“Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23)
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6)
“I will put no wicked thing before my eyes, and I hate the work of evil people who put it there. I will have no part of it.” (Ps. 101:3)
“Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable, if there is any excellence or anything worthy of praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, and acceptable, and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
“The Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land because there is no truth, no mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. They have sowed the wind and shall reap the whirlwind. Therefore, the land is in mourning.” (Hosea 4:1-3; 8:7)
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How Could This Happen in America?
Our Crossroads program this weekend will focus first of all on three horrific events that reflect the gravity of moral decline and decay in our culture today and which set two new records for deadly violence in America. (click here for mp3 Audio)
The one that is still so fresh in our minds took place last month on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. Seventeen people were killed and 17 more wounded by 19-year-old shooter Nikolas Cruz.
Before that, however, on December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother and then went on to kill 20 children and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut before killing himself. It was the deadliest mass school shooting in U.S. history.
And then, although not school related, there was the mass shooting in Las Vegas last October 1 when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired more than 1100 rounds into a crowd attending an outdoor music festival, leaving 58 people dead and 851 injured. It is the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in our history.
So that’s what has happened but the bigger question is how and why it is happening. Is it just about gun control or could there be larger causes for this growing violence in our culture?
God Has Been Expelled from the Public Square
We can point the finger of blame in many different directions, but three of them stand out.
First of all, the less obvious but most important cause of these tragedies is the rejection of God in our schools and in the culture at large. When the U.S. Supreme Court banned school-sponsored prayer and Bible reading in 1962 and 1963, it left a moral vacuum in its place.
When it compounded those tragic decisions with another misguided decision in 1980 to prohibit school displays of the Ten Commandments, it made the situation even worse. Everyone is now left to do what is right is his/her own eyes.
As in the days of the Old Testament prophet Hosea, we have sowed the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.
The Breakdown of the Family
The second cause should also come as no surprise, for both school shooters came from broken families. That reinforces what we all know to be true as a matter of general principle.
There is no better environment in which to raise a child than in a home with a loving father and mother who also love God and who raise their children according to His Word. Broken homes often lead to broken hearts and broken lives.
The Entertainment Sewer of Violence
Finally, and perhaps the most obvious cause of all but also the least mentioned, is the moral rot that is permeating the world of entertainment in which our children swim and which their parents too often tolerate, normalize, and perhaps even approve.
The correlation between what we see and what we do should be obvious. When our boys and young men amuse themselves by soaking in violence, cruelty, and murder from television, movies and online videos, all available now on personal, handheld devices, and when they then begin to participate in such acts for hours on end via ever-more-realistic and addictive video “games,” no one should be surprised when they gravitate toward real-life violence.
In fact, Sandy Hook investigators found a cache of hair-raising games in killer Adam Lanza’s collection, including a computer game called “School Shooting,” in which the player controls a character who enters a school and shoots students. Cruz had similar tendencies.
Lanza and Cruz are not isolated cases on this issue of entertainment as it relates to violence. For example, consider these facts from a recent paper published by the American Association of Family Physicians:
Children and adolescents in the U.S. spend an average of 7.5 hours per day using various forms of entertainment media, including television, video games, the Internet, and recorded media.
An average American youth will witness 200,000 violent acts on television before age 18.
Nearly all American teens — up to 97% — play video games. The average amount of weekly playing time is 13 hours.
Consumers of Rap music are also more likely to accept the use of violence, to accept violence against women, and to commit violent or aggressive act themselves.
Not surprisingly, there is a significant association between violent content with increases in aggression, desensitization to violence, and a decrease in positive social behaviors.
Therefore, given this background, why does the “March for Our Lives” gun control rally taking place in Washington today not address these larger issues and culpable causes? They are either willfully ignorant or intentionally resistant to their conclusions.
Moral Rot, Pornography, and Sexual Harassment
In addition to the entertainment sewer that feeds violence and warps the character of young boys who grow up to be school shooters, there is a parallel sewer that feeds the appetite for sexual immorality. It affects both men and women and often leads to harassment aimed particularly at women.
It is right for the #MeToo movement to expose sexual harassment. But we should not settle for punishing sexual harassment and abuse. We should also aim to produce fewer sexual harassers and abusers by examining the causes of such behavior.
For example, why do scantily clad women parade themselves before testosterone driven males to get their attention and then complain at the form it takes? And why do men allow themselves to be drawn into those dangerous traps rather than turning and running in the opposite direction as they should?
We should acknowledge the moral rot that permeates the world of sexual entertainment in which our children also swim. For further example, according to a RANS Health Survey conducted several years ago:
Teens who watch a lot of television with sexual content are more likely to initiate sexual intercourse in the following year.
Frequent exposure to TV sexual content was associated with a significantly greater likelihood of teen pregnancy in the three years following exposure.
Heavy exposure to sexually degrading lyrics predicts accelerated initiation of sexual activity.
So, where is the public outcry against pornography that leaves a trail of ruined men, exploited women, broken marriage, damaged children, disease, crime, and sometimes violent death?
When pornography is accepted and normalized, when sex is the most prevalent theme in our music, books, magazines, television programs and movies, it is no wonder that some men will seek to act out the ideas they have consumed. So while the steady diet of sex in our media and entertainment doesn’t excuse sexual harassment or abuse or make it any less wrong, it should make it less surprising.
Isn’t it time to confront the root of the problem, just as we did in turning the culture away from smoking 40 years ago to where we are offended today when it pollutes our public space?
And if they’re serious about confronting sexual harassment, why doesn’t the Women’s March head to Hollywood to demand more wholesome entertainment? And why doesn’t it direct its ire at Corporate America to demand support for and sponsorship of family-friendly entertainment and for natural marriage rather than for a perverted LGBT agenda and transgender bathrooms?
Enough Is Enough!
Bringing it home, what can we do as parents, as ministry and community leaders, as educators, and as elected officials?
How can we exert our own personal responsibilities and authority to ensure that our lives and our homes reflect the Godly values that are so critical to developing Godly character in our children and in our communities?
To assist in that process, Rita has recommended a web site from Focus on the Family called www.pluggedin.com that provides excellent suggestions for books, movies, TV programs, and games that avoid violence and gratuitous sexual content.
In addition, we can speak out when we see materials that are hostile to these values, just as the Valley Family Forum did 15 years ago when it encountered three SOB (sexually oriented businesses) in Harrisonburg and, with strong community support, asked the City Council to limit the time, manner, and place of their operations. They did, and now there are none. Laus Deo!
Crossroads: Where Faith and Culture Meet!
For more on all of this, please join Rita Dunaway and me this weekend on one of the following four Valley radio stations: WBTX (1470) at 4:00 p.m. today (Saturday) and again at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, followed by WSVA (550) and WSVA/FM (92.1) at 8:30; and on WNLR (1150) at 11:30.
You can also listen online at www.valleyfamilyforum.org by clicking on the appropriate Crossroad’s link shown on the home page.
We deeply appreciate your prayers, your encouragement, and your financial support of these programs. All gifts are tax-deductible and can be sent by check to Crossroads at PO Box 881, Harrisonburg, 22803.
For God and Country,