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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Paper Burns at 451 Degrees!

Fahrenheit451_QRay Bradbury is my favorite science fiction author. He passed away in 2012 and his legacy is still strong among science fiction and fantasy readers. But, Bradbury refused to allow his books to become ebooks. His devotion to the printed page is powerful. So powerful, he wrote an entire novel about books. I am currently re-reading “Fahrenheit 451” and last night started watching the movie again. For a film made in 1966 it is remarkably prophetic. In one scene in the living room of Montag, the fireman, his wife is asked to be a part of a theatrical production on television. There against the wall of the living room was a flat screen television that can be found in any Target store today. The “play” in which she was a part was very boring and involved two men talking about where people should sit when they arrived at their party. One of them would turn to the screen as if addressing “Linda” and ask for “Linda’s opinion”. A red light would blink and Linda would respond. It was obvious from the follow up dialogue that it did not matter what Linda said, the plot was contrived to move along without her real input. But, the idea that the television had a camera that could see the viewer was far ahead of its time.

The bland and boring television “theatrical” production existed in this story because books had been banned. Firemen spent their time burning books. Books have been outlawed by the government because they “make people unhappy”. Here is a quote from the novel:

“If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none.”

This is about censorship. Someone, somewhere has a better idea of what you and I should be able to read than we do. We cannot be trusted to make the right kind of judgment about the content we are putting into our minds. We must rely on some agency to decide that for us.

In my recent interviews about video game violence, I am always asked should we ban violent video games. My answer is always a resounding “No”. Why? Because that is censorship and once we start down that slippery slope, before you know it firemen will be invading our homes and burning any creative content in our possession.

I am an author. I write thrillers with a foundation in my Christian worldview. I don’t have to tell anyone who is a Christian how toxic the social climate is now to Christianity. The New Atheists are winning the war of ideas and calling for governmental intervention. They want religion to be outlawed. They want to classify parents who teach their children Christian concepts as “pedophiles” and teaching religious concepts as “child abuse”. The post huge billboards calling for Americans to “Dump the Myth”. Dawkins, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and even Elton John have taken up the cause. Destroy Christianity at all cost. Push it out of the public sphere. Eliminate churches and religion.

If you think I’m overreacting, you are woefully uneducated about this topic. We are not some Communist controlled country like China where Christians have to go underground. But, that is coming. The threat of censorship is real, loud, and pervasive. In the scientific community, if you profess that you a believer, you are blackballed, denied tenure, and sometimes outright fired. If you voice an opinion in a country that supposedly guarantees freedom of speech, you are vilified in the media and labeled as a “hatemongerer” by the well meaning people who become themselves hatemongerers in the process!

Whether or not your a believer, this should set off every alarm in your mind! It is thought control of the highest order and it is not the only area where others want to enforce their ideas and concepts upon you! So, no, I don’t want to see violent video games banned. For one thing, that would make them even more popular!

What I do want to see is a culture that emphasizes accepting responsibility for our decisions. Instead, as a culture we foster a victim mentality. “It’s not MY fault.” is a common response to bad things that happen in our culture. If you purchase a violent video game and you play that game for hours on end and then you carry out some kind of violent action then the decision to do that is yours. You cannot blame the manufacturer or the artist who designed the game. The decision to put those ideas in your heart and mind is YOURS and yours alone. Where our culture has failed is in taking away a social foundation for ethics and behavior and replacing it with consumerism, narcissism, and denial of our reality with the replacement of reality with a virtual reality.

What we must do as a culture is cultivate an environment of responsibility on the part of all three pillars of this problem:

Video game makers have stepped up to the plate and have placed labels on their games detailing content. But, in my opinion, we need a more detailed ratings system that parents and users can understand. For instance, many games have hidden levels that contain graphic sexual content and this may not be reflected on the game label.

Retailers must accept the responsibility of NOT selling mature games to children. Nor should they market those games.

Finally, parents and USERS, should be more wary of the content of some of these games. Parents tend to be intimidated by technology and push their teenagers away into their tech world and let video games and media “entertain” and babysit their kids. Parents must do the HARD thing and get involved in their children’s lives.

Users must recognize that IDEAS have CONSEQUENCES and stop living in denial. In one recent interview, a young woman told me she had just finished playing “Grand Theft Auto” and she didn’t feel like jumping in her car and running down any pedestrians. But, what happens the next time she is in a car and feels road rage? How will her experiences in the game affect her behavior. Studies have shown that video games do affect decision making no matter how loudly the video gaming industry tries to deny it. This is common sense. What we put into our minds will change the way we act. This is well known and well understood. It is the power of propaganda, of mind washing, of advertising. We are living in denial of this reality.

But, we don’t need government censorship. Censorship should start in our MINDS. Censorship is a personal tool. You don’t want to feel the urge to kill? Find out what would motivate you to think on that and do not allow it into your mind. Know your heart. Know your mind. Know yourself! Let’s keep the right choice where it starts, in our hearts and minds. Don’t give the government that right or we’ll end up at the business end of one of Bradbury’s firemen!

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The Fulcrum

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In the past few days, I’ve been involved with interviews that propose the question “Do Violent Video Games Make Teenagers Violent”. I’ve been preparing for this question for months as I research data on depression among young adults for the update of “Conquering Depression”. That book was released in February, 2001 and the world is SO much different now. My co-author, Mark Sutton, and I started talking about this update in May, 2012 when I became more aware of the prevalence of depression on an increasing basis in our culture. In a previous post, I talked about my shock to discover that in an artistic conference with 90% of people under 30 almost everyone admitted to having depression!

So far, I have been stunned by what I’ve learned just through the radio interviews. Young adults today see nothing wrong with playing violent video games in which they kill innocent people. They vehemently deny that violent video games or violent media produce changes in their behavior. And yet, the studies show just the opposite. Here is my analysis. There is a subgroup of teenagers and young adults, proportion unknown, who have the capacity to play these games and not allow them to effect their worldview. These kids all seem to have sound values, involved parents, high self esteem, and the ability to separate fantasy from reality. BUT, there is another segment of teenagers and young adults who are drawn to these games; who spend hours and hours immersed in these games; and who are unable to separate the fantasy from reality completely. It’s called the “Tetris Effect” and occurs when these gamers see elements of their game show up in their real world.

The problem and solution, as I have mentioned in my interviews is three fold.

1 — Violent video games and the video game industry continue to make these games. Violence and sex sells. But, they have also stepped up to the plate and put at least some type of rating on the games and a description of the content.

2 — Retailers are asking for IDs on teenagers to make sure they aren’t purchasing a game meant for over 17. I’m not sure how many of these retailers are doing this.

3 — And, finally, parents are not engaged in what their teenagers are playing. They have no idea about the rating system, the description and content of the games, and that they can put a parental block on game consoles.

Perhaps we need to dig deeper to understand this problem. It is a cultural problem; a society that has abandoned values we once held high. Yesterday, I showed my readers an answer from my son on his take on the current state of this problem. But, he also gave me a solution. It is striking; stunning; and for me as a father, ultimately satisfying in a way no father can even begin to imagine. I was involved in my son’s choices throughout his childhood. My wife and I told our children over and over to make the right choices and we provided spiritual and practical guidance on how to do that. We allowed them limited freedom but strong boundaries. We emphasized that THEY had to learn discernment so they could make the wise choices on their own. I think my son has done so. Here is the remainder of his response to how to deal with a society that is incredibly violent:

Let’s start with the Lord. I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of the world. He is the Center of the universe, the Fulcrum of creation, the Mass towards which all created things eventually bend. He is the True Great Intelligence, the Author of the Story we inhabit and inherit. He is beyond and above all created things (even time), yet He orchestrated our mechanics so that we are a part of His full work. He is the True Doctor – fire and ice, humor and majesty, grace and justice. He is the missing piece that resolves all of our mess into a beautiful whole. He is in all and through all, pulling all creation towards redemption. He is the true Word, the unbroken Orthodox Logos passed from Adam, Noah and Abraham through Jesus and His church to this present day. He is the Power, through the cross, to restore creation and heal wounds and deliver sinners from hell. His is all glory and dominion.

We, His church, are heirs to (and stewards of) that dominion. Filled with His love and emboldened by His Spirit, we are His explorers and heralds. We are His captive train, full proof of His sure and complete work of redemption, and a promissory note of that work’s fulfillment and true expression. We are not just beggars with bread – we are vagabonds and explorers who have been to the lost city and have seen its hidden riches. We are maps and signposts to a good Kingdom. We are evidence that the stories are true.

That Spirit of freedom, of equality, of deliverance, is the root of my passion, the theme of my song.

# Yesterday’s entry was here.

Jesus answers violence with Himself, a man of peace whose Kingdom is of peace. We are His body and temple, His bride and His family; therefore, we are peace as well. We show that peace by our love. Revile us? We love. Strike us? Love. Hate us and wish our destruction? Love and more love. God is the center of the universe, and His heartbeat is love, in mercy and in justice. His is the judgment, so filled with His Spirit and trusting in His promises, we love.

We love actively. When we love our enemies, we act in peace to both acknowledge their worth and call out the oppression in their actions. When we love one another, we do so honestly, in full faith and trust. We also do so in openness and diversity, undoing the trendy perversion of tolerance by trusting the Holy Spirit to build the community He wants, the Body He desires, rather than the same-painted tribes of our comfort or preference.

We love comprehensively. We must show that in the face of man’s deprivation or God’s plenty, our community is one of love. Jesus’ tribe is different: a God without a land, a Temple in our hearts. We must meet extortion with generosity, war with peace, hate with love.

We can only do this from a place of victory. If Jesus is not King, then we must fight to protect what we have and who we are because we might lose. We would “build the kingdom using the devil’s tools” because the are the only tools we have. We are pagans and fools, old gods in a new land with no one to worship us but ourselves.

Or.

If God is King, if Jesus is the true Caesar, the final Lord of Lords and the Center, then what do we have to lose? Who do we have to fear? If we give Him the space, He will perfect our love, overtake our dreams and ambitions with His own, and utterly, fully cast out all of our fear. We can live generously, love freely and walk wisely because He is true and His Way is true. If the stories are true, if the treasure is real, then with love and peace we can sell all we have to buy the field and the pearl. In so doing, we model Christ – King of peace and love and wisdom and justice – who gave His all to deliver us from sin and redeem all of creation. When they see His love in us, they can choose Him or reject Him, but they cannot break away from His grasp.

This is what I struggle in my unbelief to take hold of every day. This is the rest towards which I trudge and march and dance in hopes of one day fully entering. This is the redemption, the Truth on its way to set me free. This is the good news in which I stake my all, and for which I would give all I have away. This is what I wish and pray for every struggling brother, for every doubt, and this is the truth I pray against the enemy’s deception.

If you would like to discuss these issues with me in an interview, drop me an email via the CONTACT tab and I would love to accommodate you.

Turn Your Face and Look Away!

firstdoctyoWe are approaching the 50th anniversary of the longest running science fiction television series, Doctor Who. My daughter, Casey, got me hooked on the new Doctor Who back in 2007 and now, my entire family is hooked on Who. I decided to go back and find the original episodes of the very first Doctor Who (he has regenerated 11 times since then) in black and white on youtube. In the first episode from 1963, Barbara, a reluctant passenger on the TARDIS (the Doctor’s spaceship) is captured by cavemen when they travel back in time to early Earth. During a pivotal scene, two rival leaders of the cave people fight. Their battle is brutal as would be expected from cavemen. At the pivotal point, the winning caveman bashes the other one’s head in with a rock. A close up of Barbara fills the screen and she turns her head away from the ghastly sight.

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She turns her head away. Why? Because what she is seeing is so horrific, so appalling it is beyond thought; beyond consideration. It brought to mind that many of the shows from the 1960s have key moments when someone is so horrified they cannot bear to look. They turn their face away. They deny the evidence of their own eyes!

Fast forward to to the present. When was the last time I saw someone turn their gaze away from something because it was too ghastly to consider? Rather, what I have observed in the present is the opposite. Characters stare wide eyed and enthralled by the horrific sights they see. It is as if they cannot tear their gaze away from what is before them. In fact, many of the characters in today’s shows act rather blasé or fascinated by what they see. It is as if the capacity to be appalled, shocked, horrified no longer exists. Have we become too desensitized to the macabre, the horrible, the dead?

I asked my son, Sean, (age 28) for his thoughts on growing up in a culture that can no longer be horrified. Here is his incredible response as he reflects on a growing unease he has been feeling for months:

I’ve been chasing down this unease for months, at least since Hutchmoot, but the roots go back for years, easily into my college experience. I hope it’s not as pretentious as it sounds to say that I’m sketching out my worldview, because that’s how I can best trace the steps that lead me to a response – not just to desensitization or to political bile, but to the world, our Lord and the call to discipleship.

So what, then, is the world’s great need?

I’ve seen two trends: one over the course of my adult life and one stretching further back over my 28 years here. Over the past ten years, the information infrastructure of the whole world has been transformed – practically rewritten. For the first time in history, people of similar interest or temperament can share information and connect with one another regardless of geographic, social or cultural boundaries. As information multiplies, information and communications technologies allow tribes to form around every interest imaginable. The shift is value-agnostic : it allows people to affirm and solidify one another’s views, good or terrible, mainstream or fringe.

The upshot is two-fold. First, formulated worldviews are more numerous and extensively-documented and communicated than at any other time in human history. The Meta-Narrative windshield has been smashed, and we are looking at the thousands of fractal worldviews scattered around, crash-proof enough to still be distinguishable in the mess. Second, as a result, people are more aware than ever of this mess. At least subconsciously, we all recognize this diversity and acknowledge a need for co-existence to survive.

Second, since I was a child, the dominant language of social competition, of the interplay of ideas, has grown increasingly violent, increasingly personal and increasingly polarized. Being confrontational, once a rare tactic deployed when all else had failed, is now standard political and argumentation style. We have abandoned deliberation in an arms race to do the most harm in the fewest number of words. This adversarial frame dictates that all arguments are fights, that every fight has (close to) two sides, and that one side must win by destroying its opposite.

It is not logic, but rather a perversion of it: what was once about disagreement and discovery of truth is now a border skirmish between worldviews, a war whose casualties are multiplied by our newfound globalized tribalism. Our civil discourse doesn’t resemble an agora so much as a lynching, where the mob that’s the biggest puts to death those whose identities are different. We have returned to the era of foreign wars, of colonies and dynasties and unchecked power and ambition. In the absence of a common language, our confused interchanges know only one solid verb: to kill. This limitation frames our interpersonal struggles as a zero-sum game, a war of survival: family against family, tribe against tribe; ‘her desire shall be for him but he shall rule over her.’

But Jesus’ blood can mend even this.

I’ll stop for now and leave all of us with one thought. When Jesus of Nazareth; God in man form hung upon the cross, bloodied and dying his Divine self looked out from the dimensions of heaven and beheld his Son. God was so appalled; so horrified; so shocked by what He beheld — the sins of all time; the sins and wrong doings of all mankind from Adam’s first bite of the fruit to the horror that will end it all — every wrong and bad and awful thing and He could not look upon it; could not SEE it; could not abide it and God turned his face away!

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46

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Tomorrow, I will show you Sean’s answer to this question of violence in our world. If you are interested in featuring me on a radio talk show, I would love to grant an interview. I am speaking on two topics, “Why are we so fascinated with the undead?” and “Are Violent Video Games leading to Violent Behavior?” Use the contact tab to drop me an email and we’ll set something up!

A Slow Fade . . . .

POW!

BAM!

SCHTOKK!

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If you remember anything about 1960’s television, you remember the original Batman series. Bright, psychedelic colors. Comic book type speech balloons exploding during the scenes. And, of course, Robin with his turn of that famous phrase, “Holy (insert a danger), Batman”.

At the age of 10, I was a DC Comic fanatic. I loved Superman, Batman and Robin, Aquaman, the Flash, and Justice League of America. What I remember well about these comics was the simple stories and the triumph of good over evil and the lack of violent deaths. If death occurred, it was implied and took place off the page.

When I was 12, bored out of my skull in my parents’ home town of Saline on a long summer weekend, I entered the local drug store. They didn’t have drugs, but they had comics. I had read all of the DC Comics available but I had never read a Marvel comic. I talked about this experience in this post, but to summarize: in desperation, I bought a copy of Fantastic Four #66 . As I read the comic, I realized it was very, very different from DC Comics. There was the Thing, a deformed being who was in love with an ordinary woman. Rather than be repulsed by his appearance, this blind woman loved the Thing unconditionally! You mean someone could love even me, this little awkward fat, gestating nerd? I was also shocked when people died in the story. Not off the page, but right there in plain sight. Not particularly graphic, but they were dead and the writers were not afraid to show it. In fact, those brief and infrequent scenes of death were all the more shocking and moving because of their scarcity.

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I was hooked! Here was meat where I had been sampling milk and cookies. Here was real angst I could relate to as an adolescent. I went back to the drug store and bought every Marvel comic they had and my fate was sealed. I never read another DC Comic again.

About ten years later, a friend asked me to come over and play Dungeons and Dragons. What is that, I asked? He outlined an interactive role playing game (printed out as a manual, not computerized!) featuring demons and wizards and witches and trolls and goblins. My alarms went off. Did I want to get involved with the occult? At this point in our culture, any such games smacked of Satanism and involvement with ideas that could allow the occult to enter into my life. I kindly refused.

My son was around 11 or so and he approached me about a card game called “Magic”. Together, we sat down and discussed what this card game involves. I saw a natural progression from D&D to Magic, an immersive game that substituted the manual for game cards; collectible cards. But, I realized that the ideas and concepts were very advanced and very mature — mainly for teenagers and adults. So, I told my son, “No” and together we found an alternative, role playing card games from Star Wars and Star Trek and Babylon 5. Sean was a bit disappointed in not playing Magic, but he excelled at the other games. In fact, we visited the 30th Annual Star Trek Convention in Pasadena in 1996 and Sean played a new version of the Star Trek game in a test phase. The developers told me he picked up about a dozen problems with the game playing and they were able to improve the game play before the complete release of the game.

Now, we move on to DOOM. I was not hesitant to introduce my kids to computers. Sean could play on my computer, a Commodore 128, by the time he was 2. He had his own computer by the time he was 5. I started buying him game consoles very early. I wanted him to be an early adopter of digital technology because I knew this was the world in which he would grow up. When he was 13 or 14 he wanted to buy DOOM for his computer. Once again, we sat down and reviewed the game and looked at some of the test screens. My answer was “No”. The graphics were so intensive; the first person shooter was so ruthless I didn’t think it was appropriate for his age. I promised him that by the time he was 16, I would let him play anything that was rated for his age. Instead, he and I played a Mac based game, Marathon. This game had a first person shooter perspective and I was reluctant to play because you could kill human beings and they would explode in gore. But, the game also had puzzles and mind games. I played it to the very end. Sean went on to play all three versions of the game.

I bring all of this up because I have seen a progression in our world. I’ve watched our sensitivity to the value of human life plummet as a society. It is reflected in our art. It started in comic books and movies and television shows as our culture deteriorated into postmodernism. I think the turning point was the Vietnam War. Prior to that period, our views of war and senseless death were sanitized. We did not have television coverage during the Korean War or World War II. But, the Vietnam War afforded the media an opportunity to show real war and death and carnage in its immediate, colorful, raw form.

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The media saw an opportunity for personal advancement; for sales; for money; for fame; for awards; and for advancement of anti-government agendas. Now, every day at dinner time, instead of family sitting around the dinner table discussing the ordinary events of the day they were bombarded with gory, bloody stories of this endless, pointless war. Death seeped into our culture, unfettered, unedited, immersive. The world shifted and changed in 1968 with the death of Martin Luther Kind, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and the uprise of the war protests.

It has been downhill since then. Funny that the generation that embraced the sanctity of every individual human being led to the civil rights movement and the women’s equality movement also has turned that whole paradigm upside down. Now, there is very little regard for human life unless it is our own. We have become such a self centered, selfish society screaming for our needs to be met. We are so de-sensitized to death and destruction that there are those among us who actually praise the development of a video game such as “Playing Columbine” where you can assume the role of one of the killers in that horrific event and kill high school students with abandon. It’s just a game! It’s just art! It has no relationship to my behavior once I walk away from that game! Get over it!

No, it is not the after effect of such a game I worry about. It is the mindset that allowed it to be developed to begin with and the lack of discernment when one sits down to play it with the thought that there is nothing wrong here. I’m sorry, but after 57 years on this earth I am convinced that ideas have consequences. I am convinced that what we put into our minds and hearts will have an effect on our behavior. What is next? A Holocaust simulator? A game where we can imprison and torture Jewish civilians and become Dr. Mengele and experiment on them before we gas them and throw them into the ovens? Is that where we are headed?

Ravi Zacharias once said “The only thing worse than nostalgia is amnesia.” Are we forgetting what it means to be human?

No matter what spiritual values you may or may not have, there is great wisdom in what Jesus of Nazareth said about what we put into our minds and hearts:

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

What do we treasure? What are we putting into our minds and hearts? I don’t care what studies do or do not show, common sense tells us that what we put into our minds and hearts becomes a part of what we are and how we act. It has always been that way and shall always be that way!

Tomorrow, I want to share some thoughts from my son on these issues.

Imagination Changes the Brain

A fascinating video that shows how imagining a task can produce the same changes in the brain that actually performing the task can. I’m not sure if this does correlate with video gaming, but it is intriguing.

 

A Balanced Perspective on Video Media Violence

I just ran across this blog post on kotaku detailing the studies done on video game violence and their effect on players. It gives, in my opinion a good balanced review of both sides of the issue. Check it out!

http://kotaku.com/5976733/do-video-games-make-you-violent-an-in+depth-look-at-everything-we-know-today

Five Ways to Put Away Digital “Idols”

In my recent interviews, I talked about five things that we can do to avoid being sucked in to the digital world. For parents, number one applies. For EVERYONE, all five apply.

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1 — Parents get involved in your kids’ lives. We are afraid of technology and, frankly, we don’t understand our kids’ fascination with all kinds of social media. So, we tend to pull back and nag. Instead, parents need to realize this digital world is NECESSARY for our kids in today’s world. They cannot separate from it completely. Once we get that, then we understand that we must help our kids learn how to control the digital world without letting the digital world control them. More on this later. Parents need to sit down and talk face to face with kids about WHY they want to play video games; WHAT is in the video games; WHEN it is inappropriate to play games hours on end; and HOW to walk away from it. Don’t use technology as a babysitter!!!! Remember, garbage in, garbage out. What kids put into their minds STAYS there and IDEAS have consequences! This is where the other four points come in!

 

 

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2 — TURN IT OFF! Tech rules the world. Digital devices scream from all around us for our attention. We know they’re there, waiting with a very important message for us. So, take a technology fast. Start slowly. Break away for a few minutes a day and try to work up to an hour or so. Turn off the cell phone once you get home and be AT HOME! Leave the work at work! I love music, but take time to just think, meditate, and pray without music. For instance try driving to work with NOTHING turned on. Take your run, walk, or workout with no IPOD! You might hear something; see something; experience something brand new and life changing! I know! It make us nervous just thinking about it! And, that nervousness tells us something very important. We are controlled by our tech! Anything that controls our lives is our idol; our god. Become a tech atheist! Control the tech or it will control you! Check out this link: http://www.qideas.org/blog/do-you-need-a-technology-fast.aspx

 

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3 — Be creative. Find a creative outlet. Do something creative. Art. Music. Photography. Write. Poetry. Crayons. Paint. Draw. Blog. Rearrange your office. Redecorate. Being creative utilizes different parts of your brain other than the parts utilizing tech. Immersion in our technical world burns out part of our brains and, let’s face it, in today’s culture the one thing that replenishes these chemicals, sleep is sadly lacking!

 

 

2011-10-07 18.43.114 — Trade virtual community for REAL community. Imagine you are broken down on the side of the road in the middle of a raging storm. Who are you going to call to come help? Can your “friends” on Facebook living three states away be there within 30 minutes to give you a lift? I don’t think so. I don’t want to diminish virtual friends. My wife plays bridge online and she has made dozens of friends. But, there is no substitute for face time. And, I don’t mean the Apple program. The power of human interaction face to face is so important. We are seeing an entire generation of people who no longer have the important interpersonal social skills to communicate in person. They cannot handle contact. They lack the skills needed to build intimate, loving relationships. Men are waiting into their 30’s to get married because they can’t handle a relationship that demands more than a bright screen with pornography playing on it.

 

So, find real people in a real location. Go to a coffee shop. Go to the, yes I will say it, mall! Go to church. My wife made certain that the people she cared about online became part of our lives. There are a dozen women my wife met playing bridge and now they get together once a year for a week and play bridge. Two of those friends have become my wife’s best friends. We have visited one of her friends here in the states more than once and we have gotten to know her family and friends. Our REAL world is much larger and richer now. Another friend living in New Zealand came to the states this past spring to meet with some of the bridge ladies and she and my wife have become fast friends. We are visiting her and her family in New Zealand in the fall. Imagine this. I have always wanted to visit New Zealand. Now that my wife has made friends with someone in New Zealand, we not only get to visit, we get to see our friend’s world from her perspective and I cannot wait!!!! See the benefits of transferring your virtual world to your real world?

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5 — Invest your time and energy in something that will last beyond your lifetime. In other words, take an eternal perspective. You don’t have to belong to a particular religion to use this tool. All it takes is for us to turn our attention away from ourselves for a season and on those around us in need. Charities. Homeless. Missions. Children. Mentoring. Take that creative process I mentioned earlier and use it for someone or something else. Years ago, a friend of mine was down and depressed. We wandered around that morning as I just simply spent some time with him. We ended up at a local art fair and a group of people were involved in completing an outside mosaic with broken tiles. We joined in. Now, my friend’s life is back on track and he is actively involved in his church, his community, and in local theater touching hundreds of lives every week. And, that mural? It’s still there for anyone to see, cheering people up every time they see it. And, our story? We’re making a book and a movie about that mural!

 

Take a cue from Walt Disney. When he built Disneyland he had one purpose: to create a “magical” world where families could spend time together. And Disney had a simple philosophy: “it will never be complete”. It will keep growing and changing and improving to touch families for generations to come. He looked far beyond his lifetime and that vision touches millions of families around the world every day!

 

Four Books to Help With Teenagers

 

If you want to have access to the four books I mentioned as resources for understanding violent video games and young adults in today’s digital culture, check out my EXTRAS page and you can download a simple PDF with the book titles and authors.

 

A Song All Dads MUST Listen To!

First, let me say I want to thank everyone having me on their radio shows this week. I now have 11 interviews!

In one interview that will air sometime tonight, I talked quite a bit about the relationship between father and children. Here is one of the most powerful music videos I’ve seen in a while from one of my favorite singers and authors, Andrew Peterson.

Now, one more thing. My son sent me another interesting link about video game violence:

http://www.polygon.com/2013/1/14/3875420/video-game-violence

The author makes a very valid point. While violent video games do cause changes in behavior, it is the responsibility of the player to use common sense and moderation. Ideas have consequences and it is not the idea that carries out the consequences, it is the person acting on those ideas. And, yes, there are lots of non violent video games that can involve the entire family. This situation reminds of me of Walt Disney. He would take his two daughters out on Sunday afternoon to the carnivals along the shore in Los Angeles. Back then, these carnivals were dirty and trashy with the lowest common denominator human being working there and the rides were half broken and would not allow a father to enjoy them with his children. All Walt could do was watch. But, he saw an opportunity to change that dynamic. He imagined an “amusement” park where things were clean, employees were clean cut, motivated and engaged; and where the attractions provided something for the entire family to enjoy together. He created Disneyland and the rest is history.

Maybe we parents need to consider doing this with our kids. Enjoy some positive, fun video games together as an alternative to the violent ones. Encourage them to participate with the entire family, even if it is for just a short time. The video gaming industry is beginning to get this idea and if we, as consumers, encourage these kind of experiences, maybe we can have a positive impact on the future of our children!

Do Violent Video Games Lead to Killing?

I was checking out at an Apple store in a large metropolitan city back in April of 2012. The young man of Asian descent was helping me to check out on my own iPhone. All he had to do was supervise my payment transaction on my own iPhone and then give me a bag.

“So, what do you do?” He asked.

“I’m a doctor but I’m here for a writing week. I am a published author.”

Uh, oh! He got THAT look in his eye; a sudden interest in what I had just said and I knew the inevitable comment was coming — wait for it, wait for it!

“I’m thinking about writing a book.” He said. I groaned inwardly. I was preparing my standard responses. I don’t have time to critique your manuscript. No, I can’t introduce you to my agent. No, I can’t send your manuscript to my publisher.

But, something happened. His voice changed and became quieter and was suddenly filled with emotion. He looked off into space as he said, “I want to write about love. Over the past five years, I’ve learned a lot about love. I’ve learned about the importance of life and people and, well, love. What it really means.”

There was a disconnect between what I was thinking he meant and how he was saying it. He wasn’t talking about a broken relationship. He was talking about Love. Deep, abiding, caring, unconditional love. Then, he look me square in the eye and his eyes carried a hint of moisture.

“Last week was my five year anniversary. I’m not supposed to be here. I was the only person left alive in a classroom after the Virginia Tech shooting. Someone fell on top of me and died or I wouldn’t be here. He thought I was already dead. Someone had to die to save me.”

If you’ve ever been in an Apple store you know it is crazy busy and totally nuts filled to capacity with customers and Apple “Genuises” but suddenly all of the sound was sucked out of that store and it was just me and this guy and his story. I was shaking as I took out a business card and handed it to him.

“I’ll do whatever I can to help you. I’ll look at your manuscript. I’ll send it to my agent. I’ll call my publisher. You MUST tell your story!”

sadbody

2012 will be remembered for a lot of things, but the statistic that any year would not like to have is this. 140 people were killed or wounded in seven mass shootings in 2012, making it the bloodiest year for these types of incidents in modern U.S. history.

I will be involved in several interviews in the coming weeks on this phenomenon and its relationship to the presence of evil in our society and to answer the question: “Is there a relationship between violent content and violent behavior — in other words, can such things as violent video games bring about this kind of killing behavior?”

I don’t want to spell out my answer today. But, I asked my son, Sean, age 28 who has played video games almost his entire life what thoughts he had about this. With his permission, I want to post his answer.

Sean’s current status with video games:

“Violence doesn’t end violence – it extends it.” — Toby Whithouse

I’ve played video games most of my life. Some of my fondest memories from childhood involve gaming with friends, sharing secrets dug out of magazines, and writing my own stories and strategy guides. I still know my way around the first Zelda game instinctively. I have no memory of learning what comes naturally to me with games – playing them well is like riding a bike.

I love gaming. I love good stories told well in any medium, and I love the interactive experiences that only gaming can provide.

I hate what gaming has become. Like the Christian music industry in the 2000s, I hate that gaming has become an executive’s market, making lowest-denominator products for the easiest possible market. For Christian music, that involved positive, chipper soccer mom music; for games, that involved adolescent male empowerment fantasy. I am weary of gaming for the same reason I am weary of mainstream Christian music – gaming has stopped asking the hard questions. And for gaming, that means the default setting is realistic and brown and the default verb is “kill”.

There are many artists and writers who acknowledge the problem and are doing new things to address it, but as always, they are in the minority. And so gaming has become the realm of samey brown military games with troubling jingoistic or misogynistic undertones.

I am troubled that this shift also reflects something about our culture. When we lose touch with Christ our Peace, the Prince of Peace whose Kingdom comes in peace, we tend to elevate self above all else – entitlement (both to things unearned and to holding on tightly to what we are stewards of), pride, even patriotism – these can all take His place. And when what we love is not freely given to us, we default to violence as a way to protect what we have and take what we want.

A culture of self brings us out of balance with The Lord and with each other. His kingdom comes in peace, and anything that brings us out of balance with that peace lends towards entropy, violence and chaos. We have a longing for family, for home,for permanence in who we love and what we love to do, and when we elevate those things above the God who provides them, they only amplify (rather than relieve) our pain and anger.

The media / violence debate is as old as adolescence itself, and has exhibited a common pattern on media stretching from television and comics back to the pulp adventures of the 1920s and 1930s. Anecdotally, I think the anger and aggression encouraged by games tends to arise from games not meeting the fundamental needs we want them to meet. If a game makes me angry it is most likely anger at myself, frustration at my inability to entertain myself in partnership with the game.

More broadly I think video games in the 21st century are facing the struggles that comics faced in the 30s, 50s, and 80s. The medium has grown up (and its target audience is adults in many ways) but public perception still focuses on children. Entitled kids aren’t told no by their parents about Call of Duty (as I was once told no about Doom) and they get what they want. Parents don’t take the time to know what their kids are playing, or  play with them and offer context on what they see and hear. (Our friends are good examples of doing this with books and TV too – it’s an attitude, an orientation, not a medium-specific special requirement).

As for adults who game, I have a hard time believing that gaming is any better or worse than watching TV several hours a day. People can play bad or dumb games like people can watch hours of crappy meaningless live TV. The spiritual problem transcends the medium.

Finally, to violence. I am at a loss at what to say about the shootings (though I think that the Sandy Hook kid do not play Mass Effect, at least), but most other game-related violence I’ve anecdotally heard of sound like domestic disputes or parent / child conflict that would have centered around a hundred other innate things if not games. When we don’t hold to Christ, the Giver of all good things, we jealously and violently defend what we love because we feel we have no choice, because we feel entitled.

 That form of nihilism will eventually and inevitably lead towards our death.

Check out this link to another post about violence and video games.  http://m.kotaku.com/5970039/after-sandy-hook-and-virginia-tech-im-done-with-violent-video-games

If you are interested in reading a thrilling, fictional book that deals with the impact of evil in our society today and how we can confront it, please check out my first book: “The 13 Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” and my second book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon”. For more on depression, check out the book I co-authored with Mark Sutton, “Conquering Depression”.

Also, I will be giving almost a dozen radio talk show interviews this WEEK so check out the EVENTS tab!

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