A combination of simmering rage, resentment of fellow students, and a desire for celebrity spurred Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to gun down a dozen students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado last April.
But, according to recently released videotapes the two killers made in the weeks before America's most deadly high-school shooting, they also shared an intense hostility toward Christianity. Their anti-Christian comments did not appear in the controversial 20-page Time magazine cover story in December that reignited debate about the massacre.
"What would Jesus do?" asks Klebold, yelling and making faces at the camera. "What would I do?" Then he points an imaginary shotgun at the camera, takes aim, and says, "Boosh!"
"Yeah, 'I love Jesus. I love Jesus.' Shut the f—up," Harris says on the same tape, made on March 15.
"Go Romans," Harris says later. "Thank God they crucified that a—hole." Then the two teenagers both chant, "Go Romans! Go Romans! Yeah! Whoo!"
Klebold, who reportedly had a crush on Christian student Rachel Scott, singles her out for particular disdain, calling her a "godly whore" and a "stuck-up little b—."
Darrell Scott, who says his daughter Rachel was the only victim singled out in the tapes, believes the killers felt a deep antipathy for the things of God: "There seemed to be an extra element of hatred and vengeance there.
"Scott, a former pastor who has crisscrossed the country speaking to church groups about the spiritual dimensions of the Columbine tragedy, says he and other parents were blindsided by Time's report on the tapes.
Only after the article appeared did the sheriff's office offer parents a chance to see the tapes for themselves. Scott says he could only bear to watch one of the five videos. "To sit there and listen to them use foul language for several hours was more than I could handle."
Rachel Scott was a devout Christian who wrote voluminous journals about her spiritual life, including mystical premonitions of her own death.
"She attended class with Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, she witnessed to them, and she confronted them about the violent videos they were making at the school," Scott says. "She wasn't the kind who would wear Christian T-shirts, but she did try to walk her talk."
Scott, who says the city of Littleton plans to erect a Columbine memorial "with no religious symbols," is making plans to create his own memorial to the 13 victims.
Meanwhile, parents and relatives of some Columbine victims filed suit in October against the Jefferson County School District and its officers. The lawsuit claims that the school unconstitutionally prohibited relatives from using Christian imagery in memorial ceramic tiles that members of the Columbine community were invited to create, and which were to be installed at the school.
"Only religious symbols and/or religious messages were excluded," says the suit.
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the suit in November, claiming that "religious speech that may be acceptable in other settings is clearly unacceptable in the school setting."
The motion for dismissal adds: "had the school not imposed these limitations, the hallways might have been filled with hundreds of crosses and other indicia of religious faith, creating a setting so dominated by religious symbols that it took on the appearance of a parochial school."
See more on the Columbine tapes at Time and The Denver Post.ChristianityToday.com's coverage of the Columbine shootings includes:Retailers Marketing Martyrdom to Teens | Littleton Massacre Now Merchandise Opportunity (Nov. 12, 1999)Cassie Said Yes, They Said No | The mainstream press unquestioningly accepted Salon.com's flimsy 'debunking' of the Columbine confession. (Nov. 1, 1999)'Do You Believe in God?' | Columbine and the stirring of America's soul. (Oct. 4, 1999)Tough Love Saved Cassie | How the Bernalls helped Cassie break with old friends and build a new life. (Oct. 4, 1999)Yancey: Can Good Come Out of This Evil? (June 14, 1999)For the latest and continuing coverage of the Columbine tragedy and other school violence, see Yahoo!'s Full Coverage, The Denver Post, and The Rocky Mountain News.
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