Media violence begetting violence in our culture

July 26, 2012

As we bury the victims from the August 20 Colorado movie theater murders, ponder this: Have you heard about the guy who awakens to alarms coming from a branded smart phone? He showers using branded soap, shaves with branded shaving cream, eats a popular cereal for breakfast, and hears 150 radio advertisements while driving to work in his branded car. He sees about 1,000 internet ads a day, then drives to a nationally-franchised fast casual restaurant to have dinner with his wife and kids.

In his scant spare time, the guy sees about 500 Facebook “likes” a day for branded products and services. How much of an impact do you think this amount of branding and marketing will have on what he thinks? On HOW he thinks?

PUT-In-BAY: Flags at hall staff in memory of Aurora, Colorado, shooting victims.

Multiply that one man by 320 million, and you get a glimpse into the impact that advertising and branding are having on our national consciousness. It’s beyond dispute:  The cumulative effects of these bombardments are changing us in ever more frightening ways. Here are some examples:

Six of the top ten best-selling video games in 2011 are known as “first person shooter” role playing games.  The No. 1 video game in 2011 in sales was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. It earned $400 million in sales on the first day of its release, and netted more than $1 billion worldwide in 2011.

Of all the theatrical releases in Hollywood so far in 2012, 94 movies have earned an “R” rating from the MPAA. There have been as many “R” rated movies coming out this year as movies rated “PG” and “PG-13” movies COMBINED. Movies rated “R” have earned 51% more revenues at the box office compared to 2011, with more than $1.5 billion in box offices tickets in the U.S. sold to patrons attending “R” rated movies already this year. In the years 2009, 2010 and 2011, Hollywood distributed an average of about 10 “G” rated movies per year.

A Ball State University 2009 study found that most Americans now spend at least 8.5 hours a day looking at a computer monitor, TV set, or mobile phone screen, frequently doing two or three at once.  The typical 25 to 34 year old is in front of a screen of some sort (TV, computer, other) at least 63 hours a week.  That same typical 25 to 34 year old is reading only 49 minutes a week If you do the math, it averages 3,780 minutes a week on screens versus just 49 minutes a week of reading

Speaking of television, research on violence and television by the Parents Television Council estimates that by the time an average child leaves elementary school, he or she will have witnessed 8,000 murders and over 100,000 other acts of violence.  By the time that child is 18 years-of-age; he or she will witness 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders.  One 17-year longitudinal study concluded that teens who watched more than one hour of TV a day were almost FOUR TIMES as likely as other teens to commit aggressive acts in adulthood.

That’s correct. About 50 years ago, psychologists advocated the social learning theory. By showing young children televised violence and then watching their behavior afterwards, researchers learned then that children learn by what they watch. They become far more likely to imitate, and even initiate violent behavior when they watch violence on a TV or other screen.

Lt. Col. David Grossman, author of Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill, explains: “Violence is like the nicotine in cigarettes.  The reason why the media has to pump ever more violence into us is because we’ve built up a tolerance.  In order to get the same high, we need ever-higher levels.”

Add it all up: We’re now a society that is becoming more pervasively violent than ever before. Each medium is in a quest for profits, and if turning up the violence in television, movies and videos will result in more revenues, then it becomes the “right thing to do” in the eyes of executives and shareholders.

“Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle,” 93-year-old Rev. Billy Graham wrote recently.  He pointed out how Christian chaplains serving in the police department in a Southern city were ordered to no longer mention the name of Jesus. “Similar scenarios are now commonplace in towns across America. Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone—except God, “ Graham added.

“Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control.”

Rev. Graham is right. Somehow we need to hold Hollywood movie-makers, network and cable television executives, and those creating and developing our media to a higher standard. If violence become a common brand in all of our media, we’ll see more Chardon and Aurora, Colorado-type shootings in the years ahead.



America, Bless God

July 5, 2012

Whom did these leaders 236 years ago think they were?

How could only several dozen men and women, representing 13 colonies, organize a rebellion against most powerful nation on Earth – England – and succeed?

How could a wealthy “gentleman planter” whose only military service had been in the militia 15 years ago, lead a rag-tag band of inexperienced volunteers to victory over the world’s most professional army?

“Britannia rules the ocean” was the saying of the time, yet somehow the rebellious American colonies managed to maintain trade, secure support from France, and overcome other long odds to gain its independence.

An objective reading of the first-hand accounts of the American Revolution, both British and U.S., reveals that soldiers and leaders on both sides believed God intervened — for the American side – time and time again throughout the rebellion.

Here’s one example: In August 1776, General Washington’s forces were outnumbered 3-to-1 and had lost the battle of Long Island. Washington retreated overnight across the East River to New York City. As he and more than 8,000 soldiers and supplies rowed across the river in small boats, a thick fog enveloped the area.

Nearly a third of the troops were still in Brooklyn when dawn came. Here’s a first-hand account of what happened next from Major Ben Tallmadge, a member of the Continental Army:  “At this time, a very dense fog began to rise, and it seemed to settle in a peculiar manner over both encampments. I recollect this providential occurrence perfectly well. And so very dense was the atmosphere that I could scarcely discern a man at six yards’ distance. We tarried until the sun had risen, but fog remained as dense as ever.”

When the fog finally lifted, British General Howe found a completely empty Continental Army encampment in Brooklyn.  Washington and the Continental Army had survived, and would continue to hold together and fight for Independence for the next five years. At the end of the Revolution, Washington said this:  “I was but the humble agent of a favoring Heaven, whose benign influence was so often manifested in our behalf and to whom the praise of victory alone is due.”

Once founded, America’s greatest time of trial was its own Civil War, 1861-1865. More than 625,000 Americans – North and South – died in this horrific struggle, about the same number of U.S. military deaths in all of other wars combined. Some historians dispute which of the various causes began the conflict, but there’s no doubt that by late 1862 the Civil War became a fight to end slavery and provide full equality for African-Americans.

For the first two years of the struggle, Confederate forces were victorious in many of the battles. A writer to the White House asked President Lincoln whether God was on the side of the Union.  Here’s a part of his reply:  “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

One could look back time and time again over the past 236 years, and repeatedly see the hand of God at work in favor of America. How has America “blessed God” in return?

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Almost forgotten in the furor over the Affordable Care Act (federal health care, or Obamacare) is that June 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of Engle vs. Vitale, a Supreme Court decision that said it was unconstitutional to have prayer in public schools. Explain that to those in Chardon … or Virginia Tech … or Columbine High.

There will be a countless number of news media stories, Facebook posts, phone calls and conversations about America’s political future between now and November 5.  Perhaps some of this time and effort is being misplaced.  We should – like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln – focus a bit more on our relationship with Almighty God.

Perhaps we should take some time to explore the Bible.  Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

Perhaps, as  November approaches, we should examine the record of all the candidates for office and seek those whose character and ethics are of the highest quality. Perhaps, as we pause on Independence Day, we need to realize that there is a struggle going on between good and evil. There is a conflict between those who think man (humankind) is the pinnacle of everything, and those whose reliance is first and foremost upon God.

I believe The United States will become a better nation if it seeks to bless God in its attitudes and actions. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)

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I’m a bit saddened by the lack of media attention to one simple — yet important – aspect of last week’s ruling.  Will the U.S. health care system IMPROVE or WORSEN with this Supreme Court decision?

All too often, we forget that U.S. health care is the envy of many in the world.  The most advanced medicines and treatments come from our hospitals, medical centers and laboratories, and pharmaceutical companies.  No one seems to have asked the public a simple question: will we be better or worse off?

We know we’ll be paying more – $1.7 trillion more over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

What are we getting for our money?

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Andy Griffith’s wife Cindy said it well.  About Andy, she said “He is the love of my life, my constant companion, my partner, and my best friend. I cannot imagine life without Andy, but I take comfort and strength in God’s grace and in the knowledge that Andy is at peace and with God.”

We should all be that way.