The church, attended by the white man who was accused of killing eight people in three massage shops in the Atlanta area, most of them women of Asian descent, condemned the shootings on Friday and said they were against the gospel and teachings of the Church.

Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Georgia, also announced in a statement that it would remove 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long from its membership because it “can no longer confirm that he is truly a born again believer in Jesus Christ.” “.

Previously, the church had made only a brief statement of condolences without mentioning Long. It also closed its social media accounts and made its website private.

On Friday, it said these measures were taken to protect the safety of its community members.

Congregants were “distraught” to learn that the alleged shooter was a member of the community, the statement said. His family has been a member of the Church for many years.

“We saw Aaron grow up and accept him into the Church as he made his own profession of faith in Jesus Christ,” it said.

“These unthinkable and egregious murders directly contradict his own confession of faith in Jesus and the gospel.”

Investigators are still trying to find out what forced Long to commit the worst mass murder in the United States in nearly two years.

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Police said he told them he was not racially motivated and claimed to have a “sex addiction” and that he appeared to hit what he saw as a source of temptation.

These statements sparked widespread uproar and skepticism about the locations, and six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent.

Crabapple First Baptist said it will continue to mourn, mourn and pray for the families of the victims and deeply regret “the fear and pain Asian Americans experience as a result of Aaron’s inexcusable acts.”

“The victims cannot be blamed,” said Crabapple First Baptist. “He alone is responsible for his evil deeds and desires.”

The Church also said it does not teach that acts of violence against “certain races or against women” are acceptable, or that women are responsible for the sexual sin committed by men against them.

“Murder, in particular, is a hideous evil and grave sin. We also expressly condemn any form of hatred or violence against Asians or Americans from Asia. “

Attacks on Asian Americans have increased across the country during the coronavirus pandemic. The virus was first identified in China, and former President Donald Trump and others have used racially charged terms to describe it.

The Church said it was cooperating with law enforcement agencies and praying for “both earthly and divine righteousness.”

Tyler Bayless, who lived with Long at an addiction recreation facility in Roswell, Georgia for at least six months through early 2020, described him as “a bit socially awkward but not unhappy or calm”. He long asked to pray for him at least a few times, Bayless said, but he never forced his beliefs on others.

“I’m sure he had some interesting religious beliefs, but he was never very pushy about such things. As if he never said, “I have to save your soul,” said Bayless.

Bayless recalled several occasions when Long said he had become obsolete and went into a massage business, leading to extreme self-loathing, feelings of guilt, and public confession that he feared could harm himself. Long once asked him to hold on to a hunting knife, added Bayless.

He said, ‘You know, I went to one of these places. I feel like I am falling by the grace of God, ”said Bayless.

“I mean, that was the kind of pain he was in because his religious beliefs made him think about the actions he was involved in.”

Bayless also said Long tried to limit his use of social media to avoid what he saw as a source of temptation to sin.

Joshua Grubbs, a professor of clinical psychology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio who has studied the intersection between sexual behavior, religion, and morality, said that men with conservative religious backgrounds, especially in the US, may be inclined to “just a little too interpret “a bit of sexual behavior that offends their morals as an addiction. ”

But there is no evidence that these sexual behaviors would predispose anyone to violence against others, he said.

“The idea of ​​having a sex addiction makes me feel so bad, I go out there and kill eight people. I just don’t buy them,” said Grubbs, who has also treated people with the problem. “It doesn’t match my experience as a researcher or a clinical psychologist.”

Grubbs advises religious leaders on discussing sex, pornography, and “runaway sexual behaviors” and advises against using language that can cause or worsen depression and shame.

“I have never met a religious leader who suggested” that a cure for behavior is to “murder the people” who make it possible. “I’ve never heard that before. That is an absurd premise. “

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The Associated Press’s coverage of religion is supported by the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation US. The AP is solely responsible for this content.