Tuesday, August 9, 2011

vicarious violence

Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.
Obadiah 1:10-11

God considered Edom complicit in the crimes against Israel and Judah, not because Edom was actively violent, but because when the attacks came against the Jews, Edom did not resist and instead rejoiced to see them happen. There is a guilt that can come to a person or a group of people for the sheer sin of doing nothing. If you are capable of stopping violence, or of at least intervening, and instead take no action, you have done a great injustice yourself. God says to Edom that their inaction and amusement at Israel's demise made them just like the invaders. And for the apathetic approval of violence, Edom was coming under God's judgment. His justice would prevail over those who laughed at the injustices done to their brothers.

This is a reason why Christians ought to at least consider the issue of vicarious violence as it relates to our culture. There are two facts to think through: 1) Apathy is inaction, and 2) desensitization through amusement by violence. The first fact is very real problem of Christian apathy. What are followers of Jesus doing to stand against violence? Are we really demanding an end to child abuse, to human trafficking, to the drug culture, to domestic violence, to gang warfare in our cities? Do we help those who are hurt by these things? We certainly should minister the gospel in these situations and not apathetically retreat to holy huddles in our church buildings.

The second important piece involves how the culture at large views violence. Entertainment saturates us with it. Television shows, the movies, and video games in particular, thrive on a high degree of it. Each time we unwittingly allow ourselves to be entertained by it without thought, we vicariously participate in it. And that just can't be a good thing in terms of developing a proper viewpoint on the issue. I am not saying these things make us actual killers... but could they make me easier to be like Edom? I think they have a high potential to do so.

A sense of God's justice should lead us to minister the gospel to our violent culture. Sinners need to repent of their violence and find peace in the Prince of Peace. That justice should lead us to critically examine how being amused by violence slowly desensitizes us to the bigger issues at stake. And if we do that, we will be led to reject our culture leading us into the vicarious participation and acceptance of violence so that then justice and mercy may be seen in God... in us.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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