Matthew J. Murray, 24, of Englewood, CO, killed five people (including himself) and injured six
during two attacks on
the same day at two religious locations -- one near Denver, and the other in
Colorado Springs, CO. He may have selected the Youth With a Mission Center
(YWAM) as his first target because he had trained there as a missionary before
being rejected by them in 2003. He may have chosen the New Life Church in
Colorado Springs as
his second target because it is the largest Charismatic congregation in
Colorado, and he seems to have wanted to kill as many Charismatic Christians as possible. In
addition, he apparently attended a seminar there with his mother on at least one
occasion. His attacks may have been indirectly linked to a mass murder by a 19
year-old gunman at a mall in Omaha, NE on 2007-DEC-05.
Murray was raised in a deeply religious conservative Christian home. His
father, Ronald, is a neurologist who is involved in multiple sclerosis research.
His mother, Loretta, was a physical therapist. She quit her career to raise and
home school her
two sons, Matthew and Chris.
At some time between 2003 and 2007 Matthew became
disillusioned with Pentecostal and Charismatic
Christianity -- two movements within conservative Protestantism.
Max Blumenthal, is the author of the book "Republican Gomorrah: Inside the movement that
shattered the party," 1 Blumenthal writes:
"On an online chat room for former Pentecostals, Murray heaped contempt on
his mother, Loretta, a physical therapist who home schooled him to ensure that
his contact with the outside world was severely limited." 2
The author says Murray?s mind became crowded with thoughts of death,
destruction, and the killings he would soon carry out in the name of avenging
what he called his "nightmare of Christianity."
Murray is believed to have frequently posted messages at a forum operated by
the Association of Former Pentecostals (AFP) underthe username
"Chrstngntmr" -- presumably meaning "Christian Nightmare." The AFP is
a non-profit group for individuals who have abandoned the Pentecostal or
Charismatic movements, and are seeking the support of other individuals going
through the same process. The AFP takes a very dim view of these Christian
movements, calling them a "new 'scourge' on Christianity," and referring
to their alleged "spiritual abuse and manipulation." The AFP states:
"Often, people leaving these faiths feel alone, confused, or doubtful --
feeling that perhaps they've made a mistake. We're here to let you know that
you are not alone! Many people have 'walked away' and are living better for
it! We hope this site and our resources can be of interest -- and perhaps
even some help -- for you. Even if you're already completely 'over' this
religion, we hope you'll hang around and help us help others!" 3
Blumenthal quoted a portion of one of Murray's postings to the forum:
[Spelling and grammar is uncorrected; obscene word deleted]
" My 'mother' is just a brainswashed [sic] church agent
[...]. The only reason she had me was because she wanted a body/soul she could
train into being the next Billy Graham. ...
My mother was into all the charismatic 'fanatical evangelical' insanity. Her
and her church believed that Satan and demons were everywhere in everything.
The rules were VERY strict all the time. We couldn?t have ANY christian or
non-christian music at all except for a few charismatic worship CDs. There
was physical abuse in my home. My mother although used psychotropic drugs
because she somehow thought it would make it easier to control me (I?ve
never been diagnosed with any mental illness either). Pastors would always
come and interrogate me over video games or TV watching or other things.
There were NO FRIENDS outside the church and family and even then only
family members who were in the church. You could not trust anyone at all
because anyone might be a spy." 2
Several members of the AFP forum attempted to reach out to Murray. AFP
president, Joe Istre, said:
"He appeared to be an isolated person. We tried to tell him to get help,
to get some counseling, but he just laughed at it. ... He scared a lot of
people in the forum throughout the last few months with some of pretty crazy
posts but never anything violent." 4
In his postings, Murray complained about having been home-schooled. He
felt that it had prevented him from being able to "socialize normally."
He looked upon himself as an outcast who was always left out of things.
After Murray posted a poem titled "Crying all alone in pain in the
nightmare of Christianity," Marlene Winell, a psychologist, offered to help
him, but was refused. She is the author of a book that helps
fundamentalist Christians who leave their faith. 5
He also is believed to have posted messages to the Independent Spirits
forum. 6 This is a site
devoted to people who feel that they have been negatively affected by the
teachings of Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles.
The Institute produces an evangelical Christian program used by some home school
parents. According to the Associated Press:
"One posting obtained by the AP was to a site called Independent Spirits,
a gathering place for those affected by a strict Christian home schooling
"The author, again going by the handle Chrstnghtmr, describes going with his
mother to a conference at New Life. The poster said he 'got into a debate'
with two prayer team staff members, who monitored him, then tracked down his
mother and 'told her a story that went something along the lines of I
'wasn't walking with the lord [sic] and could be planning violence'.'"
A spokesperson for Matthew's mother denied that
this event ever happened. The church has no record of the incident.
Also on Independent Spirits forum
"Chrstnghtmr" said that at the age of 17, after having
tried to go "all out for Jesus," he sank into a "dark suicidal
depression." He attributed this to not being able to live up to the rules.
Medication and attempts at religious healing did not help. He wrote:
"Everyone prayed, they laid hands on me, spoke in tongues over me, I
sought out every kind of spiritual help I knew of in charismatic
christianity." [sic] 8
In another posting, apparently by Murray, he wrote that after graduation, his
options were limited to attending Oral Roberts University, a charismatic
Christian university currently undergoing a major internal financial and legal crisis, or what he
called a "disciple training school" run by Youth with a Mission. He
selected the latter, and attended their local facility located in Arvida, CO, a
suburb of Denver.
According to Apologetics Index:
"Youth With A Mission is an international, Christian missions
organization operating from nearly 600 locations in over 130 countries. The
organization includes more than 9,500 long-term staff members, and over
28,500 short-term workers. YWAM is involved in training, evangelism, and
"...YWAM does lots of good work, the organization is not without its
critics. At one time, a CRI fact-sheet pointed out the organization's
cultic tendencies (primarily due to the many
complaints received about abuses within YWAM's leadership structure). 9
The Associated Press reported that:
"A former YWAM staff member, Michael Werner, told the Rocky Mountain News
that Murray was painfully shy and had trouble socializing after growing up
sheltered. Later, he exhibited extreme mood swings, spreading rumors about
homosexuality at the center, and performing dark
rock songs by Marilyn Manson and Linkin Park at a 2002 Christmas
One night, Werner said Murray was chattering to himself and explained he
was 'just talking to my voices'." 8
After being ejected from YWAM for unspecified health reasons, he seems to
have developed serious doubts about Christianity. He attended some events
sponsored by Ad Astra Oasis in Denver. This is a local chapter 10 of the
Ordo Templi Orientis, a spiritual group following the
Law of Thelema and the writings of Aleister Crowley. They emphasize "...the
ideals of individual liberty, self-discipline, self-knowledge, and universal
brotherhood." 11 He
applied to become a member but was rejected.
A forum posting by DyingChild_65 -- apparently another of Murray's
usernames -- stated
that all he got out of Christianity was:
"... hate, abuse (sexual, physical, psychological, and emotional),
hypocrisy, and lies. ... I'm going out to make a stand for the weak and the
defenseless this is for all those young people still caught in the Nightmare
of Christianity for all those people who've been abused and mistreated and
taken advantage of by this evil sick religion Christian America this is YOUR
Why did Murray commit mass murders of strangers?
Although the four persons that he murdered and the six that he injured
were presumably strangers to him, they were all Pentecostal or Charismatic
Christians -- members of a group that he wanted to attack.
There is no way to know what ultimately caused him to hate Pentecostal
and Charismatic Christians so intensely that he wanted to murder as many as
he could. Some factors might have been:
His mention of hearing voices might indicate that he was suffering from
schizophrenia. That mental health disorder often first manifests itself in a
person's very late teens or early 20's. It can generate psychotic behavior.
Murray mentions physical abuse at the hands of his parents. Unfortunately,
it is not known whether this:
Involved simple spanking that was magnified in his memory to reach the
level of serious abuse, or
Actually involved physical abuse.
Psychologist Dr Ralph S. Welsh
has evaluated over 3,000 juveniles over his multi-decade career and has
observe a strong linkage between heavy corporal punishment during childhood
and both rage and criminal activity during early adulthood.
More info. He notes that he has:
"... yet to see the first violent male juvenile delinquent who wasn't
raised on a belt, board, extension cord, fist or the equivalent. I have
carefully excluded all forms of discipline that were incapable of causing
lasting physical marks or damage including hand slaps, hands to the rear,
and even a switch to the legs. I am still amazed at the consistency of the
'belt' and its equivalents in producing angry and violent behavior." 12
If Murray had been abused as a child, rage during
teen years and early adulthood could have contributed to the attacks.
Commenting on an radio interview between
Murray's parents and James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, Blumenthal
"Murray?s parents were not neglectful of their son, nor were they
intentionally abusive. By all accounts, they raised him in faithful accordance
with the teachings of the Christian right?s leading self-help gurus. In their
cloistered world, where home-schooling is viewed as an ideal alternative to
'government schools,' and where the rod is rarely spared, they were model
parents. Murray?s killing spree thus reflected less on his parents than on the
all-encompassing authoritarian culture that Dobson had helped to shape. When
practiced in the real world, the movement?s 'family values' sometimes produced
some unusually dysfunctional families. Only by blaming Satan and his minions
for Murray?s acts could the Christian right avoid acknowledging this
absolutely damning indictment of its ideology." 2
Blumenthal describes Murray as:
"... a deeply disturbed young man... [who] had been indelibly scarred by a
lifetime of psychological abuse at the hands of his charismatic Pentecostal
Marlene Winell, "Leaving the fold: A guide for former fundamentalists and
others leaving their religion," Apocryphile Press, (2006).
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Steve
Allen wrote the forward, saying: "This book by psychologist Marlene Winell
provides valuable insights into the dangers of religious indoctrination and
outlines what therapists and victims can do to reclaim a healthier human
spirit.... Both former believers searching for a new beginning and those just
starting to subject their faith to the requirements of simple common sense, if
not analytical reason, may find valuable assistance in these pages."