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Editorial Reflections

Mass violence exacerbated by media, mental health, family breakdown


The mass violence we have been experiencing in the country these past few years wears on us all.  “Oh my God, not again.”  “What do we do?”  “What does this mean?” 

Where do we start?  We can start with listening, accepting and paying attention to signals.   Maybe there is something about the need to be in a community, family or group that cares. 

The conversation frequently begins with gun control and the constitutional right to bear arms.  Since the constitution was signed, we have a national army, a national guard, state police, county police, city police, FBI and private security firms. 

We need a serious discussion regarding guns. 

Besides use to kill animals for food or protect family from wild animals or enemies, some want guns to protect themselves and their families from potential violence. 

Guns express power that began with fists, then clubs, knives, swords and spears.

The basic issue behind the desire for guns today is fear—fear of the unknown; fear of people who are different, who we don’t know or who don’t believe like us; or fear of governmental intrusion on personal rights. 

Much has changed in our culture and world.  We are not in control.  Guns make some think they are in control and safer, yet they only escalate fear and violence.

From a Christian perspective, guns are the antithesis of how Jesus spoke and lived. 

However, guns are not the main issue we face when we consider the violence in Roseburg, Ore., Ferguson, Mo., Sandy Hook, Conn., Charleston, S.C., or Seattle.   

For decades, I have been concerned about glorified violence that has grown in society:

• Consider the volume of apocalyptic, violent movies filled with mass killings and “end of the world” fear. 

• Consider the television shows based on killing or violent sex crimes. 

• Consider graphic detail of video games based on killing opponents before they kill you.  If you are killed, you hit the reset button and get another life.  Kill or be killed. 

There is fascination about this kind of violence.  Some like to be scared or pushed outside their normal lives to experience the edge, the psychotic. 

There is a line between reality and fantasy we are taught growing up.  For some today, that line can easily disappear.  People with social or emotional problems may do what they live in the fantasy world.

In addition, there are challenges in homes with single parents trying to raise teens or both parents working long hours.  Drug addictions or alcohol abuse can lead to spousal or child abuse, incest or rape.  Some escape into gangs, drugs or alternative life styles to survive.  Youth try to figure out their sexual identity in a family that is not open to honest conversation. 

Where are conversations around the dinner table? Going to church together?  Visiting a museum or park together?  Is reality lived in fantasy worlds or texting on cell phones?

Added to this is media that focuses on ratings, thinking they need to spend 24/7 covering violence in detail to make more money.  It adds to copycat behavior.

In Christian faith, we talk about sacraments of baptism and communion/Eucharist being “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.” 

What we experience today is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual brokenness, pain and suffering.

The violence is an outward sign of desperate young adults experiencing brokenness, not being heard or seen.  It may be immaturity, rejection, racism, bullying, hormones, depression or mental health issues.  

Each case differs but involves making a permanent decision (homicide/suicide) for what may be a temporary conflict, despite other options. 

The two great commandments are to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. 

Some youth have a hard time loving themselves, so it is hard for them to love others.  To love ourselves, we first have to experience unconditional love. 

The Rev. David Helseth
Yakima - Contributing editor

Copyright © November 2015 - The Fig Tree