The events in Connecticut (and also Oregon) this week have left me stunned. Not only by the intial acts of violence, but by the fierce debates over gun laws etc. on blogs and social media.
I’m not sure why so many Christians seem to think that God wants them to own a gun and that giving more people guns would somehow curb the violence in America. I know it’s complicated and that outlawing guns completely might mean that only people who have them illegally would own them. But why does anyone need a semi-automatic assault rifle at all? Why are those even allowed at all?
On a recent Facebook discussion that got quite heated (and at times irrational), I posted a shorter version of this comment:
“We’ve raised a generation on video games that glorify violence, that allow kids to do virtually something quite similar to what this man did today (and what another did in Oregon earlier this week).
When we teach people to drive a car or fly a plane, we put them in a simulator–which is essentially a video game type experience. It simulates driving or flying so precisely that it counts toward hours of experience needed to obtain a license.
Violent video games are simulators that teach people how to kill other people. Period. Calling it entertainment just makes Satan laugh with delight, to paraphrase Don McLean. Doing despicable things over and over desensitizes you to their evil. Again, Satan chortles. Studies have shown that playing violent games increases aggression.
Why, if we’re letting kids train in simulators (video games) for killing people, and supplementing that hands on training with movies that glorify violence, do we act surprised by shooting violence? I hate guns but I hate our casual view of violence as entertainment even more.”
You may wonder why I’m writing about this topic. To me, it is a parenting topic. I know parents who are hugging on their kids today, just thankful that they’re safe. And yes, parents: hug your kids. Don’t wait to tell them you love them, to affirm them, to resolve conflicts that you have with them.
But also, your response should go beyond that. If you let your children play violent video games–for the love of God, cut it out. If you really love your children, stop letting them poison their minds with violence. Stop letting them sit in that funky gaming chair that is actually a simulator for killing people. Stop desensitizing them to violence.
In the face of the Newtown tragedy, parents may feel helpless. You can’t protect your children, but you can train them. You can make it socially unacceptable to let your kids play these games. (Yes, I know they’ll play them at their friend’s houses. When my kids were younger, I called and asked parents which games they let their kids play. If they were inappropriate, I told the other parents that my kid was not available for playdates there, and why. If I were feeling particularly snarky, I’d ask them what the heck they were thinking.)
In Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, he tells the story of Jason, a dad who was concerned about his teen daughter’s choices: hanging around with the loser boyfriend, acting rebellious, experimenting with drugs. Miller recounts his conversation with Jason: “He realized he hadn’t provided a better role for his daughter. He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family. And so his daughter had chosen another story…Jason decided to stop yelling at his daughter and instead, created a better story to invite her into….” And so Jason decided his family would build an orphanage in Mexico–which meant huge financial sacrifices, but required them to work together and rally around a meaningful cause. And after a while, his daughter not only got on board with the project, she decided to drop the boyfriend, and was excited about this new story her family was living. You can read the whole story by following the amazon link to Miller’s book and searching in the book for “Jason.”
So how about you? Are you inviting your kids to live a better story than the one told by violent movies and games? Don’t just outlaw video games. Invite your kids to live a better story. Not sure what that is? Pray about it. Build an orphanage, dig a well, adopt a local family to help. Maybe, figure out how to help people whose lives have been shattered by violence. Live a better story yourself, invite your family into it.
And pray for the families from the Sandy Hook school. Lord, have mercy.