I was recently asked to comment on the impact of violence in video games, movies, and television shows among students in our culture. As I thought through the issue and the ways the questions were asked, a thought emerged to the surface. By examining this lone issue and making a huge deal out of it, I think you miss the bigger picture. May I ask the question, when behaviorism has ever worked without mammoth effort to compel certain actions? Or course violence EVERYWHERE has impacted students, but so has a slough of many other concerning issues. Who has the time and energy to pursue battling all of these issues?
I would submit that these issues are streams of a larger flood that has washed our culture away. We need to look at cutting these streams off by considering the flood and damming it up there. The bigger issue that these symptoms flow from is none other than the prevailing idea that “I can do whatever I want whenever I want, and I will do what makes me feel good.” Sex makes me feel good and violence allows me to feel powerful, in charge, authoritative. There are other sub-issues of course, but these two I see in daily student ministry constantly.
So… how do we “dam” up this flood? I see good news and bad news. Let’s get the bad news out there. You can’t. I can’t. We can’t. Let’s be honest. The flood is too strong, the current too powerful, our dams will be swept away with MAYBE a flinch or two. Some may argue that I am being defeatist or fatalist or whatever. Perhaps. But then again, show me where I am wrong. May I point out an example? The DARE program. Where is it? When I was in school, it was EVERYWHERE. I knew my DARE officer by name. I don’t hear of it anymore. I see the DARE police car drive by in town, but drugs are still as abused as ever. Please understand that I am not in any way bashing the DARE program. I loved it and learned a lot from it. But it has to be admitted, that it still fails.
With that said, I don’t want to wallow in despair forever, because there is hope. The root of this behavior is in the heart: what a person wants and desires. The natural hearts seeks to please itself and build a kingdom for itself, make its own name great. There is only one type of transplant that will effectively kill this vile, selfish weed – the new birth Jesus discusses in John 3. The power to “dam” up this tide is found in the gospel alone. Paul reminds us that the gospel is the POWER of God. It gives people a new heart with new desires. We must appeal to what people want and desire. We must show them the conclusion of what they are recklessly pursuing – namely the futility and finiteness of their wants and desires. As strong as those desires are, they are still far to weak to do what we expect them to do: give us satisfaction and contentment forever (CS Lewis).
I cannot teach without appealing to affections. Behavior comes from the heart and as such I appeal to their hearts – to be grasped by the gospel. Gazing at the cross and seeing what Christ has done affects a new life that produces fruit. As we learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates, the things that we once hungered for diminishes. All of a sudden the desire for violence and gore, for lust and sexual gluttony, diminishes and fades in-light of true satisfaction.
Be warned. This is hard and time consuming. Hard because you have to think differently and hard because you have to trust God alone to do what he alone is able to do. Time consuming because we are addicts and we must be weaned.
God grant us grace to see as you see and love as you love – one-way.