That moment when you realize that you are part of the problem…
Christians like to talk about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It presents a satisfying example of a just God smiting people for their wickedness, particularly for their sexual sins. Some folks really dig the idea of God smiting the wicked, especially if the wicked are doing something that isn’t one of your favorite sins. If you aren’t dealing with sexual sins yourself, you can point to Lot’s friends at Sodom and Gomorrah and take some self-righteous satisfaction that such behavior is what really upsets God to the point of dramatic devastation.
But then there is that story of Noah, when God was outraged enough not just to wipe out a couple of desert communities, but instead destroy all living things, with the exception of a small group of people and animals that later could begin the process of replenishing the earth. In discussing the Flood, we often miss the point of why that cataclysmic event took place. Although Genesis tells us that “the wickedness of man was great . . and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” (Gen. 6:5), only one sin is specifically cited: “The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence.” (Gen. 6:13).
Violence? That was the sin that justified the destruction of the world? Apparently, since God identified it twice in His indictment of the wickedness of men (see Gen. 6;11). What is it about violence that so offends the Lord?
I think it has to do with the sanctity of life and the miracle of creation. Violence is life-destroying. It is the enemy of the great gift that God has given us: The opportunity to experience mortality. God and His Son created life. His Son redeems us from death and restores life through the resurrection. Indeed, in Him “was life: and life was the light of men.” (John 1:4). Violence is the pathway to undo the good that God has done for us. It is an insult to His creations and an affirmation of hate, vengeance, and destruction. It is the motivating characteristic of Satan, and he uses it to numb us against the influence of the Holy Ghost.
Simply put, we cannot tolerate violence and still proclaim to be disciples of the Prince of Peace.
We live in an age in which the world, again, is filled with violence. I read today of one of the events associated with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, during which Iraqi soldiers entered the zoo in Kuwait City and shot to death every animal in the zoo. Because it was fun. We hear almost weekly of beheadings and bombings, mobs and murders, rapes and rampages, assaults and abuse. I once heard a newspaper described as a report of all of the different ways people discovered to die the day before. Internet news feeds, news magazines, and broadcast news all represent catalogs of conflict and destruction.
And because there is not enough physical violence to keep us satisfied, we fill the empty spaces of our awareness with virtual violence. Bloody video games, gruesome television and movie violence, and books that extol the virtues of the violent hero. I recently pulled up a superhero cartoon on Netflix that I had to turn off after ten minutes because is was the most violent program I had seen in years. When we speak of “graphic” novels, it seems as much a description of the violence between the covers as it does a categorization of an art form.
And I am part of the problem. I like my movies liberally sprinkled with guns and car crashes (although less the latter since I was nearly killed in one). I devour Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, despite the fact that the hero is, simply described, a sociopath. I sit though hours of Criminal Minds, eager to find out what new, dark corner of the human mind will be revealed, along with the disturbing destruction it brings to the lives of others.
My childhood hero was Dirty Harry. That pretty well sums it up.
Enough already. I have lived too much of my life embracing a culture of violence junkies. The problem isn’t guns, knives, or baseball bats. The problem is a society that worships at the bloody throne of violence. I can’t change that culture on my own, but I can certainly opt out of the madness.
I’m going cold turkey on violence.
Before anyone gets started accusing me of hypocrisy, I acknowledge that I will still watch the Coyote and Road Runner, and there are likely to be other entertainment I will enjoy that will have some “violence,” if you define the term broadly. What I am concerned about is material that glorifies or sensationalizes violence. The type of stuff that numbs a person to the very real and longstanding suffering caused by violence. I trust that by using my own common sense and the influence of the Holy Ghost, I can avoid violence as I do pornography: By knowing it when I see it and trying to stay as far away from trouble as I can.
That said, I hope to hold myself to a high standard. The world has gone amok, drunk on violence, gore and conflict. If we are going to change that, then we need to not contribute to the culture. It starts with our own little corners of the planet. I can’t stop the epidemic of pornography, but I can make sure that it isn’t supported by my demands or money. By the same token, I might not be able to hold back the tide of violence, but I can make sure that it don’t open my front door to invite the waters in.
You might think me crazy. You might roll your eyes and be convinced that Robin’s gone full-on hippie. Or you might join me. It doesn’t really matter one way or the other. Whether crowded or empty, I feel strongly that this is a path I need to walk.
Harry Callahan and Jack Reacher will just need to find other friends.