Madness

More details come out about the Tucson shooter Jared Loughner’s insanity.  I was struck with this paragraph in a description of his delusions (none of which were apparently related to politics, despite what is still being said):

Slowly but steadily, his intelligence warped into a distorted, disconnected series of obsessions. He developed an illogical fascination with logic. Math, grammar, logic – the systems civilization has developed to make sense of the world became the means through which he expressed the confusion and pain in his increasingly lost mind.

via Friends, teachers tell of Loughner’s descent into world of fantasy.

This reminds me of G. K. Chesterton’s comment in Orthodoxy that a madman is not someone who has lost his reason, but someone who has lost everything but his reason.  Chesterton pointed out that madmen often carry a kind of logic to its extreme–circular reasoning, seeing evidence of conspiracies everywhere, closely analyzing ordinary occurrences and finding sinister meanings–but they lack normal human feelings and perspectives.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Booklover

    There has been documentation that the use of drugs in the teen years is particularly concerning because the brain is still forming at that time. I am not saying that his use of drugs caused his mental downfall, but it couldn’t have helped.

    The whole story is so very sad. It sounds like that math teacher was so very aware of Jared’s problem and had tried to do something for a long time. He was even afraid after Jared was suspended from class.

  • Booklover

    There has been documentation that the use of drugs in the teen years is particularly concerning because the brain is still forming at that time. I am not saying that his use of drugs caused his mental downfall, but it couldn’t have helped.

    The whole story is so very sad. It sounds like that math teacher was so very aware of Jared’s problem and had tried to do something for a long time. He was even afraid after Jared was suspended from class.

  • CRB

    What’s even sadder is that the gospel of Jesus Christ never broke through, neither to his parents or him! For “He who makes all things new,” could certainly have brought good out of the evil that was festering in a lost soul.

  • CRB

    What’s even sadder is that the gospel of Jesus Christ never broke through, neither to his parents or him! For “He who makes all things new,” could certainly have brought good out of the evil that was festering in a lost soul.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    CRB, what he did was certainly evil, but given his mental state, for how much can he be ehld culpable.

    I honestly don’t know, maybe there is someone here with some real, professional experience in the field of schizophrenia (I presume), and criminal culpability that would care to comment?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    CRB, what he did was certainly evil, but given his mental state, for how much can he be ehld culpable.

    I honestly don’t know, maybe there is someone here with some real, professional experience in the field of schizophrenia (I presume), and criminal culpability that would care to comment?

  • DonS

    Well, finally, we have moved from blaming Sarah Palin for inciting Mr. Loughner to commit his murders to wondering whether he could even be found culpable for knowing what evil he was doing.

    Progress, I guess.

  • DonS

    Well, finally, we have moved from blaming Sarah Palin for inciting Mr. Loughner to commit his murders to wondering whether he could even be found culpable for knowing what evil he was doing.

    Progress, I guess.

  • DonS

    Pat C. — your comment is interesting. I agree with you that Mark Kelly’s public response to the grave wounding of his wife was very gracious, and probably brings some measure of comfort to Loughner’s probably emotionally tortured family. Of course, that is the most healthy response, because there is no point in responding with rage and anger at the insane actions of a madman.

    But what’s the deal with your comparison of his gracious response to the shooter’s family to Palin’s decision to defend herself against utterly unwarranted and uncivil attacks? Doesn’t she have the right to defend herself? Put yourself in her shoes — sitting in her house in Alaska, many thousands of miles from Tucson, and finding herself in the sights of an entire organized attack by her self-appointed political enemies, immediately after the shooting, laying the blame for the attack at her feet. What would you do? And why aren’t you training your criticism at those who attacked her? Compare their actions with the actions of Mark Kelly. In particular, how about the sheriff of Pima County, mouthing off in his official capacity as sheriff, without an iota of support, and blaming Palin and Rush Limbaugh for inciting the murder?

    That is a much more apt comparison. And their actions are much more worthy of your disappointment.

  • DonS

    Pat C. — your comment is interesting. I agree with you that Mark Kelly’s public response to the grave wounding of his wife was very gracious, and probably brings some measure of comfort to Loughner’s probably emotionally tortured family. Of course, that is the most healthy response, because there is no point in responding with rage and anger at the insane actions of a madman.

    But what’s the deal with your comparison of his gracious response to the shooter’s family to Palin’s decision to defend herself against utterly unwarranted and uncivil attacks? Doesn’t she have the right to defend herself? Put yourself in her shoes — sitting in her house in Alaska, many thousands of miles from Tucson, and finding herself in the sights of an entire organized attack by her self-appointed political enemies, immediately after the shooting, laying the blame for the attack at her feet. What would you do? And why aren’t you training your criticism at those who attacked her? Compare their actions with the actions of Mark Kelly. In particular, how about the sheriff of Pima County, mouthing off in his official capacity as sheriff, without an iota of support, and blaming Palin and Rush Limbaugh for inciting the murder?

    That is a much more apt comparison. And their actions are much more worthy of your disappointment.

  • DonS

    Pat C @ 7: OK, I’ll take your word for it. It’s just odd to me that you chose to pick on her, rather than the many people who were much more deserving of being called out. I think it is a very fair response for Sarah Palin to wonder why her name was ever uttered in connection with this unfortunate incident, as it is abundantly clear that she had nothing whatsoever to do with it. And it is unfortunate that once she was wrongly dragged into it, and worse yet blamed for it, there are those, such as yourself, who scold her for having the temerity to respond and defend herself from outrageous accusations.

    Here’s my statement, with a hat tip to Pat C.: Wouldn’t it have been great had the sheriff of Pima County and countless left-wing media figures responded to this attack with grace like the congresswoman’s husband is doing to the family of the man who tried to kill his wife? Sure, he’s not meeting (he can’t) with the shooter, but he’s seeking to comfort those deeply shamed by the shooter’s actions; those who should have, perhaps, sought help for this man, but didn’t. Bless him.

  • DonS

    Pat C @ 7: OK, I’ll take your word for it. It’s just odd to me that you chose to pick on her, rather than the many people who were much more deserving of being called out. I think it is a very fair response for Sarah Palin to wonder why her name was ever uttered in connection with this unfortunate incident, as it is abundantly clear that she had nothing whatsoever to do with it. And it is unfortunate that once she was wrongly dragged into it, and worse yet blamed for it, there are those, such as yourself, who scold her for having the temerity to respond and defend herself from outrageous accusations.

    Here’s my statement, with a hat tip to Pat C.: Wouldn’t it have been great had the sheriff of Pima County and countless left-wing media figures responded to this attack with grace like the congresswoman’s husband is doing to the family of the man who tried to kill his wife? Sure, he’s not meeting (he can’t) with the shooter, but he’s seeking to comfort those deeply shamed by the shooter’s actions; those who should have, perhaps, sought help for this man, but didn’t. Bless him.

  • DonS

    Au contraire, Pat C. Palin was first mentioned by left-wing agitators who almost immediately blamed her for instigating Loughner to shoot Giffords, and that meme was then first raised on that other thread by another left-leaning commenter. I was merely responding to him and to those ridiculous and unsupported attacks. It is the left that is obsessed with Sarah Palin. I tire of seeing someone wrongly accused and attacked merely for having and expressing a point of view that is disagreeable to others, and for apparently being seen as a threat to the left. But to be essentially accused of instigating murder was a bridge too far.

    And what, pray tell, is your basis for concluding that if a man comes to the defense of Ms. Palin’s reputation, against the undeserved scurrilous attacks to which she is continually subjected, that necessarily means that it must be a “crush”? What a juvenile point of view. I guess when women defend Obama from the birthers, it must be the same, in your mind? Sheesh. Let it go yourself.

  • DonS

    Au contraire, Pat C. Palin was first mentioned by left-wing agitators who almost immediately blamed her for instigating Loughner to shoot Giffords, and that meme was then first raised on that other thread by another left-leaning commenter. I was merely responding to him and to those ridiculous and unsupported attacks. It is the left that is obsessed with Sarah Palin. I tire of seeing someone wrongly accused and attacked merely for having and expressing a point of view that is disagreeable to others, and for apparently being seen as a threat to the left. But to be essentially accused of instigating murder was a bridge too far.

    And what, pray tell, is your basis for concluding that if a man comes to the defense of Ms. Palin’s reputation, against the undeserved scurrilous attacks to which she is continually subjected, that necessarily means that it must be a “crush”? What a juvenile point of view. I guess when women defend Obama from the birthers, it must be the same, in your mind? Sheesh. Let it go yourself.

  • Grace

    I am not Sarah Palin’s biggest fan – but making her a scape-goat regarding Jared Loughner has not one ounce of merit.

    Giffords husband while comforting Loughner’s family is very different from defending the actions of Jared Loughner.

    Palin has every right to defend herself from such outrageous accusations.

    People who commit such acts have severe mental problems, there must have been a number of obvious clues as to his mental state along the way.

    Oxford Dictionaries – A sociopathic disorder is defined as follows:

    a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.

  • Grace

    I am not Sarah Palin’s biggest fan – but making her a scape-goat regarding Jared Loughner has not one ounce of merit.

    Giffords husband while comforting Loughner’s family is very different from defending the actions of Jared Loughner.

    Palin has every right to defend herself from such outrageous accusations.

    People who commit such acts have severe mental problems, there must have been a number of obvious clues as to his mental state along the way.

    Oxford Dictionaries – A sociopathic disorder is defined as follows:

    a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.

  • Stephen

    I live in a college town. A few months ago, a young man went on the campus of the university with an AK 47 and ran around shooting in the air. The campus police chased him into the library where he ran up to the top floor and killed himself. The SWAT moved in and shut the campus down in the confusion. He turned out to be a lonely kid with no friends who was good at math, was on a scholarship, and as it so happens, lived just a few blocks from me with his parents. I wonder what words were going through his head that day.

    Sometimes I drive by his street and wonder about the family. I wonder if it would do any good to go by there and offer some kind of help these many weeks later. Is that even my place? Are those people my neighbor? Would I be meddling? I really don’t know. I never quite know what to do when these kinds of things happen, even in my own city it seems. When I drive by I remember that kid and his family and I pray about it a little. I still do not know what to do.

    It’s just a story I guess, but it seems to me that words might mean something to that family, that a neighbor ought to have something to say them. I keep coming back to repentance in the face of these kinds of things, something that seems to be lacking. I think we want to back away and say that we bear no responsibility for things, like the things we say, once they are taken up by others. We are just a bunch of solitary individuals with our own problems to deal with. If we choose to help each other out, well then, that’s our business, but we need not be compelled to do it, or feel any real responsibility as to whether it gets done or not. Likewise, if we say anything at all, we cannot be held accountable for it once it has left our mouths, keyboards, etc., though we do bristle if we are copied, misquoted, or otherwise misrepresented, demanding apologies – words- to make things better.

    I remember when that man took those Amish children hostage and ended up killing them. At the funeral, the patriarch of the Amish community took the children up before the caskets of their brothers and sisters and told them that they should not think ill of the man that did this horrible thing. They should forgive. What kind of a foolish person teaches their children to do that in the face of such obvious injustice and horror? That’s backward!

    What do the Psalms say about my sin being ever before me? It would be nice to see that more, people willing to lay that before others, and ready always to forgive, but it is unlikely. We will go on seeking to even the score. And we will go on watching children kill. I don’t know what to do about it except repent and pray for the most part while I teach my child both to forgive and obey. I’m not sure at the moment, but perhaps repentance is the only way to take full responsibilty for the things we say that fall on the ears of children and lunatics, and for our inability to offer the right words at the right time to our neighbor. Thankfully we can lay that all at the cross. Often it is the case that no one else will forgive us except Jesus.

  • Stephen

    I live in a college town. A few months ago, a young man went on the campus of the university with an AK 47 and ran around shooting in the air. The campus police chased him into the library where he ran up to the top floor and killed himself. The SWAT moved in and shut the campus down in the confusion. He turned out to be a lonely kid with no friends who was good at math, was on a scholarship, and as it so happens, lived just a few blocks from me with his parents. I wonder what words were going through his head that day.

    Sometimes I drive by his street and wonder about the family. I wonder if it would do any good to go by there and offer some kind of help these many weeks later. Is that even my place? Are those people my neighbor? Would I be meddling? I really don’t know. I never quite know what to do when these kinds of things happen, even in my own city it seems. When I drive by I remember that kid and his family and I pray about it a little. I still do not know what to do.

    It’s just a story I guess, but it seems to me that words might mean something to that family, that a neighbor ought to have something to say them. I keep coming back to repentance in the face of these kinds of things, something that seems to be lacking. I think we want to back away and say that we bear no responsibility for things, like the things we say, once they are taken up by others. We are just a bunch of solitary individuals with our own problems to deal with. If we choose to help each other out, well then, that’s our business, but we need not be compelled to do it, or feel any real responsibility as to whether it gets done or not. Likewise, if we say anything at all, we cannot be held accountable for it once it has left our mouths, keyboards, etc., though we do bristle if we are copied, misquoted, or otherwise misrepresented, demanding apologies – words- to make things better.

    I remember when that man took those Amish children hostage and ended up killing them. At the funeral, the patriarch of the Amish community took the children up before the caskets of their brothers and sisters and told them that they should not think ill of the man that did this horrible thing. They should forgive. What kind of a foolish person teaches their children to do that in the face of such obvious injustice and horror? That’s backward!

    What do the Psalms say about my sin being ever before me? It would be nice to see that more, people willing to lay that before others, and ready always to forgive, but it is unlikely. We will go on seeking to even the score. And we will go on watching children kill. I don’t know what to do about it except repent and pray for the most part while I teach my child both to forgive and obey. I’m not sure at the moment, but perhaps repentance is the only way to take full responsibilty for the things we say that fall on the ears of children and lunatics, and for our inability to offer the right words at the right time to our neighbor. Thankfully we can lay that all at the cross. Often it is the case that no one else will forgive us except Jesus.

  • Porcell

    While Loughner may be considered technically insane, he is, also, a deeply evil man. He perfectly fits the definition of evil in that he has involved himself in a profoundly immoral and malevolent act. That well known grin taken after the killing is the personification of evil.

    Another of Chesterton’s deeply held views is that modern folk are rather too enamored of psychologically deterministic views of people’s actions.

  • Porcell

    While Loughner may be considered technically insane, he is, also, a deeply evil man. He perfectly fits the definition of evil in that he has involved himself in a profoundly immoral and malevolent act. That well known grin taken after the killing is the personification of evil.

    Another of Chesterton’s deeply held views is that modern folk are rather too enamored of psychologically deterministic views of people’s actions.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Porcell, but to deny that the psychologically ill exist, or to treat them the same as normal people, is wrong as well. There is significant evidence that this fellow was well on his way into the land of schizophrenic delusion – the question is at what stage does the culpability diminish?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Porcell, but to deny that the psychologically ill exist, or to treat them the same as normal people, is wrong as well. There is significant evidence that this fellow was well on his way into the land of schizophrenic delusion – the question is at what stage does the culpability diminish?

  • Grace

    First of all, I don’t consider those who become depressed over situations (death in the family, divorce, losing a job, etc) in their life to be evil/mentally ill.

    Those who are mentally ill, hating others, etc., – can they be classified as evil, having no conscience of their deeds, who repeatedly defy rules, laws, and those in authority – who deliberately hurt others, lie and manipulate – cannot be trusted. One has to protect themselves and their loved ones. I do not want to be in the presence of someone who exhibits such behavior, nor would I seek them out, thinking I could be of assistance.

    Psychiatrists cannot understand the thinking patterns of one who may, or may not harm another, that’s because their thinking is disconnected and evil. Yes one can see symptoms, and group them together, making a determination of bi-polar, paranoia, schizophrenia, and other so called mental disorders – their reality is altered.

    One cannot make them get help, even their families may have problems, and cope with their own emotional illness, and then their child’s, into adulthood. My point is, you cannot figure them out, (even though it’s clear they are mentally ill, and or, evil) even the most educated doctor’s are unable to determine when someone will commit a terrible crime, it’s a guess! As for medication, that too isn’t always successful. One of the reasons is; the mentally ill don’t want to take meds, all too often they like the way they think, that is a CLUE which is often overlooked – they don’t want to be controlled and calm, so they stop taking the medication the doctor prescribed. Is this an evil desire? perhaps it is, and a serious clue.

    Is Manson evil, or all the others who have done such despicable crimes? Do we just categorize these people as mentally ill, or is it simply an evil mind, carrying out acts of hatred, taking things which aren’t theirs, molesting and raping, killing, physically harming others, and planning the events?

  • Grace

    First of all, I don’t consider those who become depressed over situations (death in the family, divorce, losing a job, etc) in their life to be evil/mentally ill.

    Those who are mentally ill, hating others, etc., – can they be classified as evil, having no conscience of their deeds, who repeatedly defy rules, laws, and those in authority – who deliberately hurt others, lie and manipulate – cannot be trusted. One has to protect themselves and their loved ones. I do not want to be in the presence of someone who exhibits such behavior, nor would I seek them out, thinking I could be of assistance.

    Psychiatrists cannot understand the thinking patterns of one who may, or may not harm another, that’s because their thinking is disconnected and evil. Yes one can see symptoms, and group them together, making a determination of bi-polar, paranoia, schizophrenia, and other so called mental disorders – their reality is altered.

    One cannot make them get help, even their families may have problems, and cope with their own emotional illness, and then their child’s, into adulthood. My point is, you cannot figure them out, (even though it’s clear they are mentally ill, and or, evil) even the most educated doctor’s are unable to determine when someone will commit a terrible crime, it’s a guess! As for medication, that too isn’t always successful. One of the reasons is; the mentally ill don’t want to take meds, all too often they like the way they think, that is a CLUE which is often overlooked – they don’t want to be controlled and calm, so they stop taking the medication the doctor prescribed. Is this an evil desire? perhaps it is, and a serious clue.

    Is Manson evil, or all the others who have done such despicable crimes? Do we just categorize these people as mentally ill, or is it simply an evil mind, carrying out acts of hatred, taking things which aren’t theirs, molesting and raping, killing, physically harming others, and planning the events?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Grace, am i correct in understanding that you have classified all mentally ill / disturbed people as evil?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Grace, am i correct in understanding that you have classified all mentally ill / disturbed people as evil?

  • Grace

    16 Louis

    “Grace, am i correct in understanding that you have classified all mentally ill / disturbed people as evil?”

    No that’s not correct – there are people who suffer depression due to loss, of one kind or another. It can be treated with medication. T

    I believe that those who do harm, such as willfully hurting another person as in, rape, molestation, murder, beating, lie and manipulate others which might harm them – - my second and fifth paragraphs post 15 are those who I believe are evil.

    Too often people are tagged as mentally ill, when in fact they purposefully do hateful acts. How often we’ve heard of children who at a very young age begin to hurt animals and other children? How often are these signs ignored? Is it evil? I believe it is.

    1 Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation? do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men?

    2 Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth.

    3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

    4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
    Pslams 58

  • Grace

    16 Louis

    “Grace, am i correct in understanding that you have classified all mentally ill / disturbed people as evil?”

    No that’s not correct – there are people who suffer depression due to loss, of one kind or another. It can be treated with medication. T

    I believe that those who do harm, such as willfully hurting another person as in, rape, molestation, murder, beating, lie and manipulate others which might harm them – - my second and fifth paragraphs post 15 are those who I believe are evil.

    Too often people are tagged as mentally ill, when in fact they purposefully do hateful acts. How often we’ve heard of children who at a very young age begin to hurt animals and other children? How often are these signs ignored? Is it evil? I believe it is.

    1 Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation? do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men?

    2 Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth.

    3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

    4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
    Pslams 58

  • Grace

    You can mix/match this up, but I do not see, nor understand how anyone can hold Palin accountable for anything that happened in Tucson. To continue scraping the blackboard, shows how little one understands, and how eager some are to find a scapegoat.

  • Grace

    You can mix/match this up, but I do not see, nor understand how anyone can hold Palin accountable for anything that happened in Tucson. To continue scraping the blackboard, shows how little one understands, and how eager some are to find a scapegoat.


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