That one line uttered near the end of the movie, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” elicited applause and cheers from the audience. I don’t want to spoil the movie but I cheered just as loudly as everyone else.
I am giving my last radio interview today on “Violent Video Games and their relationship to Teenage Violence”. And, as has happened to me before, several seemingly totally unrelated events have come together to put all of the past few weeks into perspective.
Yesterday, I reviewed “The Little Seer” for an new author, Laura Cowan. I wondered why God had placed this “divine” appointment in my path when I was already so busy with building a platform for my books and attending the PLATFORM conference. One of my takeaways from the book was the realization of how evil can destroy a life. How the enemy uses his minions to target a person, in this case the character of Tara and not only destroy other people through that person, but destroy the person in the process. I write about demons and spiritual warfare. And, in the years since I have started to do this, I have had personal attacks directed against me by forces of evil. Some of them I have recounted in past blog posts, such as the Devil house in Austin.
Now, let me take you in a lateral move to violent video games. When I started researching the effect of our current culture on young adults way back in May, 2012 as preparation for my update to our Conquering Depression book, I had no idea I would be studying violent video games. My son, Sean, is an avid game player. I have posted his comments on this phenomenon in the past few weeks and I urge the reader to review those posts. Sean began playing video games at an early age on my Commodore 128 computer. Last week, while attending the PLATFORM conference in Nashville, Sean and I had a great time together. On our last day together before I took him to the airport to fly back to his lovely wife in Austin, we stopped off at one of favorite haunts, Best Buy. There is nothing quite like geeking out with your son at Best Buy! As we walked through the door we entered the first “zone” and it was video games. Sean paused, looked around and made an amazing statement. “This used to be my area.”
Used to be? I looked at him in amazement. He went on to say he had practically given up playing video games, specifically violent first person shooter games in the weeks since he and I started talking about this phenomenon. Wow! I was impressed. Let me say this again. The boy has been playing video games his entire life — heavily immersed in video games — hours on end — online with his friends! And now, he has practically given them up! This was a stunning revelation to me. Why? He was tired of the only option for advancing a story — to kill or be killed. There is more to a story than this. There is more to life than this!
Yesterday at dinner, I sat across from my daughter, Casey. She is 25 and is still living at home battling epilepsy and migraines. She has suffered from seizures since age 8 and the story of her life is one of heroism and defiance to this horrific disease. She is one of the strongest people I know on the face of this planet. Recently, we have discovered that her seizures are migraine auras. We are changing out her medication completely. This has left her on an emotional roller coaster as she weans herself off of one drug and onto another. As a consequence, Casey has led a very sheltered life. And now, most of her friends are online — girls in distant parts of the country. Yesterday, I saw in her a deep oppression, a deep depression, a weight of worry and anxiety unlike anything she has faced. Instead of her online friends encouraging her and helping to build her up, these girls are sucking the very life out of her. Surrounded by needy, emotionally labile friends, Casey is desperately trying to please her friends; to help her friends; to encourage her friends. Only the energy is flowing in one direction — over the wifi into the world of ether and faceless “friends” leaving her listless and emotional empty.
This is the bane of their generation. They cannot exist without the internet and yet, all human relations become virtual. There is a danger of becoming isolated and disconnected from real people and, reality. This is the danger of addictive video games, as I have said in my interviews. This is the danger to this generation; a loss of interpersonal relational skills; a deepening, oppressive, paralyzing isolation into a totally self centered world where the greatest danger is becoming your own god.
Last night all of this came together in a sudden and shocking realization. Was Casey like Tara in “The Little Seer”? More specifically, was she like Aria, the main character? Isolated and alone at the hands of jealous, evil oppressed “friends” and not realizing her own special beauty as a “daughter of God”? I gasped as the realization settled in. Thank you Laura for writing your book! Thank you God for giving me insight and discernment.
For you see, my son has been under oppression for years with the evil that naturally resides in the the story of these video games. It had effected him and held him back from a healthy relationship with God. And, now, this is happening to my daughter! I immediately called my wife this morning and we are going to pray for Casey; pray with Casey; bind up the evil forces around her; and help her see that she is a beautiful, radiant daughter of God; meant for happiness and joy; meant for a life filled with light and love; meant to be so much more than the punching bag for a bunch of selfish, anonymous souls suffering in solitude on the internet.
So, here it is in a nutshell. We live in a world full of evil. It is growing in influence and power every day. It’s greatest ally is our isolation and loneliness. For in our solitude, we risk the danger of becoming our own god. But, there is light in the world. Satan is already defeated and God is waiting right where we left Him. He can deliver us out of this solitude by showing us that we are never alone; we are created in His image — an image of love and laughter and creativity and community and joy. Pray for my children. A selfish request on my part. Pray for your own children as they struggle in this world that is increasingly hostile to God. Be a part of their lives. If you are a young adult, seek the company of others — find real community and stop getting pulled into the false reality of video games that are just that — games. Know when to turn off the console and walk outside into the real world and look around. When you do, you will SEE GOD!!!!!
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.
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.