Monday, November 16, 2009

Culture of Death

A couple of months ago, the town of Farmville, VA, where I live, was shocked by the senseless murder of four people. In April 2007, 32 people were shot to death in the Virginia Tech Massacre. Ten years earlier the nation was rocked by the mass killing at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO.

Drive-by shootings, gang members killing rival gang members and innocent bystanders—the list of these senseless murders being perpetrated by young adults and often upon other young adults has grown to epidemic proportions. Everyone is asking the same question, why?

You hear the common refrains—ready access to guns, bullying, lack of self esteem, unrealized potential, child abuse, and the stress of a modern world filled with violence.

Now that Halloween is over—a formerly obscure holiday that now overshadows Thanksgiving and is second in retail sales only to Christmas—let me suggest that the problem can best be attributed to the growing culture of death in America.

The slow boil began decades ago and steadily we have been turning up the heat. In 1972, it became legal and even vogue to take the life of an innocent unborn child. In our own calloused way, we refer to aborted babies as fetuses, but of course those carried to full term are still called babies.

In 1999, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was sentenced to prison for assisting terminally-ill people in hastening their deaths. Contrast that to the voters in the states of Oregon and Washington approving legalized assisted killing. Consider that just this year several versions of proposed health care reform bills contained provisions for “end-of-life counseling.”

Most people are unaware that only a small percentage of World War II and Korean War combatants ever pulled the trigger of their guns or shot at their enemy. That figure went over 50% in Vietnam, and in recent conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan, as many as 90% of the veterans have actually shot their guns with the intent to kill their targets. This is not a normal human reaction and the military knows this. That is why they use video games to desensitize soldiers and condition them to instinctively react to their enemy by aiming their guns and pulling the trigger.

Other significant changes in the last 40-50 years include the actions of secular humanists who have successfully removed prayer from schools, taken Jesus Christ out of Christmas and turned Easter into a holiday about bunnies and colored eggs. All the while, America has turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the increasing presence of the occult in our culture. The fun and frivolity of Halloween makes light of the fact that there are serious practitioners of the occult who actively promote the culture of death. The Harry Potter books about a student of witchcraft are worldwide best sellers and a new Twilight book series features heroes and heroines who are vampires.

When I was a kid, the pastors were decrying rock and roll as the devil’s music and we all laughed. Surely, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones weren’t seriously singing about having real “Sympathy for the Devil.” Back masking subliminal messages about taking drugs was just innocent play like the Paul-McCartney-is-dead spoof. Yes, I scoffed in the day, but as I look back and then look forward to what music and lyrics say today, the slippery slope indeed has become a precipitous cliff. The suspect in the Farmville murder was a musician in the growing genre of death core music where the lyricists obsess about death and murdering people. The weekend before the murders took place, the suspect and the victims had all driven together to Detroit to attend the Strictly for the Wicked concert.

Something else has changed in our culture that leaves a vacuum in the minds of young people into which the culture of death swoops in to take over. When I was a kid if I talked back to my parents or did not do what I was told, there were consequences. Those usually took the form of a spanking or a quick whack of the back of the hand. The pain was short lived and I was never “abused,” but I knew my boundaries and I had respect for my parents and elders in general. In an acute overreaction to horrific cases and all too often ignored child abuse, psychologists and schools have effectively purged society of all forms of corporal punishment. Children are removed from families and placed in foster care when there is a mere hint that a spanking took place. Classrooms are out of control, leaving many teachers playing amateur diagnosticians and collaborating with doctors to get students medicated into submission. At a local juvenile detention center an officer was recently hospitalized because he was not allowed to defend himself against his juvenile attacker. Maybe we should heed the warning in Proverbs 23:13 & 14, “Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.” (NLT)

Beyond removing discipline from our homes and schools, our culture has also made a mockery of parents and parenting. So-called non-traditional parents are held up as shining examples. The so-called non-traditional families are held up as role models. The role of the father as head of the household has been dismissed as a relic of a sexist stone age. This is most evident on television where fathers are mocked as bumbling idiots who depend on everyone else in the family for the most elemental decisions.

The culture of death has a firm grip on our society, but there is a way forward. It is time for the societal pendulum to swing back the other way. I do not favor more regulations. Ratings of movies, music, and video games have done nothing to reduce the violence among young people today. What we need is for parents to be parents. High standards, yes, dare I say moral values, are a good thing that should be reincorporated into family life. Corporal punishment in and of itself does not constitute abuse. In fact, a case can be made that too little discipline can be as bad for the psyche as excessive physical abuse. And parents shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that all they need to do is be their child’s friend. You are a parent and a parent cannot be a good friend and a good parent too. And, I don’t care what society says today, a married father and a mother still make the best parental unit. Whether you believe in intelligent design or the theory of evolution, a mother and father is the accepted definition of “parents” that has stood the test of time.

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