America, Las Vegas, & The Culture of Death.

Our country has been attacked. While, in these deeply heartbreaking times, you might think I am referring specifically to the recent attack in Las Vegas; I am not. We were attacked in Vegas, there is no doubt about that. But our nation and her people have been under attack by the very same forces that wrought so much death and destruction in Vegas for years now.

America is struggling with a spiritual sickness, a Culture of Death. It is a battle that plays out not just in our streets or across our nation’s many schools and institutions of higher learning; it is a battle that plays out in our living rooms each and every day.

For years I’ve enjoyed watching Westerns with my family. On the day that would go down in history as the deadliest mass shooting in US history, I was taking part in a Life Chain. Where myself and other Pro Life Activists formed a chain along a major highway and stood together praying for an end to abortion and holding Pro Life signs. But before I went to that event, I stopped by my local Walmart to pick up some groceries. While browsing around, hoping to kill some time, I decided to go and take a gander at the DVD section to see what I could find to watch with my family.

Eventually, I came across a film entitled, “Brimstone” starring Dakota Fanning. The cover was quite aesthetically pleasing and the film’s description read innocently enough. A film about a young woman who is being pursued for a crime that she did not commit. I decided I’d rent it and give it a watch with the family.

That night, over the course of the next two hours and 28 minutes, we were treated to:

  • A man’s entrails being ripped out and wrapped around his throat, forcing his son to end his suffering by shooting him in the face with a shotgun.
  • Extremely graphic, albeit probably realistic for the time, depictions of violence against prostitutes up to and including a rape that a young girl, no older than 14, is forced to watch.
  • A deranged, “Reverend” (a term here used most loosely due to the man’s atrocious conduct throughout the film) who locks his wife into a Scold’s Bridle, resulting in her deciding to hang herself in his Church.
  • Said Reverend going on to try and literally replace his dead wife with their daughter by attempting to molest her and then whipping her with a cat o’nine tails when she refuses to sleep with him. (Yes, this entire scene is shown in the film. A 14 year old girl being whipped over and over again.)
  • A scene where a young boy no older than 15 is shot repeatedly before then bleeding out onto the snow.
  • Finally, a scene where the protagonist’s six year old daughter is captured by the aforementioned, “Reverend” and whipped as her Mother is forced to watch.

Needless to say, this probably isn’t a family picture. This not even mentioning many of the other horrific deaths seen throughout the film. Such as when the antagonistic, “Reverend” is burnt alive with kerosene at the end.

What’s the point of bringing this all up you might ask? Consider for a moment the above descriptions of violence against children, some as young as six, being depicted on the big screen in 2017. Brimstone is far from the only film guilty of this either. In the newest film adaptation of Stephen King’s, “It” the opening scene consists of seven year old Georgie getting his arm graphically torn off by Pennywise and then an agonizingly long shot of him, a seven year old boy, crying in pain in the street as he bleeds out before being dragged into the sewers.

Wow. Can anyone imagine watching such graphic violence against children in theaters only a few short years ago?

Stephen King himself has faced much criticism, and rightfully so, for It due to a scene late in the first act of the book in which the teenage protagonists engage in group sex as a form of bonding following their first battle with Pennywise. In response to this criticism King said, “I’d just add that it’s fascinating to me that there has been so much comment about that single sex scene and so little about the multiple child murders. That must mean something, but I’m not sure what.”

King may well be onto something here, what does that say about our society when we’re so willing to be, “entertained” by brutal child murder? Especially when it is portrayed on a screen?

Our country is struggling with a Culture of Death. A culture that revels in violence and bloodshed for its own sake. Where the daily mass murder of the unborn is at best ignored and at worst cheered on as a form of, “sexual liberation.” It should come as a surprise to no one that disrespect for life at the earliest of stages will only lead onto a disrespect for life at later stages.

If a society will not honor the right to life for a little baby, then why should it care if a six year old girl gets whipped by a sexual deviant in a movie or when a seven year old boy’s arm is ripped off and focused on for a money shot in a horror film? Going from there, if a people don’t mind watching fully developed children being tortured and slaughtered in a movie, then what will they feel when those very things happen in real life?

Since the Sandy Hook Massacre there has been an almost unending stream of bloody tragedies in the form of mass shootings across the US. While many of these horrific attacks began at schools & colleges, it was not long before they branched out into Churches and musical concerts. While the circumstances of the murderers in each case vary, one obvious commonality amongst them all is a striking lack of respect for the dignity of human life. In 2016 and then, now, in 2017 we saw the country’s two most deadly mass shootings in history one right after the other. First the tragic Islamic Terror attack on the Pulse Nightclub in Florida and now in Las Vegas when a seemingly ordinary man went on a rampage and killed 59 while injuring over 500 others.

So how are people feeling about that? Disturbingly, not much. One doesn’t have to go very far on social media to see the same old, tired routines played out in the aftermath of each tragedy. Hashtages to, “PrayForX” and profile pictures changing temporarily to a flag or outline of a major city. A major potential consequence that has been noted by psychologists watching this phenomenon is that the more desensitized Americans become to such violence, the more likely they are to lose any sense of empathy for their fellow men.

In 2009, long before the unending parade of bloody images and tragic headlines became a new, “norm” for the country, one Dr. Bushman decided to conduct a study on the relationship between violent media and empathic responses to the suffering of others. In his study Bushman found that those who were more accustomed to violent imagery took much longer to respond to the pleas for help from the victim of a simulated fight. Now the violent imagery in question in Bushman’s study were video-games. But what if people become accustomed to seeing such violence occurring oh so routinely in the real world?

As of now, we don’t quite know what drove Stephen Paddock to commit mass murder on the night of October 1, 2017. By all accounts thus far, he was a seemingly ordinary guy. A retired accountant who liked to gamble, take cruises, and generally live the good life. We know from his brother that he apparently had no strong or apparent religious or political affiliations. He was, “just a guy” according to his brother.

It is said that we are what we eat. I cannot say for sure that I know what types of entertainment Mr. Paddock enjoyed when he was still alive. But I can say that, living in America, I have a general idea of what kinds of things he may have been exposed to. Things that can have a dangerous impact on anyone’s life. But especially so for those who are already lost deep within the darkness of mental illness. I don’t know if anything could have stopped the tragedy in Vegas from occurring for certain. But I can say with a sense of certainty that, had our nation not been so steeped in a Culture of Death, there might be a whole lot less violence and carnage in our country today than there is.

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