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Mass-Murder Group Therapy

by David Gelernter

Let’s not pretend we can make sense of what happened in Aurora

I don’t care what the Colorado murderer’s message is, or what his goals were, and for my part he can rot in hell: Forgiveness is central to Judaism but is the prerogative of the injured and grieving — and is the proper response to repentance. But since immediate action is called for in a moment of national mourning, how’s this. Let’s ban “counselors” from anywhere within 50 miles of the injured or bereaved. Likewise “therapists,” social workers, psychologists, the lot. Friends and family are needed in such a crisis; so are ministers, priests, rabbis. Americans are not in the habit (thank God) of developing lifelong relations with their “counselors.” Do you want a social worker delivering the eulogy at your funeral? (Let her read the service too, while she’s at it, or make up her own! After all, she’s the professional.)

The idea that grief can be assuaged by experts who know and care nothing about the grief-stricken or the dead is loathsome. No doubt many religious leaders are partly responsible, insofar as they encourage their congregants to think of and address them as if they were social workers. In any case, conservatives must come to grips with this deep problem they have largely avoided: the secularization, professionalization, trivialization of grief. It corrodes human dignity like rust eating steel. The antecedent state of mind, which makes grief a “condition” to be treated by therapists, happens to resemble the worldview in which criminality is likewise an illness; in which mass murderers are crazy automatically, by definition, and there is no such thing as evil.

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