Friday, July 20, 2012

Reel to Real Violence?

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 61:1
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: 20 July 2012

"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer." (Psalm 61:1)
Shock. Horrified. Grieved. Pained.

I wake up this morning stunned by terrible news of shooting at a cinema in Aurora just outside the city of Denver. As of today, 12 people are confirmed dead, and more than 70 have been injured.  Many of you will have read about the details and the horrors of seeing normal movie-goers becoming victims of guns and violence. There have even been reports of kids (including a 4-month old baby who was injured) being inside the cinema during the past midnight premiere of Batman: The Dark Night Rises.

I muse to myself. "It happened at schools. It happened at shopping malls. Now, it happened at cinemas. Is there anywhere safe now?"

The director of the movie, Christopher Nolan has even said the following:
"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."

He has described it well. I echo with thoughts of where on earth is safe.

The jury is out there with regards to why. As more official reports trickle in, the numbers may vary, but the images of horror have been etched painfully in the hearts of families, friends, and even the most distant observer. I think many have written far more eloquently about the case. Every time something like this happens, we think about pain and suffering, the meaning of life, and what matters most to us.

So, this week, instead of me writing some reflective piece, I want to just share the grief and the powerful reflections from two alumni reflections from Regent. One of the first reactions is a vigorous reaction against violence on reel matters. This is the view of Elizabeth S who shares a provocative study that links media culture to violence. 

"This is a controversial statement but in light of recent events, I feel the need to share. We need to stop ignoring the acts of violence that are occurring in our culture by simply responding with shock and sympathy and no action. Exposure to violent media is likely a contributing factor to increasing aggressive behaviors and violence in some children and teens. These children and teens grow-up to be adults. It would be naive to say that violent media is the single cause of violent acts. However, why would we want to support "entertainment" that could even potentially cause mass death to real people? Take some responsibility and stop supporting violent media or excusing the violence based on the fact that it is "just entertainment"!"

On a different note,  Sorina Higgins prefers to de-link the connection between reel life and real life. Instead, reel life is a way to tell the story of human life. Film has the power to dramatically inform us how evil violence is.  Faith is a powerful channel to help us make some sense out of art, of culture, and even violence. She makes it plain that the movie is not to be blamed. 

"it seems appropriate to reflect on a real-life incident in which art and violence have been flung together into a meaningless partnership that just screams for faith to make sense out of it." (Source: iambicadmonit)

I like in particular her take about our culture's unhealthy obsession with violence.

"If even one miniscule good thing comes out of this universe of horror, there is a chance that it might remove some of our unhealthy voyeurism-of-violence."

I agree, sister! Absolutely true.

I believe there will be more to come. Both Elizabeth's and Sorina's views need not be seen in contradiction of each other. No. They are simply honest reactions of how Elizabeth cherish the sanctity of human life, and how Sorina appreciates the place of beauty in film. When violence occurs, it shakes us up. It shakes our perspectives of life up. It shakes our closely held convictions about the goodness of people.

The violence at Aurora needs to be met with the highest level of condemnation. There needs to be stronger political will not just to curtail the easy availability of weapons. Yet, that alone is not enough. We need to expose the factors and any unwholesome environment. I feel that violence does not begin on a vacuum. In other words, there is always a reason. This is not the time and place to rationalize too much. This is not even the time to argue who is right or who is wrong. This is a time to pray.

The Psalmist begins with a simple plea. Hear my cry, O Lord. Listen to my prayer. It is a plea for God up high to hear us who are in the deepest grief and agony. The best thing to do in the light of such terrible violence is to pray. Reflect. Cry.

I pray that we heed Elizabeth's caution about the links between media and violence, to be more seriously pursued in the coming days through wise followup actions. I agree with Higgins that we need to let film paint the ugliness of violence in such a way that we will repel any thought about being a part of any forms of violence. Those are good thoughts. Those may even be necessary thoughts. For now, we need to put them as secondary steps. Our primary step is to grieve with those who are grieving. Mourn with those who are mourning. May our collective grief and mourning lead us to a collective awareness that we need God more and more.

Hear our cry, O Lord.

THOUGHT: "Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal." (unknown)


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