At this point, I think reporters have no choice but to dig into the Calvinist themes in the manifesto published by John Earnest, the accused shooter at Chabad of Poway.
It’s crucial to find out, of course, what he learned during his many hours in the pews at Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It would appear that Earnest then blended pieces of Calvinist theology into the white supremacist beliefs that he says that he learned elsewhere.
Here is the key question at this point, as I see it: Was there an online website (a specific writer, even) that twisted Calvinist doctrines into the form that Earnest blended into a radicalized, violent white nationalism that embraced some things that he heard at church, while rejecting others?
Let’s take this one step at a time, starting with the following, from my first GetReligion post on this subject:
Yes, reporters … need to note that Earnest said, in that same manifesto, that he didn’t soak up this twisted version of Christianity while frequenting church pews with his family. His hateful, deadly heresies grew out of a private, secret life online, listening to true radicals. Church members tried to talk to him, but he turned away.
Nevertheless, there is no question that reporters will have to deal with two clashing versions of Christianity when covering this story — that white supremacist brand proclaimed in this digital testimony and the Orthodox Presbyterian — uppercase “O” is part of the name — faith taught in his family’s congregation. In this case, the accused gunman did everything that he could to put the word “Christian” into play.
This brings us to two Washington Post stories that can — by savvy readers — be read together. They cover two parts of the same equation.
Here’s the headline on the first one I’d like readers to study: “Ancient hatreds, modern methods: How social media and political division feed attacks on sacred spaces.” And here is the overture, which covers the crucial ground:
Inspired by the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and enabled by the largely unchecked freedoms of social media, individual extremists have launched a steady series of assaults on religious institutions around the world, the latest at a California synagogue. …