving mass murderers one iota more attention than is warranted. But as we reflect on how this happened—and in particular, as we view these killings against the backdrop of rising Christian nationalism and its encouragement of anti-Asian animosity—Christians of conscience need to face this question: In that hour, what kind of preaching went through the mind of that minister’s son?

Did the malformed thoughts, impulses, and rationalizations flitting through his psyche highlight the sacred worth of Asian women, let alone of Asian sex workers? Did the spiritual formation culminating in this Southern Baptist’s holy war on a self-described “sexual addiction” force any recognition that the people he intended to kill at Young’s, who might not even have engaged in sex work, bore the divine image? Did any of his biblical literacy result in his glimpsing John the Revelator’s vision of a heavenly multitude “from all tribes and peoples and languages,” including Asian peoples and Asian languages?