It would be tasteless to approach the horrors of recent weeks with any sort of humor, and, believe me I don’t intend humor in any of this. Like most of us, I have been thinking about the unrelenting violence of the past few weeks, the school shootings, the murder of law enforcement officers in the line of duty, the nightly death toll from the south side of Chicago, the decapitation of a little boy for disturbing his father’s sleep and on and on and on. Strangely the whole mess has reminded me of a quote from the Movie “Planet of the Apes.”
Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.
The beast man. That is who we have decided to be; at least since Darwin taught us that we are just a particularly violent kind of monkey. As long as we persist in teaching children that we are just another animal with no eternal destiny, the downward spiral will continue. We persist in teaching children that they will not face eternal judgement, just oblivion. Those young people who crave oblivion will continue to lash out.
We all urge the government to do something. Gun control! I am all for gun control. It will make us feel better about ourselves. Actually, I do think it foolish to allow children to buy assault weapons. Still, we must do something! Gun control will solve the problem! Chicago leads the way! We have very strict gun control laws on the books and we have gotten the annual murder toll down to 650 last year!
I don’t believe that gun control will lessen the murder toll as long as we look at murder as entertainment. The culture of violence is everywhere.
A fellow who calls himself Immortal Technique is touted “…a politically themed and socially conscious rapper” In his song “Dance With the Devil,” we hear about “Billy” who wants to be the biggest thug in his neighborhood, “But only a real thug can stab someone till they die, standing in front of them, staring straight into their eyes.” Well if that isn’t socially conscious, what is? Doubtless an aficionado of the art form will say that I misunderstand. Immortal Technique, or as his mother called him “Felipe,” does some wonderful things. He visits prisons, speaks to young people, works with immigrant rights activists, raises money for children’s hospitals overseas. And sings about stabbing people. Felipe’s young animalized aficionados hear about stabbing people, not about orphanages in Kabul. Felipe pours money and effort into noble causes while pouring anger into the heads of alienated adolescents who believe there is no future and no ultimate responsibility. I don’t have time or energy to go into the madness of the video games which allow our young people to blow away imaginary enemies and abuse imaginary women.
Tsk, Tsk! We should ban this stuff. That would work just about as well as gun control. We live in a constitutional republic where both guns and bad art are legal. (Just an aside, I heard the story of a group of young people who attended some religious event in which rap artists performed Christian lyrics to engage the youth. The kids reported back to their pastor that it was sad, “...like Grandpa trying to be cool.”)
As you watch the news and say, “Tsk, tsk!”, does it occur to you that the endless proliferation of news, the guilty parties displayed and investigated for our amusement is not a lot different than violent rap music and slasher films. Maybe it’s worse because it’s real. But again, in a constitutional republic we can’t ban bad news, even though people constantly try to shut up evil right-wing commentators whether in the world or the Church. We call that sort of things tyranny, in our constitutional republic. So, can’t ban guns, can’t ban violent entertainment, can’t ban bad news. But we must do something!
Violent entertainment has always been with us. Maybe the sacred scroll of the planet of the apes is right that man is the harbinger of death. All except for one man. He was the harbinger of life who rose from the dead.
I think of another story, that of Telemachus the Monk who, according to the historian Theodoret, tried to stop a gladiatorial fight in a Roman amphitheater. He wandered into the city and heard the roar of the crowd in the amphitheater. When he went to see what was going on he was horrified to see two Christian gladiators make the sign of the cross as they prepared to kill one another for the amusement of the crowd. He ran down from the bleachers and interposed himself between the two gladiators. One of the gladiators he was trying to stop stabbed him to death, so he could get on with the game. When the mob realized that they had killed a holy man, they filed out of the amphitheater in silence. The Emperor Honorius heard of the monk’s sacrifice and banned gladiatorial contests shortly thereafter. The death sports that had been the entertainment of the Romans for centuries ended.
In short, in response to the plague of violence which we have inflicted on ourselves by teaching our children that they are nothing more than very intelligent animals, is not to do something. It is to be something; the something that God meant us to be when made us in His own image and likeness.