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Violence, Video Games, and the Voice of Wisdom

September 16th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 3: 31-33 (NLT)


31 Don’t envy violent people
      or copy their ways.
 32 Such wicked people are detestable to the Lord,
      but he offers his friendship to the godly.

 33 The Lord curses the house of the wicked,
      but he blesses the home of the upright.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Violence has become a integral part of our culture, but it hasn’t always been that way.  When the United States first entered World War I back in 1917 and first began sending young soldiers to the frontline trenches of Europe, they encountered an unexpected problem.  Many soldiers, a vast number of them, would not pull the trigger when they were charged by the enemy.  To that generation, the idea of killing another human being was simply foreign to them.

Senior officers and national military officials, though, became aware that people can be conditioned to accept or even perform acts of violence.  So, they began putting human silhouettes on the firing range targets.  This made the idea of shooting another man more tolerable for these soldiers.  But the problem still remained, even into World War II.  Therefore, the Pentagon began designing other methods, such as electronic simulations, to help soldiers become more comfortable with killing. These simulation programs were the great-grandfathers of military video games that would be developed first not by gaming companies, by the American military.

The result was success.  The method proved so successful that the military’s firing rate (for the first time a soldier had to shoot another human being) went from 15% in World War II, to 55% in the Korean War, to over 90% in Vietnam.  Now that number is almost 100%.  That’s right, the very games that millions of us engage in daily were first developed to desensitize soldiers to violence.  

Now, you should know that my purpose in writing is not to be “anti-video game.”  These facts are just that: historical fact to reflect upon, not a campaign to banish video games.  Calm yourself, my over-excitable friends of Halo expertise.  Just stick with me for a moment– we’re going somewhere.

My point is that we can become desensitized to violence– this historical process proves it.  Now, our military had real and legitimate motivations for their training programs.  Most of us, however, are not fighting in the military at present.  No matter where we find ourselves, we must resist the urge to “envy” the world’s violent nature.  Again, there may be a time that we must fight or be at war– these times are different.  I’m speaking more about an unhealthy obsession for all things violent.

This passage warns us to not “envy violent people or copy their ways.”  We’re not speaking of soldiers here; we’re talking about a culture of unbridled, senseless violence that no longer cares about human life.  If you’ve ever watched CSI, then you can somewhat conceptualize how violent our society has become.  But isn’t that stuff just fiction?  Well, actually most of those story lines are “ripped from the headlines,” meaning they have some level of truth to them.  Yeah, that’s disturbing.

What’s the wisdom for us to take from this passage?  It’s simple: “Don’t imitate the violence of this world.”  It’s about our hearts, as usual.  Don’t long to be violent or to do harm to others.  Destroying life shouldn’t be fun to us and it shouldn’t entertain us.  We must re-sensitize ourselves to the value of human life.  

I know one American soldier very well.  He’s a young marine named Taylor Wright and he is one of the most honorable men I know.  He’ll be the first to tell you that his oath to protect this nation at any cost is far from a video game.  If violence must be used, it won’t be for fun.

I can hear your wheels turning through the circuitry of cyberspace; so again for like the third time, realize that this reflection is not about video games.  It’s about real people and the caution we should heed from God’s Word that senseless violence towards real people is “detestable” to him.  This kind of constant lifestyle and thinking bring “curses” upon one’s life.

Proverbs is a book of wisdom . . . wisdom that is applicable in any century and any culture.  May we heed God’s wisdom today and not look lightly upon senseless violence.





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