Matthew Murray, Ted Haggard and Double Lives

Despite official denials at the outset that gunman Matthew Murray had any connection to New Life Church, where he killed two young women on Sunday, a very different picture is emerging from Murray's copious online postings. A 2004 visit by Murray to the New Life campus apparently drove a deeper wedge between the gunman and his fundamentalist parents and brought him to the attention of church staffers as a potential threat.

As noted here, disgraced New Life leader Ted Haggard was, according to Murray, his mother's favorite pastor; other sources have reported that the Murray family gave money to New Life and had other ties to the Colorado Springs ministry. And three years ago, when Murray was 20 and still living at home, he went to a charismatic conference at New Life with his mother.

"I got into a debate with two prayer team staff members," Murray would recall in an online posting two years later. "These two staff members watched me throughout the conference to find out who I was with. They found my mother and told her this story that went something along the lines of I 'wasn't walking with the lord and could be planning violence.'"

As a result of that conversation, Murray claimed, his mother and various members of his church searched his room repeatedly over the next few weeks, in search of contraband video games, DVDs and music. A defiant Murray plunged deeper into forbidden fruit, including the works of Marilyn Manson, Aleister Crowley — and finally, Columbine killer Eric Harris.

When Haggard's trysts with meth and a male prostitute were revealed last year, Murray felt vindicated. Christians led "double lives," he claimed, riddled with hypocrisy. He claimed that other members of the Youth With a Mission group that banned him listened to metal music, smoked pot, watched porn and engaged in homosexual activity without being punished. Elsewhere he boasted of confronting his mother about his own bisexuality: "Using drugs, alcohol and having gay sex, I'm just trying to do what any Christian pastor would do, at least I'm not doing meth like Ted Haggard…"

If Murray's own account of his life can be trusted, his violent talk was disturbing enough to make an impression on New Life staffers three years ago. As with Columbine and so many other mass shootings, it's unfortunate that more people weren't paying attention. –- Alan Prendergast

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Sean Cronin