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The Bible as Media Violence

In which Rob and his buddy Ron debate whether the Bible, the Vietnam War, and other cultural influences fall into the same category as media violence.

>> The people blaming the media for their kid's behavior are aiming their argument at
(a) musicians like Marilyn Manson or Eminem,
(b) certain comics, (c) movies and TV. I haven't seen any parent groups aiming their attention towards the Bible and its negative influence. <<

That's 'cuz they haven't thought it through like I have.

No, seriously, many groups have derided religion's influence in general. People for the American Way is one prominent example. Others have derided religion's influence in some of these shootings, which usually happen in conservative, God-fearing suburban or rural areas.

There's a book out on the cult of "honor" prevalent in the South—where stern parents force kids to behave righteously or else. Ever see The Great Santini or The Prince of Tides? (It's probably useless to ask if you've read the books.) Same idea.

Guess which part of the country is the most violent. Yep, the South. The place where parents arguably try the hardest to enforce the rules and bring their children up "right."

You're probably asking what this has to do with the Bible. Point is that children are influenced by culture—in the form of outside influences like their peers and the media—as well as by parents. Churches and Bibles are part of our culture, and so is the media.

I've yet to hear a proposal for making parents better—except maybe by improving society so they can concentrate on parenting. Giving them tax cuts is one way to do that. So is providing a minimum wage and day-care help. So is counteracting the media to reduce its influence.

The Bible's influence
Let's examine a few examples of the Bible's influence. First, from the LA Times, 10/22/00:

Mother Says Chaining Boys Was Part of Loving Discipline

Family: Three adults arrested in abuse case say their strict religious life in the desert has been misinterpreted.

By SCOTT GOLD, Times Staff Writer

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif.—The mother of two boys who authorities say were tortured and imprisoned in a desert compound admitted in an interview Saturday to often shackling them with dog chains, locks and wire over the past nine years.

In separate interviews at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, Carrie Davis and two other adults charged in the case described a strict, disciplined, God-fearing but loving household.

She said the couple began using restraints when the children became disobedient while locked in their room for Bible studies.

Davis said she began using strips of fabric, tied around the boys' wrists, to tether them to a bench while they studied. That worked "for the longest time," she said, but when they learned how to untie the knots, she said she began using dog chains and wire wrapped around their wrists. When the boys learned to untangle the wire, she said, she switched to stronger chains and locks.

"It was mostly just a psych job," she said. "I love those children with all my heart. . . . We're not a typical American household."

Asked to explain their disciplinary tactics, Davis quoted the Bible's Book of Proverbs: "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently."

Her husband, 53-year-old John "Rajohn Lord" Davis, described by neighbors as a domineering man and a religious fanatic who thinks he is a surrogate of God, said, without elaboration, that he believes he cannot sin. He described himself as a minister who found God at age 6, when his mother died of a heart attack, and said that he achieved salvation while fighting in the Vietnam War.

"Look right in my eyes," he said. "Do I look like a monster? Do I look like an evil person?"

Golly, I can't imagine why so many children from God-fearing families take up guns and shoot people. Can you? It couldn't be because some parents are too tough on their children, could it?

Curiously, "Rajohn Lord" was wearing a Batman t-shirt when he was arrested. Does he also consider himself a dark but righteous knight? Naw...we know the media doesn't influence people, right?

Of course, the Bible is a form of media. Yet it clearly influenced this couple. Hmm, this is confusing.

"Spare the rod...."
For my next posting, I couldn't decide the best title. Among the choices I considered:

Parents Who Take Responsibility
No More Liberal "Attitude"
Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child
Parents Say No to Kids, Government
How to Raise Children Right
Bush: "Kids Need Discipline"
"The Bible Made Me Do It"
Jesus Says Yes to Beatings
"This Hurts You More Than It Does Me"
Future Child Abusers of America
Future Shooters of America

If anyone prefers one title over another, plese let me know. If you have another suggestion, I'm open to ideas.

From the LA Times, 3/29/01:

41 Kids Put in Foster Care After Church Beatings in Ga.

From Associated Press

ATLANTA—A judge put 41 children in foster care for a year Wednesday after their parents refused to stop whipping them in church and forcing them to marry.

"I hate to see these children jeopardized by what I consider to be a cult," Juvenile Court Judge Sanford Jones said.

The decision followed a two-day hearing into practices at the House of Prayer, led by the Rev. Arthur Allen Jr.

The judge was told about a 7-year-old left with welts and bruises and a 10-year-old with open wounds on his belly and side. A former church member testified that she was forced to marry at 15 and was beaten when she refused to have sex with her 23-year-old husband.

Allen has said the beatings are simple discipline.

"The Bible says that if you spare the rod, you're going to spoil the child," he said last week. "I have the Scriptures that give me the right to do it."

The 130-member, nondenominational church was put in the spotlight after children complained they were hit with sticks, switches and belts in front of the congregation, sometimes by their parents, sometimes by other church members.

Forty-one of the children in the all-black congregation, ranging in age from a few months to 17 years old, were taken from their parents over the last two weeks. Police have charged Allen, 68, and six church members with inflicting or allowing excessive beatings of two boys.

The judge said the youngsters' parents—four couples and a single father—could have their children back if they agreed to four conditions: no marriages for anyone under 16; no missing school after late-night church events; no physical discipline by anyone else; and no church beatings.

"I'm not saying you can't whip your children, I'm just saying you can't leave marks like this on them," Jones said.

The parents refused to agree to the conditions.

"I'm not going to let anyone tell me how long my children can stay in church," Sharon Duncan said. "It's my prerogative."

Social workers said the boys were beaten at church for misbehaving in school. The 7-year-old said he was held in the air by three adults while his uncle whipped him with a switch as Allen stood by, giving instructions.

"If the white society doesn't want to whip their children, that's their business," said Allen, who was sentenced to 30 days in jail in 1993 for ordering a woman to beat her daughter.

The preacher is also accused of arranging marriages for girls after they turn 14, telling them they have to get married so they do not become burdens to their families. Georgia prohibits marriage before 16, but the church conducts the ceremonies in Alabama.

The parents represented themselves at the hearing, saying the state had no right to interfere with their religious practices. They said no child is permanently injured and the bruises go away.

After seeing pictures of a young boy's torso covered in bloody welts, the judge asked David Duncan, one of the parents facing charges, if he thought the beatings constitute abuse. "The only way I can answer that, sir, is that we're going to raise our children according to the Bible," he said.

"Well, the good Lord isn't deciding whether you get your kids back here. I am," the judge replied. "The Bible also says God told Abraham to kill his son, but that's not acceptable in our society."

Copyright © 2001 Los Angeles Times

You gotta love these self-righteous parents for saying "no" to the governement—declaring their superiority to the rule of law. And you wonder where the American public gets its ideas from? It's Tim McVeigh, Bernard Goetz, the Punisher, G. Gordon Liddy, and Oliver North all over again.

It's parents, not the Bible?
>> It's not really the Bible that's being detrimental to the child, it's the overbearing parent wielding the Bible, enforcing "God's Will." <<

The Bible (i.e., religion) is what makes parents overbearing. It's part of the cultural influence. A kid in, say, a Southern town can't escape it. His friends, neighbors, teachers, shopkeepers, and preacher all talk about it.

Even if parents in this milieu don't buy into the dominant cultural mindset, they can only ameriliorate its influence. They can't eliminate it. It's much too pervasive for that.

>> On the other side of the same coin, it's the laxidazical parent whose child will most likely fall prey to the "evil media" (CD's, TV, etc). <<

It may be more likely, but I wouldn't bet my life on it. And again, it's more difficult to change a hundred million parents than it is to change the media.

You were just joking when you spelled "laxidazical" that way, right? <g>

>> The media we're talking a bout doesn't include the Bible and/or war. At least, I'm not including it in my side of it. <<

Look at all the evangelical broadcasts on TV and radio.

You've heard me rant about the need for a multicultural perspective enough. That means all our cultural values and influences are in play as far as I'm concerned. I consider looking at movies, TV, and CDs in isolation only a convenience. It's a way to break down the argument into bite-sized chunks.

I'm happy to make connections that go beyond the obvious. Here's a typical example: Kids see John Wayne movies and think Indians are losers. The news, the school textbooks, even the Bible reinforce this notion. (Christians think of themselves as the chosen people; Indians have a non-Christian origin.) When Indians apply for a gambling casino, people think they're demanding "special rights." People hear the media (Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern) reinforce the notion that these "losers" can't make it on their own. People get mad at Indians, curse them when they see them. Inevitably, some hothead picks a fight with an Indian or shoots him.

The same thing is even more common with blacks and other minorities. Against this pervasive cultural influence, you're talking about an occasional, generalized influence from parents. How often do parents instruct their kids, anyway? Maybe they tell you not to pick on your sibling once a day, or to play nice once a week—if that much.

And how often do kids sit in church, read textbooks, listen to their peers, play video games, and watch TV? The answer seems clear to me. Television alone is more of a moral instructor in most kids' lives than parents are. With mothers working and families split up, it's even more of a factor than it was in my day.

>> Good parenting will more than likely lead to a young adult who has the common sense to do the right thing, regardless of what's on TV, their stereos, or the movie screen (perfect example? ME). <<

"Good parenting" is a slogan, not a solution. If you have some way of implementing "good parenting," please provide it. Slogans don't solve problems.

And are you a perfect example? Maybe. Let's see...you're strongly influenced by comics, heavy metal, and pro wrestling. You enjoy personalities like Howard Stern and Titus. You're pursuing a career in law enforcement or security.

You're not violent that I know of, but I don't see you following in Mother Teresa's footsteps any time soon. IOW, your influences have made you, shall we say, less-than-fully-compassionate toward the poor, the weak, and the infirm. That's basically what this media argument is about. Media violence doesn't cause real violence—not directly—but it increases people's callousness and lack of sensitivity toward others. And that, in turn, leads to violence.

>> Now, you can't put the Vietnam War in the same category as, let's say, a rap CD with violent lyrics. <<

Can't I? Check out my posting entitled Origin of the Culture Wars. I strongly implied a link between the Vietnam War and violence today. In fact, it's all linked in my mind—from Columbus, who enslaved the first Indians he met, to the present. We're products of a violent culture and today's media perpetuates that culture.


Related links
Prayer in the Bush league
Violence in America
America's cultural mindset

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