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.