“Our hearts are filled with so many emotions; with grief, with anger, sadness, with emptiness, confusion,” Associate Pastor Luke Folsom said in a prayer before a crowd of more than 100 congregants.
Long, 21, was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. The eight victims included a woman two days shy of her 50th birthday and a newlywed who had just given birth to her second child. Seven of the eight killed were women; six of them were of Asian descent.
“Right now there is a bitter pall hanging on the palate of our hearts. Everything is impacted and influenced by what we have experienced this week, and you wonder if it’ll ever taste sweet again,” Dockery [The evangelical church’s senior pastor] said. “God’s word says we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.
Church members had told The Washington Post that Long and his parents regularly attended church services and activities. The church had publicly disowned Long in a Friday statement, saying that “he alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires,” which are “the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind for which Aaron is completely responsible.”
Long himself had cited a theological motivation for his alleged attacks, telling police that they were an attempt to eliminate sexual temptation. His former roommate, Tyler Bayless, said Long believed he was “falling out of the grace of God” due to his “sex addiction,” and that on at least one occasion he had contemplated suicide.
Experts this week have said the mentality Bayless described is common within evangelical “purity culture,” which teaches that sexual desire outside of marriage is sinful and those who fail to control their lust are sometimes considered “sex addicts.” The church’s bylaws assert that adultery, fornication and pornography are “sinful and offensive to God.”
“He was racked with a very specific kind of guilt — which is to say religious,” Bayless said. “He was militant about it. I mean, this was the kind of guy who would hate himself for masturbating, would consider that to be a relapse.”
So what's the deal here? "You can be a member of our church, a sinner just like all our members, unless, that is, you commit a sin we really don't like. We only want upstanding sinners in our church. And as for any compassion, forget it, you're simply not worth our effort. And, 'Judge not lest ye be judged' you say! Well who are you to tell us how to read the Bible. We'll cherry pick it as we darn well see fit.
Want some advice? Go join that heathen Methodist church across town. They'll take anyone."