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Violent men were sad boys

Manifold tragedy in Colorado Springs

Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo. Associated Press/Photo by David Zalubowski

Violent men were sad boys

The man squinting into the camera seems to have a shaky grip on reality. He seems high on something, it’s not clear what. But he has managed to grasp that people are dead, and his son has killed them.

The man’s name is Aaron Brink. By his name alone, you wouldn’t know that he’s related to Anderson Lee Aldrich, the Denver 22-year-old who allegedly killed five and wounded 18 in a gay nightclub on Nov. 19. There’s a reason for this: Six years ago, before he was Anderson Lee, the young shooter filed for a legal name change. He wanted to get as far away from his father as possible. Aaron claims that until six months ago, he wasn’t even aware that the boy was still alive.

But Colorado police were well aware. In June 2021, Anderson livestreamed a bomb threat after his grandparents decided to move away and leave him behind with his mother, Laura Voepel. Records show that he was collecting an arsenal and told his grandmother he hoped to go out “in a blaze” as “the next mass killer.” It’s unclear why Colorado’s red flag laws weren’t triggered accordingly. But, as in many such cases, the red flags were clear for anyone to see.

Of course, the mainstream media machine was whirring out its own narrative before the victims’ bodies were cold. GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis appeared on Good Morning America the day after, ready to implicate every “anti-LGBTQ” politician from Lauren Boebert to Ron DeSantis. She believes the solution is more “government action” to combat the spread of “hate” and “disinformation” on social media. And tighter gun regulations, naturally.

Meanwhile, Anderson’s defense has suddenly claimed he himself is “non-binary” and would like to be referred to by they/them pronouns. This strange twist baffles his father, who identifies as Mormon and had been relieved to find out his son wasn’t part of the club’s gay clientele. “You know Mormons don’t do gay. We don’t do gay,” Brink rambles in his video statement. He also calls himself a “conservative Republican” and praises the boy’s Trump-supporting maternal grandfather, Republican California Assemblyman Randy Voepel.

The whole sorry scene is a headline-writer’s delight, as is Brink’s reportedly lurid history of “adult” film acting and crystal meth addiction. A former delinquent himself, Brink channeled his aggression into MMA fighting, where he proceeded to become hooked on every conceivable vice. Today, he admits that he “praised” his son early and often for violence, teaching the boy that it “gets results.”

If the left insists on placing systemic blame, perhaps they could blame the pimps, drug lords, and winking politicians who keep America’s vice machine rolling.

Still, Brink says he is sorry. He’s sorry he “let [his] son down.” He’s sorry that people died, “good people probably,” whose lives were “valuable,” and for whose families he’s offered to raise money from his next fight. Something’s gone “wrong” when you start killing people, he reflects.

Indeed, something has gone wrong. But it’s not because of Republican politicians, or NRA supporters, or MAGA hat-wearers, or James Dobson and Focus On the Family (yes, one New York Times essayist actually went there, as did a vandal with spray-paint). No, the truth is staring at us in the glazed eyes of Aaron Brink. The truth is a rot so deep in the dark heart of malformed American masculinity that nothing can touch it but the grace of an all-powerful, all-saving God.

This is not to excuse Anderson Lee Aldrich for his crimes. Nor is it to excuse Brink for whatever crimes of abuse or neglect played into Aldrich’s origin story. Broken men are still men, still capable of understanding what they do, and they will receive the just penalty for their actions in this life or the next.

Still, if the left insists on placing systemic blame, perhaps they could blame the pimps, drug lords, and winking politicians who keep America’s vice machine rolling. Perhaps they could spare a little censure for a multi-billion-dollar industry that commodifies human flesh, hooks men and women on crystal meth, then discards them as soon they pass their sell-by date. Perhaps Sarah Kate Ellis could save some of her outrage for the porn director who first spotted Aaron Brink at a party and told him he’d be a star. Of course, Sarah Kate Ellis won’t do this, because Sarah Kate Ellis has a political point to score, and she won’t be interrupted.

As conservative Christians, we must prepare to be maligned for every shooting like Club Q as long as the media remains in the hands of the left. We must learn not to care when biblical teaching is smeared by vague, rambling association with twisted evil. We must call evil what it is—all evil. The murder of fellow human beings is evil. The evil revealed in this tragic story unfolds headline after headline.

But remember this: For the sake of every man and woman in bondage to every sin, we must not be discouraged from the good work of preaching the gospel and building God’s church—our sole refuge and only hope.

Bethel McGrew

Bethel McGrew is a math Ph.D. and widely published freelance writer. Her work has appeared in First Things, National Review, The Spectator, and many other national and international outlets. Her Substack, Further Up, is one of the top paid newsletters in “Faith & Spirituality” on the platform. She has also contributed to two essay anthologies on Jordan Peterson. When not writing social criticism, she enjoys writing about literature, film, music, and history.


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