Crabapple First Baptist Church
Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Georgia. (Image via Google Maps)

Church of Atlanta Shooting Suspect Distances Itself, Urges ‘No Blame’ on Victims

By Adelle Banks

The church of the alleged gunman in the fatal shootings of eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta-area spas has distanced itself from the suspect, saying it was “absolutely distraught when we found out that the shooter was a member of our congregation.”

The Friday statement from Crabapple First Baptist Church in the northern Atlanta suburbs said the family of Robert Aaron Long has been members for “many years” and Long professed his faith in Jesus when he joined the congregation.

Long, a 21-year-old white man, was charged with murder in the killings of eight people at three spas, two in Atlanta and one in Cherokee County, Georgia.

Police — who were aided by his parents in identifying their son in surveillance videos — have said they are investigating if the killings were racially motivated hate crimes, The Associated Press reported.

“Aaron’s actions are antithetical to everything that we believe and teach as a church,” the congregation’s statement reads. “In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the actions of Aaron Long as well as his stated reasons for carrying out this wicked plan. The shootings were a total repudiation of our faith and practice, and such actions are completely unacceptable and contrary to the gospel.”

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Authorities said Long told them he had a “sexual addiction” and carried out the slayings to get rid of the temptation posed by the massage businesses. Long was a customer at the two Atlanta spas he targeted, according to police.

Long was also a patient at an evangelical treatment center, HopeQuest, just down the road from the third spa, according to The Washington Post. He was receiving treatment for what he believed was a “sex addiction” and “pornography addiction,” according to his former roommate at another treatment center.

Crabapple Church said it grieves for the victims and their families and is praying for them.

Crabapple Baptist Church
Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Georgia. (Image via Google Maps)

“No blame can be placed upon the victims,” the church said. “He alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires. The women he solicited for sexual acts are not responsible for his perverse sexual desires nor do they bear any blame in these murders. These actions are the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind for which Aaron is completely responsible.”

The church said it is cooperating with law enforcement and added: “We pray for both earthly justice and divine justice.”

It also expressed in its statement a broader concern about the fallout from the crimes.

“Finally, we deeply regret the fear and pain Asian-Americans are experiencing as a result of Aaron’s inexcusable actions,” the church said.

The statement included a series of questions and answers, which the church said were in response to queries it has received.

In that portion of the statement, it confirmed Long is a member. But it said that is likely to change.

“In accordance with the biblical pattern and our church bylaws, we have started the process of church discipline to remove him from membership since we can no longer affirm that he is truly a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ,” it said.

One question was: “Do you teach that acts of violence are acceptable against certain ethnicities or against women?”

“Absolutely not,” reads the church’s response, in part. “We repudiate any and all forms of misogyny and racism. We categorically reject the idea that violence is appropriate, regardless of one’s issues or motivations. Murder, especially, is a heinous evil and grievous sin. We also explicitly denounce any and all forms of hatred or violence against Asians or Asian-Americans.”

Another question was: “Do you teach that women are responsible for men’s sexual sin against them?”

“We categorically reject this idea,” the church stated. “Each person is responsible for his or her own sin. In this case, the shooter is solely responsible for his heinous actions, not the victims who were targeted.”

It added that it shut down its social media and website as a measure of caution.

“We feared for the safety of members of our church community,” the church said.

The congregation’s current website features the statement on its home page and a “What We Believe” page with its statement of faith and church covenant.

Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, noted the church’s elders released an earlier statement on Wednesday that said “We are heartbroken for all involved” and noted their distraught feelings and prayers for the Long family.

President Biden, speaking at Atlanta’s Emory University on Friday, condemned “skyrocketing” hate crimes against Asian Americans since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, CNN reported.

“They’ve been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed,” he said. ” They’ve been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed.”

Adelle Banks is production editor and a national correspondent at Religion News Service.

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22 thoughts on “Church of Atlanta Shooting Suspect Distances Itself, Urges ‘No Blame’ on Victims”

  1. There is a ministry that could have helped the killer but most churches refuse to utilize it.
    Jesus commanded it in Mark chapter 16 right before He left the planet. It is the Ministry of Deliverance! It is the casting out of demons/devils out of people. Mr. Long probably was saved, but Christians can and do have demons that can control and torment them. Every Christian should go through deliverance and that includes preachers, etc. That Baptist Church wants to have no blood on its hands, yet it refuses to offer the very help that probably would have kept this killing from happening. Mr. Long needed to be set free from the tormenting devils that controlled him. Jesus came to set us free! But we have to apply that ministry to set people free! Demons are personalities that enter people to torment them and control them. They have to be cast out like Jesus taught us to do!
    I guarantee the organized religious Baptist Church and all its doctrines will categorically refuse to even correct itself and start delivering people from these tormenting devils.They will NOT OBEY what Jesus taught them and commanded them to do!
    So, in the meantime, the Southern Baptist Convention has invited in and ordained the horrible devil of Sodomy!
    I am so glad that Jesus said that JUDGEMENT will come to the house of God first!
    The Baptist Church does have a part in this killing just because of not obeying our King Jesus! The Baptist Church needs judgement also!

  2. The word :Distancing” might not be appropriate. The headline would probably best be: Repudiates his actiond. Using, “Distancing” might imply that thecChurch believes the apparent; Prostiutes were responsible for his preversions. Lets get it right. They wete apparent Prostitutes. Everyone knows those places are known as “Whack Shacks” They do derive income from clients who come to them for sexual services. Denying that fact would make us liar . Naive at best. Regardless, none of us are perfect and we are full of wickedness. Those Women were made in the image of God and have dignity that God gave them Mr. Long had no right to take their life and if convicted should pay the price for his actions. God may forgive. But, that forgiveness does not always extend to mans justice. Regardless, I dont buy the narrative that Asian Americans are suffering from persistent or increased racist attacks from predominantly racial groups outside of known urban populated areas that tend to have Liberal political ideas.

    1. You don’t buy? The data doesn’t lie. The fact that you cannot accept what is plain as the nose on your face speaks more to your personal biases and borderline paranoia than anything else.

  3. “We repudiate any and all forms of misogyny

    “We categorically reject this idea [that women are responsible for men’s sexual sin against them],” the church stated. “Each person is responsible for his or her own sin.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    They can say these things, perhaps even believe them. However, it’s amazing to me the total lack of awareness that these very things they repudiate and categorically reject are the consequences of what they teach and believe. Felt and experienced by those at ground zero, where their glib programmed words hit the hardest.

    I am utterly amazed at how evangelical leaders don’t understand (either they don’t care to make the efffort to understand, or they are cognitively incapable of doing so) the power of their influence, and just push the program, say whatever it is they want to say. it is so clear to me they haven’t thought through what it can mean to the listener.

  4. Dr. Peter J Oehler

    Couldn’t help but note that the writer thought it necessary to denote that Mr. Long was a “White” person. I’m not sure how that matters except that it fits much more nicely into the current popular inane woke (but not actually cognitive) sectors of society. And I would really like to know who, if indeed actually anybody, was it that asked those incredibly ridiculous questions? Really!

    1. Denoting Long as “white” may have been an attempt at a racism narrative. However, it’s also true that being a “young white male” is pretty typical in mass shootings like this.

  5. I may get heat for this. I don’t care.

    Long was a killer and is scum of the earth but I have to ask–rather than constantly preaching and moralizing about the evils of lust (and lust is evil)–what is the church doing to help prepare these frustrated young men for marriage? Why was it easier to kick a clearly broken and unstable guy out of his house than confront the real elephant here?

    Super-extended adolescence/late marriage is a new and extremely unnatural phenomenon. We act like we are surprised when people experience sexual failures* as a result? Throughout most of human history, our species married and begun their families in their teen years. By early middle age like 40 or so, it might have even been the empty nest or grandkids. (I am NOT advocating teen parenthood today obviously–just making a point about what had long been the pattern and norm for our civilization.)

    (*Obviously I don’t count mowing down innocent people in cold blood because you are an angry, hateful incel as a “sexual failure”. Long needs the death penalty like a frying pan needs some hot grease. I am talking about premarital sex, broken relationships, damaged pair-bonding ability, etc.)

    1. Conservative Christians have long since hyped up the severity of sexual sins (except when they’re caught doing it), often for their own political ends, so it’s no surprise when someone who may not be adequately intellectually equipped decides it’s more important to end the perceived source of his sexual sins by committing a far more heinous act than indulging in prostitution or masturbation.

  6. The label of “sex addiction” is confusing. Many mental healthcare workers don’t believe there is a true addiction in sex addiction. It is a controversial subject in the field of mental health although I know there are many rehabs and support groups that treat that label. Many mental health issues, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, sociopaths, etc, exhibit hypersexuality. Even personality disorders like narcissim or borderline personality disorder have hypersexuality traits. If a person goes on a shooting rampage over a “sex addiction” I think we should really be questioning this person’s mental health. If he was in rehab he could have a dual diagnosis and be taking meds for another problem. If so, there are side effects to medications that might explain his behaviors. I really am hesitant to label hypersexuality as an addiction after researching it.

    The fact that he was a member of a church doesn’t mean much. Many, many people go to church and they never believe what is taught but rather enspouse their own ideas instead. American churches are full of people that mainly go out of family tradition or because they are in a service business. Any real estate class or other service industry will teach people to attend churches, or volunteer in large ministries, to pick up clients. I would not recommend it but I know many insurance people that attend large churches in my area who are just using it for networking. Church attendence really doesn’t prove much as far as what a person believes deep in their heart.

    My prayers are with the families who are grieving their losses. Heartbreaking to lose a loved one like this. They must be in total shock.

  7. I don’t think this church stands a chance of saying the “right” thing. If they don’t say something then it perceived as condoning what was done. If they say something, it is picked apart from many different perspectives because they didn’t “say it right.” Even those posting don’t agree on what they should have said. I suppose they could have pulled out the old lawyerese “we are sorry if you were offended or someone was hurt” which of course is a non apology.

  8. Brian Patrick…seems to be suggesting that earlier marriage solves some of the lust issues that young men face. Seriously? Then you just have a lust filled HUSBAND….marriage is not gonna solve lust. If you marry a woman just for sex you are doing it for the wrong reason. These are sin issues that go pretty deep and personally i dont blame his church.

  9. To those who have already commented:

    1) Samuel – The problem isn’t lack of exorcism. At least not the shooter…maybe the U.S. evangelical church.
    2) Dirk – Violence against women is never excused by their profession or any other factor. Violence (against women or anyone else) is always the perpetrator’s fault. You sound like the type to say, “if only Cain hadn’t offered such a great sacrifice, then Abel wouldn’t have flown off the handle.” Nuts.
    3) Brian – This guy wasn’t in “delayed adolescence” and didn’t “need a wife.” He was 21. And suggesting that the solution for someone that cannot control themselves, sexually or otherwise, is that they get a wife just puts another woman in the crosshairs.
    4) Peter – The fact that the shooter was white is relevant. Sorry if any of you other white males feel attacked by accurate reporting of facts. Young white men often commit mass shootings. That is a fact. Maybe instead of being offended by it try doing something to stop it from continuing to happen. Get your head out of the sand.
    5) Kay – It is also relevant that he became a member of a church as an adult. Yes many people in America go to church, but fewer are baptized as adult members. Fewer still confess their struggles with pornography and paid sex to their parents and pastor(s).

  10. Abigail,

    I’m not blaming any specific entity but rather the whole entire culture of artificially stretched adolescence. There’s a ton of issues to flesh out here–that the murderer seems to have been demonized by his own family for his sin, that the modern church does a very poor job of preparing young people of both sexes for sexuality and marriage, that we have a massive incel crisis that is only getting worse (and yes, Long is also a misogynist and a racist, that is clear, but at least the mainstream is talking about that–they don’t discuss the other points I described, at least not in a constructive light).

    I stand by what I said. Name another time in history when it was “normal” for people to marry in their 30s. Ask 100 average Western teenagers right now if they would prefer to marry when they are in or close to middle age and see what they tell you. Historically, by one’s late 30s, your body was racked by arthritis from years of backbreaking peasant labor and if you weren’t in the upper classes you likely didn’t have all that much time left on this planet. You were likely to have grandkids, rather than be “waiting for the one”. Contemporary cultures that practice community-based young marriage to this day such as the Amish and Orthodox Jews may get mockery from the secular West but they have, as a rule, far more fulfilling and peaceful marital, sexual, and family lives than the “liberated” world.

    Is there any realistic, reasonable way to get our society back to Amish-style marriage? No. Does that mean we should throw our hands up and completely forfeit the battle to raise pure, well-adjusted, realistic young adults that are equipped for marriage? Absolutely not!

    You can say that there’s a lot of “lust-filled husbands” out there, etc. but when push comes to shove, most men DO have that powerful urge in them and so do a lot of women from time to time (there’s no reason to make this a male-exclusive problem, you know). We know what DOESN’T work–the abstinence-only purity cult (as typified by the apostate, Josh Harris) and the world’s message of “if it feels good, do it with whoever and whatever consents”. The definition of insanity is persisting with what you are doing expecting a better outcome eventually.

    1. This guy wasn’t in “delayed adolescence” and didn’t “need a wife.” He is 21 and not in his late 30s.

      Suggesting that the solution for a man that cannot control themselves, sexually or otherwise, is to get married just puts another woman in the crosshairs and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how the church’s incorrect views of men/women/sexuality may have contributed to this.

      1. Danny,

        “Suggesting that the solution for a man that cannot control themselves, sexually or otherwise, is to get married just puts another woman in the crosshairs”

        I’d like to be shown where I blamed women… I blame all of society, secular and religious, for robbing all young people of their future.

        At one time–not too long ago–just about anyone with a willingness to do honest hard work could rent an apartment or shed and be supporting a family at 18–WITHOUT assistance from Big Brother. A lot of folks might call the fact that the above is now very, very difficult for the non-1% “progress”. I am not among them.

        All around me… I see what should be productive young adults frequently wasting the best years of their life pursuing degrees made worthless by educational inflation (if everybody in society had Ph.D.’s, you’d have Ph.D’s waiting tables, as the adage goes) and winding up with a lifetime of student debt, to boot. That’s just one prong of a massive institutionalized failure, but it’s certainly a big one.

        “demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how the church’s incorrect views of men/women/sexuality may have contributed to this.”

        By all means, explain what you mean. I think I pretty much said just that though, or at least implied it… from what I see the vast majority of churches fail to instill healthy, reasonable, wise teaching on navigating love/sex/sexuality/marriage in their youth: they either fall back on “abstinence only”/”I Kissed Dating Goodbye” drivel or dodge the matter entirely because it’s totally un-PC. David French (hardly a right-wing demagogue) has a good piece on this up at the Dispatch right now.

        1. Brian, it’s rather easy to show where your thinking puts a woman in the cross hairs. This person’s sin drove them to kill people. To intimate that if he had a wife as an outlet for his lust doesn’t change the fact he clearly has no value for women and views them as objects. If this man has a wife, he would view her as an object also and probably would abuse her or engage in marital rape to get what he wants. Doug Wilson tried getting a pedophile married using your line of thinking. Despite having a wife as an outlet, guess what the guy did as soon as he had a son? He admitted he was aroused while changing his infant son. If you want to have a separate conversation about how marriage is being put off and adolescence is being stretched, I’m all ears. But I don’t see the overlap here.

  11. Its preacher goes on about his mixed up views about “radical feminism” and North Korea (within yards of his Korean neighbours) instead of Holy Spirit, belief, prayer, and advocacy, and it is affiliated with Founders, and you don’t want to criticise it. By contrast, the faith Jesus founded doesn’t reify.

    First Priority Clubs have a person from Liberty University on the board and his school let him paint himself into a corner publicly expressing ambition to lead through it as a child of 14. No school should allow those clubs.

    Hope Quest are affiliated with so called “Focus on the Family” with its documented unbalance and bad dynamics.

    Hope Quest and Maverick claim to treat sexual obsession alongside substance addiction, well they are 60 years behind Father Fitzgerald.

    Long’s parents had a go at him for staying with a girl. Is that the same girl he is later said to have had a row with? (I wish we didn’t have to write things like this.)

  12. CJ,

    Please go into more detail about what you describe here. I’m not critical, I’m just not familiar with Hope Quest and “First Priority Clubs”. Is this Gothardism?

    “Hope Quest are affiliated with so called “Focus on the Family” with its documented unbalance and bad dynamics.”

    Well, that I will opine on. Dr. Dobson needed to ride off into the sunset of retirement three decades ago. He may have done good at one time (his org is the template for Gospel Coalition in a lot of ways) but he jumped the shark quite a while back. Any doubts about his contemporary (ir)relevance were erased when he boarded the Trump Train hook, line, and sinker five or so years ago.

  13. Reputedly First Priority Clubs have got someone from the Manifest Destiny / segregationist Liberty University on their board (from my reading in recent days: I am not in then US so I didn’t know of them). They shouldn’t be allowed to twist children’s arms or hijack school yearbooks. Apparently “first priority” is to make carbon copies of themselves, when they don’t understand church is supposed to be about looking after each other in Holy Spirit strength.

    Father Fitzgerald as superior of the Paracletes of Jemez Springs advised against trying to reform sexual obsessives alongside substance addicts, then caved in but continually trumpetting “told you so”.

    “Evangelicals” now trying to do this have given the Twelve Steps a bad name. The Steps have to be practised in the wider community and can only be run by the shared Traditions and Principles and not by the bosses of institutions.

    There is something far too ad hominem, reifying, intense and hothouse-like about entering “priesthood” or “salvation” respectively.

    And it was the same church that made him be baptised twice (so far). Why did they impose on the elder Long to prominently volunteer there for such a long period?

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