Group Think: Idol of Self Preservation

“Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33, English Standard Version).

The psychological state of deindividuation has never been so apparent now. Women march with obscenities on their heads, fighting for the right to murder their children while asking for support to set the Whitehouse ablaze.

When we are talking about deindividuation, one thing that the text does not mention is the perception of being a part of a crowd. Unfortunately, social media has supplied that platform, and I have seen many Christians fall into this satanic trap of conforming to what “seems” to be the norm.

Many have laid down their cross at the feet of a reduced self-awareness. Being anonymous on a social platform allows for increased conformity – even when it goes against Christian commands.

The need to feel relevant and accepted by others is an idol.

Psychology refers to this as a form of evaluation apprehension – when we are more concerned about others’ evaluations of us than having a fear of the Lord God, as we should.

“Woe to you when all people speak well of you…” (Luke 6:26a, ESV). 

But, as Branscombe & Baron (2017) state, change can occur when there is a “shift in norms,” and individuals marginalize the few who are creating the conflict. I believe we see this with the several states taking action against the perceived “norm” and passing heart-beat legislation.

As we see the bad with the use of social media, we can also see the good. The opportunities to encourage those fighting the good fight of faith can be encouraged them to continue their fight – this encouragement and support reduce laziness or “social loafing” by Christians who have become complacent – or defeated in their efforts. This form of drive theory social facilitation can increase the arousal of the Spirit – by “fanning into flame the gift(s) of God” (2 Tim 1:6, ESV) – just a little encouragement from a godly perspective can change everything.

Branscombe, N. R., & Baron, R. A. (2017). Social Psychology (14th ed.). NY, NY: Pearson.

Southerland Springs: When Law Enforcement Doesn’t Protect or Serve


Devin Patrick Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for assault on both his wife and child on two separate occasions. One instance resulted in a fracture to his baby stepson’s skull (Connor & Arkin, 2017). In 2013 Kelley was brought up on charges again of sexual assault, an investigation was conducted, but Kelley was never tried. Following the court-martial for domestic abuse, Kelley served one year and was discharged from the military with a bad-conduct discharge and a reduced rank (Silva, Abdelkader, Williams, & McCausland, 2017).

In addition to assaulting his wife and child and sexual assault against another woman, police were called out again to investigate another domestic dispute at his home, but again, charges were not filed. Kelley had also had a prior charge of animal cruelty in Colorado as well as an escape from a mental institution while serving in the U. S. Airforce (Connor & Arkin, 2017).

Although gun laws should have been effective in keeping Kelley from purchasing a registered firearm, the United States Airforce failed to report Kelley’s court-martial, and police never filed charges that would result in removing his second amendment rights. Therefore, nothing stopped him when on Sunday, November 5, 2017, Kelley proceeded to open fire at a church in Southerland Springs, TX, where his former in-laws were members.

Kelley began shooting the people outside the church as he walked toward the grounds and proceeded inside the building where he killed 26 people, leaving 20 wounded (Montgomery, Mele, & Fernandez, 2017). A neighbor heard the shots fired from inside her home and notified her grandfather, Mr. Stephen Willeford, who grabbed his registered and modified AK-15 and pursued Kelley. Willeford parked his car 20 feet from Kelley’s vehicle, perched his rifle on the hood of a truck, and shot Kelley twice in the chest, stopping him but not killing him. Kelley was wearing a bulletproof vest; although the shots did not kill Kelley, they ended the carnage. Devin Patrick Kelley was found dead in his vehicle that had been run off the road by Willeford and another bystander. Kelley took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Willeford believes that what happened that day was a battle between good and evil. He says he was terrified, but he thinks the calm he experienced was the Holy Spirit taking over. (Mooney, 2018).

General Aggression Model (GAM)

According to the general aggression model (GAM), situational and individual variables trigger arousal, affective stages, and cognition (Brandscombe & Baron, 2017). Anderson & Bushman (2007) explain that the GAM encompasses existing theories of aggression, including the Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977), Cognitive Neoassociation Theory (Berkowitz, 1993), and Social Interaction Theory (Tedeschi & Felson, 1994). In addition, this model states that behavior is based on perceptual schemata (Cavalcanti & Pimentel, 2016). These can be beliefs or perceptions of how an individual or others think, such as what Kelley may have believed about how his in-laws perceived him could have caused him to choose that particular church to ignite his wrath. In addition, GAM integrates situational and personal factors such as Kelley’s repeated attempts to contact his former wife, to no avail, as well as his repeated troubles with individuals who caused him discomforts, such as the police officers, the woman who charged him with sexual assault, the military, and animals.

Variables that cause aggression, according to the GAM also include personality traits as seen in Kelley throughout his life span where his response to authority and individuals such as his wife, his infant stepchild, and even animals was met with his aggressive behavior. Branscombe & Baron (2017) state that the predisposed traits of believing that aggression is appropriate or knowing how to acquire the skills necessary for aggression are consistent with the GAM. In addition, a culmination of these situational and personal factors variables can lead to overt aggression when they increase physiological arousal and generate hostile feelings or thoughts, increasing beliefs and perceptions about aggressive acts and bringing them to mind. Such was the case with the ever-troubled Devin Patrick Kelley. 

Anderson & Bushman (2002) said that the patterns found in these individuals are developed through experiences that influence a person’s perceptions and behavioral sequences. As a result, these patterns become automatic responses – as was evident in the case of Kelley and should have been dealt with immediately and consistently, especially when law enforcement, sworn to protect and serve, swept the repeated acts of violence, under the rug, resulting in the death of those innocent families.


Ashley, H. T. (2019). Aggressive Acts. A research paper. Published at: Grand Canyon University: AZ.

Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. (2002). Human aggression. Annual Review of Psychology, 53(1), 27-51.

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Berkowitz, L. (1993). AggressionIts causes, consequences, and control. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Branscombe, N. R., & Baron, R. A. (2017). Social Psychology (14th ed.). NY, NY: Pearson.

Cavalcanti, J. G. & Pimentel, C. E. (2016). Personality and aggression: A contribution of the General Aggression Model / Personalidade e agressão: uma contribuição do Modelo Geral da Agressão. Estudos de Psicologia (Campinas), (3), 443.

Connor, T. & Arkin, D. (2017, November 7). Texas gunman Devin Kelley escaped from mental health facility in 2012. NBC News. Retrieved from

Montgomery, D., Mele, C., & Fernandez, M. (2017, November 5). Gunman kills at least 26 in attack on rural Texas church. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Mooney, M. J. (2018, November). The hero of the Sotherland Springs shooting is still reckoning with what happened that day. Texas Monthly. Retrieved from

Silva, D., Abdelkader, R., Williams, P., & McCausland, P. (2017, November 5). Texas church shooting: More than two dozen parishioners killed. NBC News. Retrieved from

Tedeschi, J. T., & Felson, R. B. (1994). Violence, aggression, and coercive actions. Washington: American Psychological Association.

Attachment Style and the Fit to Lead BIP

In the attachment study by Freeze and DiTommaso (2015), it states “social support has been found to be an important determinant of well-being” (p. 69). Using “well-being” as their outcome, they found that those individuals, regardless of their attachment to family members, found security in their church family, and those who were more involved in church. Especially individuals involved with small group Bible studies reported more positive well-being. 

This finding is consistent with other studies that I have used to address our Christ-centered, biblically based Batterer Intervention Program (BIP), “Fit to Lead.” 

Research states that the “punitive measures being taken against domestic violence offenders are least likely to deter (and perhaps will even exacerbate) tendencies to quarrel among persons who lack community and/or familial bonds” (Sherman, Smith, Schmidt, & Rogan, 1992, p. 681). The federal Justice Department also found that intervention programs have “little to no impact on reoffending, nor do they change the attitudes of the offender. In fact, according to an NIJ update in 2009, some programs actually seem to make abusers more likely to abuse. 

However – Sullivan (2001) found that as a commitment to religiosity increases, not only does the commitment to the marriage increase but so does marital satisfaction. In addition, when the church gets involved, research has shown that batterers who are referred to a BIP by their clergy are over 90% more likely to complete the program and the rate of recidivism decreases as well. 


Ashley, H. (2019). Research study response to Attachment to God and church family: Predictors of spiritual and psychological well-being. Freeze, T. A. & DiTommaso, E. (2004). Journal of Psychology and Theology, 32. 60-71.

U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Findings. (2009). Female victims of violence. (NCJ Publication No. 228356). Retrieved from 

Sherman, L., Smith, D., Schmidt, J. D., and Rogan, D. P. (1992). Crime, punishment and stake in conformity: Legal and informal control of domestic violence. American Sociological Review, 52, 680–690.

Sullivan, K. T. (2001). Understanding the relationship between religiosity and marriage: An investigation of the immediate and longitudinal effects of religiosity on newlywed couples. Journal of Family Psychology, 15(4), 610-626. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.15.4.610