Prior research has found that outbreaks of mass shootings seem to erupt like a contagion. Although science doesn’t have a definitive answer for identifying the contagion, the Bible certainly does.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
In the wake of four high-profile shootings in America in a single week—a Walmart in Mississippi; Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio—people are looking for answers. Clearly, something has changed in our world. It’s been coming for quite a while.
Researchers at Arizona State University analyzed data on cases of mass violence back in 2014 and 2015. They looked at killings in which at least four people were killed. The researchers plugged the data into mathematical models that are much like those used to model the spread of infectious diseases. They specifically sought to see whether cases of mass violence spread like a disease outbreak—a contagion.
The researchers said there was significant evidence to show that mass killings spread like a contagion. They also found evidence of contagion in school shootings. In fact, they found that there was a two-week window after school shootings that led to more incidents.
The researchers called the repeat incidents a form of social contagion. However, they also noted that they did not have clear evidence whether all of the perpetrators were consciously influenced by other perpetrators, especially when incidents occurred back-to-back.
However, they did find some evidence that some perpetrators may have been influenced by older events.
The Bible reminds us we are engaged in spiritual warfare and gives us a clear warning about an ever-present contagion that seeks to tempt us to do evil: The devil and his demons.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12
Christ gave a warning about the dangers of evil:
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” – Matthew 12:43-45
The parable of the unclean spirit is found in Matthew 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24-26. In this parable, Jesus points out that when we physically sin or have sinful thoughts we lose the protection of the Holy Spirit. When we sin, we immediately need to repent.
A keyword in this parable is “empty.” It means devoid of the Holy Spirit. We are the “empty house” that is a vacant and easy dwelling place fit for the habitation of evil. Without staying vigilant against evil and having the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, evil comes back sevenfold.
Christ was saying that an evil generation primed for the coming of evil spirits. A generation that heard the word of God, partly reformed, but not truly converted. This is a generation where mankind had become an enemy of God’s truth. Because of this, this generation was primed to be a harbor for unclean spirits, with the mind prepared to comply with evil suggestions.
The devil knows where to find a weakness and who to tempt. When the devil finds a human mind unoccupied with things that are good, it presents an opportunity for temptation and suggestions of evil.
Ephesians 6 tells us that we have to put on “the whole armor of God.” We have to have the Holy Spirit in our hearts so that we are prepared with the “belt of truth,” “breastplate of righteousness,” the “shield of faith,” the “helmet of salvation,” and “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” – Ephesians 6:10-11