Blaming it on the NRA maybe isn't quite as big a factor in this mass killing as it has been in others just because three of the victims were stabbed to death rather than shot, but it's nevertheless still made an issue by some. Here's Mark Ruffalo, star of the recently released HBO film, The Normal Heart (which is of course about another of today's misunderstood Big Issues, homosexuality in the early days of AIDS). Perhaps he hadn't heard that guns only figured in half the murders this time, or perhaps he just wanted to get his face out there to promote his movie.
So we take away guns. Next time all the victims will be stabbed to death.
Because it isn't about guns, that's just one of the many blind alleys the media take us down after such events.
My first thought was no, the problem is that society is behind what this young man did, today's society encourages his self-centered vengeful hatred and nobody's noticing; we're all pointing at the wrong villain.
And then there was a criticism that almost said that, but blamed it specifically on the movies and the Hollywood culture in which the killer had been brought up. This is the view of Ann Hornaday who wrote a column in the Washington Post about the sexism in the movies she sees behind the killings.
Indeed, as important as it is to understand Rodger’s actions within the context of the mental illness he clearly suffered, it’s just as clear that his delusions were inflated, if not created, by the entertainment industry he grew up in. With his florid rhetoric of self-pity, aggression and awkwardly forced “evil laugh,” Rodger resembled a noxious cross between Christian Bale’s slick sociopath in “American Psycho,” the thwarted womanizer in James Toback’s “The Pick-Up Artist” and every Bond villain in the canon.She goes on with a feminist analysis of Hollywood, blaming "white men" whose fantasies she clams dominate the films:
As Rodger bemoaned his life of “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire” and arrogantly announced that he would now prove his own status as “the true alpha male,” he unwittingly expressed the toxic double helix of insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood’s DNA.
Rodger’s rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike.
How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?
Movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire, expect and feel we deserve from it.
I agree completely with her about the effect of movies (and television) in conditioning "what we desire, expect and feel we deserve," especially what we desire. I could almost chronicle my own track into various sins in my young adult life by the movies I'd seen that presented sexual indulgence as a good and normal thing and self-restraint as prudish and even the road to madness, yes even back in the "innocent" 50s. Funny how every now and then we see an article lamenting how sexually active the very young are these days, that may mention the movies and other cultural influences, but is mostly amazed by it all. No surprise, check the media that is filling their heads.
Then a couple of the Hollywood men she was criticizing objected to her analysis:
After being referenced in the piece, Rogen, 32, took to Twitter, "Ann Hornaday I find your article horribly insulting and misinformed," he tweeted. "How dare you imply that me getting girls in movies caused a lunatic to go on a rampage."So we have the NRA, mental illness or Hollywood's sexism, those are the choices we're given for an explanation of this horror story. The standard leftist explanation, the psychological explanation, the feminist explanation.
Apatow, 46, chimed in, "She uses tragedy to promote herself with idiotic thoughts." He later added, "Most of Earth can't find a mate-- someone to love. People who commit murder of numerous people have mental health issues of some type."
Hornaday has yet to comment on the Rogen and Apatow's comments.
I certainly don't agree with any of those. I do agree with Hornaday that it is influenced by movies, but I wouldn't limit it to that, and I wouldn't point to "white men."
What I'd point to is the culture's abandonment of the God of the Bible, which is aggressively reinforced, if not quite invented, by the movies and television. Clearly that young man was raised in the atmosphere in which everything is explained by psychology or political correctness -- and so-called science: the boy called himself an "alpha male," straight from the idea that we're just animals, and of course animals do whatever they please, don't they?
Blame the NRA, blame the white men, blame mental illness, but never ever blame the human heart. No, this society puts the human heart above everything. What we feel, what we desire, that's what life is all about when you get rid of culturally imposed moral restraints.* It's a frame of reference in which our personal passions are allowed to reign and the only checks on them are fallible human analyses and opinions. Nobody believes any more that the human heart is full of selfish passions ("The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"-- Jeremiah 17:9); we're all "good at heart," unless we're mentally ill.
Those analyses are part of the mindset that is the cause of the problem. This boy simply believed what we've all been taught for decades now. We're just animals (certainly nothing special: you could have been aborted you know, when you were just a "piece of tissue."); sex is a normal need and it's terrible to be deprived of it; we're told all the time that we "deserve" good things, nobody deserves bad things; there is no such thing as God, that's just a myth that weak-minded people need, and society will be much better off when we've all outgrown it and all those who still hold on to such lies have died off; trust your heart/instincts. I'm sure this list could be expanded greatly.
John Adams is often quoted as saying:
Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion, avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. [This seems to be properly attributed to Adams at this site but many quotes are wrongly attributed to him and I'm not completely sure of this one so I'm including this note as a caveat.]So now we're getting to the point, or perhaps we've arrived at the point, where human passions are being allowed to reign, unbridled by morality and religion. Some have noticed that the culture has been unraveling for decades now, and the mass killings by self-centered youth are an inevitable result.
The case of Elliot Rodger may be easier to analyze than many of the other mass murders because he said so clearly why he was doing it: revenge against women who rejected him and deprived him of what he felt himself to be entitled to, their love and sexual interest; and against anyone else who seemed to conspire in his deprivation.
This also makes it easier to see that he is expressing the values this society drills into us now. What is mental illness? Simply giving his feelings free rein on the basis of what society tells him he's entitled to perhaps?
And of course what is the cure?
How about respect for the Ten Commandments? How about at least the affirmation that God exists and that He punishes sin, and that there is a Hell where people suffer for eternity for their sins? Hating, killing and coveting, and the lust that leads to adultery or fornication, are four violations of the Ten Commandments that Rodgers most clearly committed. But he and most of the generations brought up since the fifties and sixties, were not taught the Ten Commandments, or were taught that they are just the relics of a myth that the nation should do without.
This isn't the NRA's fault, this is society's fault, and the movies and mass media have a big part of the guilt. The human heart unbridled is evil, the human heart is fallen. We're all capable of mass murder when we're told to trust our hearts.
Is this such a strange idea? I'm sure it is to many these days since we've thrown out our Christian heritage. It used to be that the culture itself was imbued with Christian values whether individuals were Christians or not. Bit by bit these values have been removed, from prayer in the schools, to the liberalizing of the divorce laws, to the general acceptance of unmarried couples living together, to the legalizing of abortion, to the removal of the Ten Commandments and even Christmas displays in the public square, to the legitimizing of pornography as a Constitutional right, to the normalizing of homosexuality and the promotion of gay marriage, some of these things on the basis of a single person's objection, or the work of a minority lobby, on the bogus misreading of the First Amendment that has grown up in the last few decades.
But this isn't merely cause, this is also effect, all this is also God's work of judgment on the nation. You can read Romans 1 to see how God tolerates our rejection of Him up to a point but then lifts His restraints on evil, and the last phase is the rampant expression of homosexuality in a culture.
But think about it: a society that promoted the Biblical view of God's Law, that it defines what sin is and that we will be punished for it, that there is a Hell in which winners will suffer for eternity, just that alone -- without even going on to teach the gospel of salvation from sin and Hell through the death of Jesus Christ -- just that alone would put enough of the fear of God into the hearts of the citizenry to restrain these horrific murders that have been proliferating over the last few years, and promote a much safer and saner society.
If our abandonment of Biblical principles isn't recognized as the true cause, these killings are just going to continue.
UPDATE: While I was writing this post, I checked in on Chris Pinto's site and found that he has a view of the situation somewhat like my own, at least in that he quotes the Tenth Commandment in his title to his radio show: Thou Shalt Not Covet. I decided not to listen to it until I've got my own thoughts better worked out, but I am looking forward to what he has to say. Here's the blurb for the radio show for May 27:
Despite having a privileged existence (with $300 sunglasses and a BMW), this young man was not satisfied. The Bible warns that envy is as "rottenness of the bones" (Proverbs 14:30) and that covetousness is as idolatry (Colossians 3:5). But is this event indicative of an even greater problem in American society? Are we a country that thrives on discontentment and inspiring others to lust for things they don't have?The only analysis that makes sense of such events is such Bible quotes, and particularly the Moral Law, specifically the Ten Commandments that represent God's standard and will be the final judge of all of us. But the standard must be applied to the whole cultural milieu to be explanatory of such killings ("a country that thrives on discontentment.")
*It's not that the only moral restraints are Biblical, but in Western Civilization they used to be and now we really have none. Other cultures have had their own religious and cultural and governmental restraints, also put in place by God for the purpose of keeping the passions of fallen human nature under control. They too may be starting to follow our lead and "letting it all hang out" as we said in the 60s. Or there's the opposite extreme, of course, where you get beheaded for even imagined adultery. And that's unfortunately the sort of law that's likely to replace our Constitution as human passion continues unbridled.