After reading Trek to the Manger chapter 8, and after reading just about any newspaper in America, this post seems… timely. Because human lives matter.
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I started thinking about the effects of video games on the way kids think as I listened to my son interact with the Wii one recent afternoon. Having always been particularly strict about what he can and cannot play, we have firmly planted our feet in conservative soil and allowed only E and E10+ games to be played in our home. After all, how controversial and damaging can a game that says ‘Lego’ on it be?
On this day, hearing the game-playing insults and animated threats as they spewed from my sweet 12 year old’s mouth, I was open-mouthed stunned. As I paid attention to his interactions with people over the next weeks, I was struck by the number of times this video game language spilled over into real-life conversations. Prompted by this realization, we began to make changes in our game playing and movie watching habits. To my great relief, good progress has been made, and yet I’m horrified at how easily such behaviors were able to take root and spring to life in our conscientious Christian home.
Many studies have been performed that point toward television and video games to explain the violent culture our children are immersing themselves in. While I realize it probably isn’t that simple, I was taken aback by this comparison made in Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s article, Trained to Kill:
“The result is a phenomenon that functions much like AIDS, which I call AVIDS–Acquired Violence Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS has never killed anybody. It destroys your immune system, and then other diseases that shouldn’t kill you become fatal. Television violence by itself does not kill you. It destroys your violence immune system and conditions you to derive pleasure from violence. And once you are at close range with another human being, and it’s time for you to pull that trigger, Acquired Violence Immune Deficiency Syndrome can destroy your midbrain resistance.” (Christianity Today, August 10, 1998)
If the violence that our children are exposed to on television and in video games is affecting their naturally adverse responses to acts of violence in real life… Houston – we’ve got a problem.
We’ve got a problem because, according to Grossman, the average preschooler in America watches 27 hours of television each week.
We’ve got a problem, because the average child gets more one-on-one communication from TV than from all her parents and teachers combined.
We’ve got a problem, because Americans spend over $100 million on toy guns every year (What Counts: The Complete Harper’s Index © 1991).
It’s easy to jump on the anti-tv bandwagon right about now, waging war on the producers and promoters of shows and games with inappropriate content for children, but it seems to me that this is an exercise in futility. An exercise in missing the point.
What is the point, you ask? To which I reply with these words of the Apostle Paul, as found in Ephesians 6:12:
“Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world.”
You and I are watching Paul’s words play out on the big screen of everyday life. Satan has effectively dulled our senses through the world’s use of violence and dehumanization, creating a world crawling with bullies and terrorists that can be found on every playground and in every community across the globe.
Does the enemy always use video games to tap into our violent responses? Of course not. But our enemy does generally choose the way of least resistance when it comes to weakening our resolve to value what God values; things like human life, relationship and love.
We’ve made it awfully easy for God’s enemy to have access to our children. It’s time we rise to the occasion and heed Paul’s teaching, putting all of that Armor to use on behalf of the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 6:13-18).
About the time my son was emerging from video game mentality, his school was visited by Stephen Nasser – a holocaust survivor. Parents were cautioned that his story may be graphic, and of course we had the opportunity to opt-out for our more sensitive children. We didn’t opt out.
On the day Mr. Nasser came, I picked my son up after school and proceeded to ask him a few questions about the talk. He wasn’t very forthcoming, seemed almost nonchalant about it, so I backed off and decided not to push for details. As the evening unfolded, we began to hear more and more about the stories and events that had played out in the concentration camps, as told by Mr. Nasser. We learned that some of the stories had been quite graphically painted by the words of this man who was the sole survivor of his family. We found out that some of the adults and students in the room had cried as the stories were told. And our son asked if we could buy Mr. Nasser’s book, My Brother’s Voice.
By bedtime that night, I could see just how much my son’s heart was wrenched by the horrifying stories this elderly man had told. These were real people. Real people who had been really wronged. Moms and Dads and brothers and sisters and grandparents whose lives meant less than nothing to an entire army of violent men.
So, we bought the book. My son finished reading it today. His heart will never be the same (and that is very, very good).
Sitting in the doctor’s waiting room last week, I watched a newscast about an anti-bullying program that is being tried out in at least one school setting in America. Perhaps more accurately described as a sensitizing program, they are attempting to help young children connect with their feelings of respect and empathy for human life by having each classroom ‘adopt’ a baby for the year.
Over the course of a school year, a young family will visit multiple times, each time creating an opportunity for the students to watch and interact with a baby and her family. The facilitator talks through what the baby is doing at each visit and how that makes the students feel.
At first, I admit it seemed rather corny to me. What I’m left with, however, after thinking it through, is the sense that this type of education just might work in light of the ways in which we desensitize our children by exposure to violence and the dehumanization of those who become targets of real-life brutality and aggression. Maybe we can sensitize our kids by exposing them to caring parents (even if those parents aren’t theirs) and innocent babies, allowing them to feel concern and maybe even feel protective of those who are unable to stand up for themselves in this world. At least it’s worth a try, right?
I’m not sure where we should go with this, but I’m sure that we should go somewhere.
Maybe we should champion the stories of those who have been bullied and wounded and all-but-destroyed by real-life violence (like Stephen Nasser).
Maybe we could work to create sensitization programs in our local schools, bringing the joy of life into the classroom for children whose lives are remarkably joy-less at home.
Maybe we can get creative in our own homes, finding ways to value our family’s time and resources outside of cable tv and the purchase of yet another video game.
Maybe we ought to do our homework and pray for Spirit eyes to see where God is already at work all around us, freeing the captives, fighting injustice and proclaiming the Good News to the poor and the blind and the outcast.
On our own, we might make a respectable dent in the lives of the desensitized and dangerous.
However, I’m much more interested in finding out what TWO (or more) can DO!
Will you join me?
To read Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman’s complete article, click here: http://www.killology.com/print/print_trainedtokill.htm