What’s the common denominator for mass murderers? White, Male, Christian, or Crazy: answer may surprise you.

Elizabeth Drescher’s recent tweet, “Angry, Hateful, Demented white people are really bringing me down #Aurora#ChickFilA #OakCreek” seems to indicate her angst. She writes a brilliant article at Religion Dispatches talking about the link between masculinity and mass violence. Drescher is the fundamental question regarding the recent spate of mass murders in America: What is the common denominator?

There is a connection to whiteness, most mass murderers are white, but not all by any stretch. That’s not the common denominator. Most are Christian, but the same problem arises: many are not Christian. Many are mentally ill, this seems to be a very important factor, but again there are many who are absolutely sane, just angry or convinced that violence is their only recourse.

Drescher’s conclusion is: “by and large the common denominator in mass killing is gender; the intimate enemy [the killer] is almost always a man.”

Drescher rightly points out that a major player in the hegemony of the masculine is religion, which in the case of American Society means Christianity.

“we cannot begin to address the culture of violence that is literally exploding all around us without acknowledging that “manning up” in American culture too often involves actions aimed at the subordination of others—women, children, nature—to the will of a man who, it is assumed, embodies the will of God. These often religiously informed, institutionalized, and naturalized versions ofmasculinity play no small part in the continuum of violence that moves from the domestic sphere to the public arena.

As gender scholar Raewyn Connell has noted: “There are many causes of violence, including dispossession, poverty, greed, nationalism, racism, and other forms of inequality, bigotry and desire. Gender dynamics are by no means the whole story. Yet given the concentration of weapons and the practices of violence among men, gender patterns appear to be strategic. Masculinities are the forms in which many dynamics of violence take shape.”

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  • Gerard

    Interesting way to examine this. I appreciated Hugh Schwyzer’s take on the privileged white men connection to public shootings.


    Also interesting is how he points out the trend of searching for connections to race/religion/culture when the shooting is carried out by a person of color. When it’s a white man, the media immediately assumes they must be sick or evil.

  • scott stone

    I’d refine the common denominator down a bit. They are, by and large, American men.
    I read her article and couldn’t pick up on the #chick-fil-a. I wonder what that was for.

  • Ok, so help me along here…the author’s point is that most violent crime is perpetrated by the hunter/gatherers of our society? Well that’s neither new, nor news, so her following assertions must comprise her major point – mainly, that religiously-informed ideas of masculinity comprise the deeper root of homicidal violence.

    “…’manning up’ in American culture too often involves actions aimed at the subordination of others—women, children, nature—to the will of a man who, it is assumed, embodies the will of God. These often religiously informed, institutionalized, and naturalized versions of masculinity play no small part in the continuum of violence…”

    Drescher’s angst seems rooted in this obscure, deeply fallacious proposition that “God is all male, so all males are God.” Assuredly some significant set of humans believe this, but that set is hardly restricted to Christianity, and certainly not in touch with a true image of God or masculinity. Yet she seems to play up religious fringe extremists as representative of the religious population (inspiring disdain with her logical aerobatics).

    Furthermore, Drescher seems to condemn men at large (especially White and Christian) as “the enemy,” forgetting the unsung acts of heroism (and productive normalcy) carried on daily by an endless procession of “angry (White or Christian) men” – fathers, teachers, cops and soldiers, firefighters and mentors and factory workers alike.

    This article left me puzzled. Drescher teaches and works in ministry, and so obviously isn’t simply trodding on Christianity. I wish I could get to know her, and understand what she’s really on about.

    j oliver

    • micah brew

      I notice that whenever they talk about some mass killing that took place by a white male who was a “Christian” on the news, it is never mentioned as a terrorist act. In fact, as soon as they know it was not done by a Muslim, they are very fast to let you know that it was not an act of terrorism. But the fact is when any one walks into a school and shoots up little children and teachers, it is very much an act of terrorism. I have never been in that situation, but I am very sure, the people that survived were in terror as well as the kids were right before they were gunned down. You mention cops in your post. I want to thank you for such a great example of how white males with power – more than likely Christian- abuse it and hide behind it. All I see are white male cops gunning down young black men and getting away with it. That is sanctioned murder. The one where the murder was caught on tape had a black cop helping the white cop covering it up is also a great example how some black men are beholden to their white, male, Christian masters.

      Thank you for writing, Drescher.

      • Jake

        You got it all right except for the ‘black cops being beholden to their white Christian masters’ thing. Many black men (even women) hold top offices in police forces across the country. They’re just as deluded as the crazy white cops, and just as Christian (not that all Christians and cops are deluded, just a significant amount). Hell, we even have a black Christian president.
        It’s really sad though, especially the way some of these African American cops have turned against their communities in the name of the law.
        This being said, Most white people in American history, even modern history, have seriously screwed blacks (and Irish, Mexicans, Native Americans, Jews, Italians all to some degree). The fact that black people are so disproportionately poor to whites is a side effect of racist legislation from the first half of the 20th century. Plus, ‘institutional racism’ is a side effect of that! To top it all off, there is a slow gutting of the middle class and expanded powers of law enforcement exacerbating the situation.

      • Fred Collins

        Don’t assume that a young man who happens to be white is automatically “Christian”.

  • J

    The common denominator are the fact they are White. White males most be urged to take responsibility for the fact that majority of mass shooters are white males. Maybe if they realize this we can figure out what’s wrong with young white males. Please don’t start to say blacks commit all crimes (if i stipulate blacks commit 99.999% of crime). It will not take the fact away that white males are gunning down innocent human beings at will. You have to own this help can take place.

  • Rhig Ginsun

    Interesting that Drescher fails to mention that Asian American men-especially Korean Americans-
    are significantly over-represented in the mass shooter club. Also interesting that in Korean culture
    there is a feeling called Han…a feeling of helplessnes, hopelessness, injustice and isolation against perceived overwhelming odds. This might well account for not only the Asian American shooters, but the majority of workplace shooters as well. Having worked for the Postal Service for 15 years, I know that Han exists in many long-time Postal employees.

  • jake

    All false. There is a minimal race correlation with the last 50 mass murderers (at least 4 deaths in one incident). It is true that most of the “big ones” were done by whites and one asian in recent memory. But that is statistically a very small pool of incidents to draw from. And you also have to keep in mind that whites and asians generally commit homicides at a lower rate than other races, it is just that they seem slightly over represented in the “big ones”. The priveledged angle is weak IMO and is probably just selected to fit the progressive liberal worldview more than anything. No data.

    As for the Christian angle that is shaky ground. A huge percentage of Americans consider themselves “Christian” but not that many of them go to church frequently. People who frequent church rarely commit murder or mass murder, though a few serial killers did. Most mass murderers are individuals like McVeigh who grew up Christian but didn’t go to church as an adult and didn’t much identify with it. That or they are straight up atheists.

    But this is not causation. Simply put, church is a community event. It is filled with people that like to get together with other people and share in faith. Most murders and sociopaths generally steer away from group events like this and are more loners.

    I don’t know this “study” is basically a bunch of crap. Some progressive liberal trying to find a false link between white/christian and evil. The progressive way they way.

  • Fred Collins

    The difference between white men and “men of color” is that young men of color have gangs where they can get their violent ya-ya’s out on a daily or weekly basis. Just check in with Chicago and Baltimore and parts of Los Angeles, if you don’t believe me. These communities offer the violent young man a social structure within which to express his violence. White guys these days don’t have a social structure for being violent, so they pretty much are expected to hold it in or express it in video games. When a young white man comes along with an exceptional need for violence, there’s no social structure for him, so he becomes a loner, gets increasingly disconnected from reality, and finally explodes.