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The defendant is disowned by the Georgia church, which claims he betrayed faith.

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The defendant is disowned by the Georgia church, which claims he betrayed faith.
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The defendant is disowned by the Georgia church, which claims he betrayed faith.

The defendant is disowned by the Georgia church, which claims he betrayed faith.The defendant is disowned by the Georgia church, which claims he betrayed faith.

 

The church where the white man accused of killing eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlors, the majority of whom were Asian women, denounced the shootings on Friday, claiming they were against the gospel and the church’s teachings.

In a statement, Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Georgia, said it would expel 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long from the church because it “can no longer affirm that he is genuinely a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”

The church had previously only released a short statement expressing condolences and neglected to mention Long. It also deactivated its social media pages and made its website inaccessible to the public.

It said on Friday that the steps were taken to ensure the safety of its worshippers.

Congregants were “distraught” to hear that the suspected shooter was a member of the congregation, according to the release. His family has been members of the church for a long time.

“We saw Aaron grow up and welcomed him into the church when he made his own profession of faith in Jesus Christ,” the statement read.

“These heinous and heinous murders run counter to his own confession of faith in Jesus and the gospel.”

Investigators are also trying to figure out what drove Long to carry out the country’s worst mass murder in nearly two years.

He said he was not politically motivated and had a “sex addiction,” according to police, and he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation.

Given the locations and the fact that six of the eight victims were Asian women, those comments ignited indignation and suspicion.

Crabapple First Baptist said it will continue to grieve, lament, and pray for the victims’ families, and it regrets “the terror and pain Asian-Americans are feeling as a result of Aaron’s inexcusable behavior.”

Crabapple First Baptist Church said, “No blame can be put on the victims.” “He is entirely to blame for his bad deeds and desires.”

The church also stated that it does not teach that violence against “certain ethnicities or women” is justified, nor that women are to blame for men’s sexual sins against them.

“Murder, in particular, is a heinous evil and a horrific sin. We also expressly condemn all forms of racism and abuse directed at Asians or Asian-Americans.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, assaults against Asian Americans have increased across the world. The virus was first discovered in China, and it has been characterized in racially charged terms by former President Donald Trump and others.

According to the church, it is working with law enforcement and praying for “both earthly and divine justice.”

Long was described as “a little bit socially awkward but not standoffish or silent” by Tyler Bayless, who lived with him for at least six months at an addiction treatment center in Roswell, Georgia, until early 2020. Bayless said Long asked him to pray for him at least a couple of times, but he never forced his convictions on others.

“I’m sure he had some interesting religious views, but he was never very outspoken about them. “It wasn’t like he was like, ‘I’ve got to save your soul,’” Bayless said.

Long said he lapsed and went to a massage business on many occasions, sparking intense self-loathing, remorse, and public confession that he worried he could hurt himself, according to Bayless. Long once asked him to keep a hunting knife in his pocket, according to Bayless.

“’You know, I went to one of these locations,’ he said. Bayless said, “I feel like I’m dropping out of God’s grace.”

“I mean, this was the kind of suffering he was going through as a result of what his moral convictions had led him to believe about the actions he was committing.”

Long, according to Bayless, sought to restrict his use of social media to prevent what he saw as outlets of sinful temptation.

According to Joshua Grubbs, a clinical psychology professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio who has studied the intersection of sexual habits, faith, and morality, men from conservative religious backgrounds, especially in the United States, may be susceptible to misinterpreting “just a little bit of sexual behavior that contradicts their values as an addiction.”

He claims, however, that there is no proof that such sexual activities predispose anyone to violence towards others.

“I just don’t believe it when people say, ‘I have a sex addiction, I feel so bad about it, I’m going to go out and kill eight people,’” said Grubbs, who has often handled people with the problem. “It doesn’t reflect my background as a clinical psychologist or a researcher.”

Grubbs teaches religious leaders on how to talk about sex, pornography, and “out-of-control sexual habits,” as well as how to avoid using words that can lead to or exacerbate depression and shame.

“I have never met a religious leader who suggested” that the only way to stop the activity is to “go kill the people” that allow it.

That is something I have never seen before. It’s a ludicrous premise.”

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