I’m going to be frank about my feelings right now and they are quite raw. That said, I don’t claim to be unimpeachably right and I gladly welcome, even encourage, widespread discussion on the issues I mention here.
I turned on the TV recently and was unexpectedly blindsided/sickened by the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. Sunday brought news of additional carnage in Dayton, Ohio. Oh yes, and in Gilroy, California, and on and on … ad nauseum. ...
I’m a grandmother and worry little about myself, having lived a rich, long life and hopefully having learned important, eternal lessons along the way. I know there are many good, kind people in the world. However, these recent unmitigated evils leave me shuddering at what the future holds for my children and grandchildren if societies worldwide do not reverse course and seriously address acts of senseless, irrational violence and hatred.
Most frustrating to me are politicians, talking heads and media types who suggest solutions that fail to focus on the root problems we face today. Instead they suggest actions that will merely lop off a rotted branch of the diseased tree (so to speak), rather than attack the poisonous roots spawning our problems.
Strangely, after such horrific events, we seem to have no trouble identifying and acknowledging the root problems — anger, hatred, selfishness and the rejections of the most basic morals and ethics. Like it or not, those are primarily Judeo-Christian, other faith-based or shared ethical codes of conduct, found in myriad societies.
Ironic, too, while there are systemic movements in many nations to discount, if not denigrate faith and people of faith, whenever such senseless tragedies strike there are immediate calls for prayer, prayer vigils, unity and for religious leaders of all stripes to hold services, and provide counseling, guidance and consolation to suffering people and communities. Yet, more often than not, they only come after rather than before the fact. (See Time Magazine’s “El Paso Shooting Suspect Told Police He Was Targeting ‘Mexicans.’ Here’s What to Know About the Case” published on time.com on Aug. 9 and Oprah Winfrey comment on “‘Fox & Friends’ says Oprah is right about mass shootings, America missing ‘core moral center’” published foxnews.com on Aug. 8.)
There’s a saying, “There’s no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.” The point being that in past wars, soldiers in trenches or foxholes with bullets and bombs biffing and exploding all around them, resorted to prayer. Perhaps out of faint hope, perhaps awakening, or embracing an innate belief in a God in heaven who loves and cares for his children. Yes, a God that allows his children to exercise agency, sometimes at the peril or cost of others’ lives, but ultimately in this life and the next, a God of ultimate justice and mercy who will comfort and commune with those who seek him.
So, when will we finally address what can be considered the roots of the problem — a world drowning in encouragement to violence, to brutality, to ugly and coarse language? A world where pornography and prostitution/sexploitation are defended and promoted, creating lustful, warped thinking and desensitizing individuals to others’ needs. (See “He Restoreth My Soul: Understanding and Breaking the Chemical and Spiritual Chains of Pornography through the Atonement of Jesus Christ” by Dr. Donald L. Hilton Jr., Forward Press, 2010, pages 49-72; and also “How Porn Changes The Brain” and “How Porn Fuels Sex Trafficking” on fightthenewdrug.org.)
A world where there is music that promote violence and revel in the degradation of women. Hollywood churns out filth that promotes aberrant behavior and glorifies and provides “how-to’s” on gratuitous violence. Horror movies that grotesquely ratchet up depraved behavior. Movies that lionize selfishness, greed, self-indulgence — yet often show keen disdain for those in need, and denigrate those who aspire to self-control and virtue? Far fewer the movies, shows, books that praise empathy and compassion, reason and restraint, or show the real and terrifying effects of drinking, drugs, addiction, violence, abuse and infidelity — because in truth they are catastrophic. (See “Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction” on drugabuse.gov; “Addiction and the Criminal Justice System” on the National Institute’s of Health website at report.nih.gov; “Alcohol Facts and Statistics” on the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s website at niaaa.nih.gov; and “Statistics” on centerforfamilyjustice.org.)
Violent, sometimes pornographic, video games not only numb myriad players to violence. They train some to delight in the gore and carnage they robotically perform day in and day out on gaming consoles, until brain chemistry is literally warped, and frozen, callous souls are led to embrace altered realities, some even acting out mankind’s basest instincts. (See “Playing with your brain: Negative impact of some action video games” published on sciencedaily.com; and “Potential Adverse Effects of Violent Video Gaming: Interpersonal-Affective Traits Are Rather Impaired Than Disinhibition in Young Adults” published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine’ National Center for Biotechnology Information at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.)
Perverse social values bombard us at every turn, even at times overwhelming the best efforts of involved, caring leaders and parents who teach respect and concern for others. We see fractured, broken families; families that rarely interact with one another. Some parent figures provide no ethical standards and set no boundaries; some pander to their children seeking to gratify their every whim — and, by failing to establish moral and ethical boundaries, create a next generation of entitled, self-indulgent, narcissistic adults.
Anyone looking for the perfect role model need only read and study the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Read the Bible, even just the first four books of the New Testament. His example of love, kindness and serving others provides a perfect model for proper treatment of others if we hope to counter and reverse the tragic trends we see in the world today. President Franklin D. Roosevelt noted, “The value of love will always be stronger than the value of hate. Any nation or group of nations which employs hatred eventually is torn to pieces by hatred.”
But love must be taught and practiced!
It is time to reject the deluge of hate and violence so widely promoted by many in the so-called entertainment industry, and by myriad social voices today. It is time to call them out for their significant role in society’s degradation as they model and thereby sanction hatred, violence, greed and selfishness. It is time to embrace and showcase the teachings of those who exemplify peace and promote love, tolerance, compassion, and service in behalf of others. As Jesus taught, we must “as I (Jesus) have loved you … love one another” (John 13:34).
Kristine Frederickson writes on topics that affect members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide. She teaches part time at BYU. Her views are her own. Email: email@example.com