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Dark Night: Time for Salt and Light

According to press reports, the shooter at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater dyed his hair orange, told the police that he was the Joker, had Batman posters all over his booby-trapped apartment, and, of course, chose as targets men, women, and children who were attending the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises.

Yet that same press is quick to assure us that the massacre has absolutely nothing in common with the dark Batman mythos, that the film didn't cause the slaughter, and that the deaths of 12 people and a woman’s miscarriage — excuse me, 13 people — were the inexplicable work of a deranged gunman, and we cannot know anything beyond this.

Before I go on, let me say this: I’m absolutely not blaming this Batman movies for the massacre in Aurora. But what about violent movies in general? Because we do know a lot more about the connection between violence and media consumption than our guardians of culture are letting on.

Carl Cannon in RealClearPolitics.com writes that “a hundred studies have demonstrated conclusively that viewing violence on the screen increases aggression in those who watch it, particularly children.” He adds, “Simply ignoring the massive quantities of violent Hollywood-produced fare has not made the problem go away.”

My friend Peggy Noonan, writing in The Wall Street Journal, points out that the unstable among us are particularly vulnerable to such fare: “… they are less defended against dark cultural messages. ... The borders of the minds of the unstable are more porous. They let the darkness in.”

So while we can never know with absolute certainty why a particular person committed a certain violent act, we shouldn’t be surprised when unstable people such as the Aurora shooter act out the dark fantasies they see on the silver screen, on TV, or in video games.

Nor should we be taken aback by the response of Hollywood and the so-called mainstream media — to deflect, defend and deny. As Noonan says, “Some of the sadness and frustration following Aurora has to do with the fact that no one thinks anyone can, or will, do anything to make our culture better. The film industry isn't going to change, the genie is long out of the bottle.”

So we know what’s wrong — at least partly — with our entertainment culture, but we’re apparently unwilling or unable to change it.

Folks, this is why Chuck Colson was committed to teaching Christian worldview. He knew that God’s moral law and his plans for how human beings should live together in community were given not to restrict our freedom but to empower us to live the good life for His glory.

Chuck begged us Christians to carry our beliefs from the pews and into the public square — into the arts, education and the media. Part of our calling is to impact the culture for the good of all. Christians, who are called to be salt and light wherever we go, can help our friends and neighbors to focus on whatever is “good, noble, pure, and honorable,” as the Word says.

But this means we actually have to be different from the surrounding culture. Chuck Colson told the sad story of how once he sat down with a media executive to say that the man’s company was missing out on a lucrative market because it was not providing the wholesome, uplifting entertainment that Christians would watch. The executive shocked Chuck by demonstrating that the viewing habits of Christians were basically no different than those of the larger culture.

So instead of cursing the undeniable and deepening dark night of our culture, let’s light a candle that others can see.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: August 6, 2012

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