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I love going to the movies! A good movie can be just what the doctor ordered. There is a reason Jesus told stories; they pull us away from where we are, tweek our thinking, then send us back to our world a bit different. And different in a positive way, hopefully. But what if the movie is dark, spiritually – or if it desensitizes us to violence or human life? Are we better off after having watched it? Are we different? Of course we are.

Hollywood has the best of video and computer technology and animation at their disposal as they produce unbelievably powerful cinema these days. Movies pack a powerful message and deeply effect us emotionally, even physically and certainly psychologically. Movies can made you cry and movies can make you angry. For those already unstable, movies can either help or hurt. Worse yet, the unseen spiritual forces don’t just sit back and watch. Their work is enhanced. As I said in my previous post on this shooting, the devil and darkness are real, and Hollywood rolls out the red carpet for these foul spirits to have full access to this generation.

I’ve been in some conversations since the Batman theatre shooting in Colorado a few days ago about whether or not Hollywood simply reflects culture, or if it influences it. My contention is it influences far far more than it reflects. If we can change Hollywood, we can change America as arts and entertainment are among the main aspects of our culture. It’s one of the seven mountains or spheres of any society.

Other reputable professions such as journalism and law have stated codes of ethics by which they are self-governed. It’s time for Hollywood to put forth a code they will commit to abide by. Those who have been entrusted with much, much is required. Despite the massacre, Hollywood still made $162 million on the The Dark Knight Rises movie this past opening weekend. What if Hollywood said– we are committed to using the riches and resources at our disposal to better society– we decry violence and won’t glorify it – we decry the exploitation of women and won’t participate in it even if it’s true that sex sells. Those who say there is no connection between the violence on the screen and the violence we saw off the screen in that Colorado theatre need then to explain why watching porn is somehow different as we know porn and sex crimes are inseparable. If we are not influenced by what we see, why do companies spend billions on advertising? It’s time Hollywood set themselves apart from the porn industry which we all know has no code of ethics.

A friend of my commented; did you notice the people in the theater commented how at first they didn’t realize what was going on because it was no different than what was on the movie screen?

“More than 500,000 studies, capped by the latest Dartmouth University study, show that violence in the media influences susceptible youths to commit violence.” (“Who’s to Blame for Colorado Theater Shooting“)

A trigger is a small device that releases a spring lever that fires a gun. It’s also a word we use for an event or cause that precipitates another event. My view is there were multiple triggers that preceded the theater shooters first shot. I’m taking aim at one of them: violence on the big screen as a trigger for violence by desensitizing society to it. Batman director Christopher Nolan pulled this trigger again when he chose not to tone this Batman movie down after what the last one did to Heath Ledger. This statement from Nolan two days ago reads quite hollow to me:

“The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.”

Innocent and hopeful” is not the tone and atmosphere he created in that theatre. He put unbearably savage on the screen and then acts appalled. Whatever.

Others in Hollywood like Jason Alexander are writing eloquently lecturing us about assault rifle bans and more gun control but no mention of their own complicity. And as a friend of mine pointed out: each of these people are themselves surrounded by personal armed security. If police and military protection are enough for us, why aren’t they enough for them? I know, they are celebrities and people stalk them. So what. The rest of us get into a zillion different kinds of vulnerable situations too.

So now we’ll ignore Hollywood’s complicity in these acts of violence and talk again about the evils of assault rifles. Timothy McVeigh used a fertilizer bomb. We need to look closer at Switzerland and ask why in a population of six million, there are two million privately own guns and assault rifles and there is no crime to speak of. The government arms the citizens, trains them in gun safety and requires guns and ammo be kept in the homes of citizens. It’s not entirely apples to apples to compare us to them as they have no military. But there is the point precisely: apparently police and military aren’t enough. One armed person in that theater would have been able to ensure the madman fired fewer rounds. Gun-free zones are dangerous places. Criminals could care less what are guns laws are – we help them do what they intend to do when we disarm citizens.

But, back to the movie. Hopefully my prolific and insightful cousin, Nancy Peske-Darrow will chime in here on the comments of this post. She is the author of a series of books called Cinematherapy – The Girls Guide to the Best Movie Medicine Ever Made. She sold that series to the WE channel and they created a prime-time series based on her books. Only with slight exaggeration I’d say Nancy has seen every movie ever made and has written extensively on movies as medicine, anti-anxiety movies, give peace a chance movies, movies for every mood, etc., etc. She will perhaps disagree but it would seem to me the whole premise of these books supports my point here that movies do greatly influence thinking, feeling and behavior either for good or for bad. Maybe it’s time for a Cinematherapy Guide to Movies that Make America Worse or Cinematherapy for the Sick in the Head with bold disclaimers: Warning: You’ll Need Therapy If You Go To This Cinema. 

Earlier posts from me on this topic: Twilight is a Welcome Mat for the Demonic; and The Dark Knight Arose Alright.

After coffee with friends at Barnes & Noble last night I was paying for a book and noticed the most recent cover of TIME magazine and then went to bed wondering why: one US soldier a day commits suicide. Then this morning I woke up to the horrific news of the theatre shooting in Colorado during the midnight showing of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. At this writing, 13 are confirmed dead.

Reports I’ve seen say the shooter wore a gas mask, tossed a smoke grenade in the air and started shooting which is precisely the scene Warner Bros. used as a teaser in their trailer for this movie. My first tweet this morning was:

Prayers for hurting CO families. Is it too early to ask: Last night did Hollywood reap what they’ve sown? #violence #batman #buckstopswhere

I’ve been a minister and police chaplain long enough to know those who minister on the front-lines of these tragedies are out of line if they start moralizing in those early moments. When I’m a first or early responder on the scene of devastation, or with hurting family, my role is to just be there and bring the presence of Christ, provide strength, offer comfort and sympathy, and enter into the hurt and cry with those who are crying. For sure my ministry colleagues in Colorado are doing just that this morning. However, it’s high-time pastors and community leaders everywhere else rise up and decry the root causes of the dark sides of our society. How long will we keep smiling and say nothing? Is it really true church youth groups are having Batman marathon movie lock-ins and going to this movie this weekend with their youth groups as they did for Twilight movies?

Over my dead body.

Bonhoeffer spoke of the victims of evil society and said the role of the Church is not just to tend to victims but to drive a spoke in the wheel of evil itself. In that vein, after Batman’s demons got the best of Heath Ledger while he was making the last Batman movie in 2008, I decided someone should say something so parents wake up. Here’s what I wrote about this subject, Batman and the Twilight movies, in 2008.

I haven’t heard yet any details of this twenty-four year old shooter in Colorado last night but I can say, personal responsibility for his actions aside, society holds a greater complicity in these horrible things and Hollywood in particular. One might hope Hollywood would have toned it down in honor of what the last Batman movie did to Heath Ledger.

In meeting this past spring with the Governors staff on the topic of our states high incarceration rates I asked: how radical a solution are you willing to consider? We were talking about what our bordering states were doing and I asked how far beyond our borders are we willing to look for solutions? Then I mentioned some places around the world I’ve been to where they are closing prisons because there have been spiritual awakenings and revivals.

My point: more money, more education and more therapy isn’t working to drive out the darkness. We will continue to deal with devastations until we have courage to stand boldly against the true causes which we presently tolerate and even encourage. Those who clamor for more strict gun control laws need to wake up to what Hollywood and other roots causes are doing far far more to contribute directly to these increasingly frequent societal episodes of violence. Sadly, many of these same folks view Christianity as harmful to society and Hollywood as helpful. Crazy.

Now, back to the movie. My testimony is that I came to Christ in the midst of executing a suicide attempt. I know first hand about the occult and demons. The Bible talks about having a gift of “discernment of spirits” and all I’m saying is I know the spirit of death when I smell it. Many times I’ve seen, up close, the fruit of this foul demonic spirit- a daddy’s brains dripping off the inside roof of his pickup truck or splattered on the wall of his office behind his desk chair, a lonely single gal found by her mother in her running car with garage door shut, or the gray stiff body of a teenager on the back deck of his home right after the fire department cut the rope he was hanging from, etc., etc.

Here I’ll get even more transparent, probably too transparent for all you arm-chair psychologists. Two weeks ago I watched the recent three minute youtube clip of the California millionaire who committed suicide in the courtroom seconds after his guilty verdict came in. It’s all right there up close on video: the verdict was “guilty”, he then closed his eyes, put his face in his hands and obviously put something in his mouth. Turns out it was a cyanide pill. A minute later he let out a loud God-awful snort and fell out of his chair and writhed for a second on the floor. He was gone before they got to him.

Here’s what simply watching that did to me: I felt a numbing blanket come over me, felt a bit breathless and heavy-chested, things I was dealing with that week felt more hopeless and for a day or so later I was still having random thoughts like: that’s a good way to go, I wouldn’t go to jail for life either. Don’t worry, I know how to have victory over demonic thoughts.

Why do I tell that story? To plead with parents to be careful what you expose your kids to these days. The devil and darkness are real, and Hollywood rolls out the red carpet for these foul spirits to have full access to this generation.

My youth pastor reminded me just the other day of a story I told in some sermon once about when my boys were little. Kristen and I noticed our boys would get notably aggressive and violent after watching Batman- they’d grab the nearest thing and smash it into the face of the other. The fix seemed too easy to be true : no batman, no bruises. And there was peace in our house. Now, imagine society where the glorification of violence and death is reined in.

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