Why Violent Entertainment is Dangerous for Christians (Part One)

This post is going to bother some people. You may think my stance is too extreme. I don’t, and that’s part of the reason I’m writing this. The issue of violence in the lives of children is in the spotlight right now, as is the issue of violence in video games. That’s not what I’m talking about today. Today I’m talking about violence in movies, books, music- anything in which violence can be portrayed. Every kind of entertainment has the possibility for violence. It’s not just video games. Today I’m talking about all the violence we see, read, hear, and/or partake in, and how it affects Christians. That is where my problem lies.

A few weeks ago, I heard a Christian jokingly defend the fact that he and his son play Call of Duty. Here’s what he said:

Yes, we’re shooting people, but hey! They’re terrorists. They kinda… deserve to die.

While everyone else laughed, I sat still, frozen. I could not believe what I’d just heard. When I got home, I talked it over with my parents, and while I did, I started to cry. I was crying because I was scared to death. The thought that a Christian could say something like that was horrifying. Don’t get me wrong, I know that terrorists are sinners. But guess what?

So was I. So was my dad. So was Paul, Peter, and Martin Luther.

We all deserved to die. Every person born on this planet is a sinner, under the righteous wrath of God. We have sinned against the Holy God and the punishment for disobeying is justly death. Christians cannot walk around saying that someone “deserves to die” as though we don’t. Just because we’ve never killed a person or blown up a building does not mean that we were not spiritually separated from God, that we were not sinners. Everyone deserves to die. Not just the people you or I think are “bad” or “worse”.

So now that that’s cleared up, let’s go back to the violence issue.

Last Saturday my teen-aged brother and I watched Captain America 2 for the first time. I had hesitated to watch it because the review I’d read said there was more violence in this movie than in several other Marvel movies. I’ll be honest with you, I’m squeamish. I hate looking at blood or hearing things crack or seeing a broken bone. That’s not a bad thing. But I love the courage, bravery, and honesty of Captain America, so I decided I’d watch it.

When my parents and a friend later asked me how I liked it, I couldn’t really respond. There was something about the movie that I didn’t like, something that ruined it for me. It took me a while to put my finger on it.

I was bothered not simply by the violence, but by the fact that every time a bad guy was killed or beat up, I felt bad for them.

At first I thought this was the wrong way to feel. My parents have warned my siblings and I about the way that people are determined to make you look lightly upon things that are sin by making you  sympathetic towards the villain, so I was wary of my own feelings. However, when I looked closer, I realized that wasn’t what was going on. No one wanted you to like the bad guys in this movie- they were bad. That was the justification for everyone’s actions, Captain America included.

That’s when I finally saw that there is a big difference in seeing a robot smashed against a wall as opposed to another person. Because as a Christian, I know that that person is lost. I know that their chance to hear the gospel has just ended. And I know, I know, people in movies aren’t real, and if a person is one of God’s elect, they won’t die without hearing the gospel and being saved. But does that mean that I should lose my compassion for other humans? Does it mean that since they aren’t real, it’s fine to see them be tortured or killed or beaten up? What does that do to the way I think?

Listen, I’m not talking just about kids here. I’m not talking about unsaved people either. I’m talking to all Christians (andChristian parents of unsaved children whom you are still parenting).

What do violent images do to the way you think about men? Women? Terrorists? Humanity in general?

The short answer? Bad things. Very, very bad things. If a violent video game can make a Christian man think it’s acceptable to mow down ‘terrorists’ in the comfort of his living room in glorious high-definition, what is that going to do to his perception of the Muslim who comes to church with their college host family?

If a girl sees the protagonist, who is supposed to be one of the good guys, on TV beating up a man to get information, she’s going to think that’s the way to do it. I’m not saying she’s going to be holding her little brother in a choke-hold when she wants to know something. But she will start thinking, That’s cool. That’s real power, that’s real strength, that’s something to be admired. And her dad, her brother, or her future husband will never live up to those ideals.

That’s part of the danger. That’s one of the reasons I want to ask my Christian brothers and sisters to stop and think for a minute. Please.  Matthew 12:34b says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In Romans 8:6 Paul says, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 12:1-2, 9; 13:12-13a says: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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.” “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime.”

The next post on this topic will look further into how violence changes the way we think in addition to a discussion on why violence bothers me in regard to my persecuted brothers and sisters.

Thanks for reading. Comment with your thoughts below, and I’ll try to respond. As a Christian, my main goal with my words is to edify my faith family and build them up. I want to make sure I do that in each post and comment, so it might take me a while to reply.

-Sarah

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