We hear it over and over when a catastrophe like Sandy Hook occurs: “Ban guns!” “Ban video games!” and so forth.
What about personal responsibility? What about teaching morality?
The problem with Liberalism–and in this case I mean *all* liberalism, or humanism, the philosophy of the Enlightenment (i.e., “conservatism” used to mean resisting Modernism)–is that it’s a philosophy that denies personal responsibility. Because the Enlightenment teaches that people are fundamentally good–denying the dogma of Original Sin–Enlightenment thinkers are constantly looking for someone to “blame” for the behaviors we call “evil.” This is even more with the modern day “Left,” but it’s also true of the “Right,” and both sides have their pet “causes” they try to blame for acts of catastrophic evil.
Despite those atheists who try to say religion is the cause of evil (a perfectly acceptable Enlightenment argument–and, btw, as much as I love _Les Miserables_, it’s good to remember the novel was once on the Index, and for good reason), when one looks at the history of the world *before* Christ, and the changes Christianity has made in the world and in people, one has to say, “Where would be without Christ’s grace?”
Henry Nouwen tells the story about someone attacking him for allegedly “unChristian” behavior (I love how some people are quick to “judge” others on this vague notion of “unChristian behavior” but say “judge not” when it comes to clearly defined moral principles), and he says, “imagine what I’d be like if I weren’t a man of faith.” One of the things I keep thinking of since Sandy Hook is the Crusades. Here were men with Sacramental Grace, Catholics who were supposedly catechized, and they engaged in horrific acts which, whatever the justification of the wars originally, clearly violated “Just War” principles and were condemned by the Popes. The question should not be “why do people do evil,” but “why don’t people commit atrocities like this more often?”
Of course, we do. 2000-4000 children a day are murdered in the US, and nobody cares. You don’t even see “pro-life” presidents crying on TV and demanding change. You don’t see people raising a hue and cry over how abortion needs to end now.
My kids were asking questions about ratings for games and movies. “What does ‘M’ mean?” “What does ‘R’ mean?” I said, in soapbox mode, “In theory, they mean only adults are supposed to see them. In practice, they mean absolutely nothing.”
I explained that movie ratings are based upon a weird number system: so many occurrences of one swear word mean “R” and less than that is “PG-13,” but another swear word can be said a bunch of times and just be a PG, etc. Sometimes, a movie like _The Passion of the Christ_ gets an “R” and a movie gets a “G” or “PG” that anyone with an ounce of a moral compass would insist should have a PG-13 or R.
On the other hand, the ratings don’t even have any “power,” because parents and other adults DON’T PAY ANY ATTENTION. We had a great party the other night with members of our homeschooling group. A lot of the conversation revolved around _The Hobbit_ and _Les Miserables_ and, by extension, ratings and how to deal with children and media. We all had slightly different views on parenting and popular culture, but what we all agreed on was our responsibility to protect and form our children (obviously, or we wouldn’t be homeschooling).
One mom said how her nephew watches anything he pleases, and it’s problematic when her son goes to visit at her brother’s house. One time, her brother said, in astonishment, “He actually said, ‘I’m not allowed to watch that.’ I can’t believe he said that!” He was surprised because he just expected his son to always sneak around and do what he wants.
A few years ago, I happened to read an article about how some activist group, using the “buy stock” boycotting strategy, got a Catholic priest on the board of Best Buy, and he got it established as policy that clerks must ask for ID and only sell “R” rated movies and “M” rated games to adults. Just a few days after reading this, I happened to be in Best Buy and saw it in practice.
A little boy was in line in front of me. There was a woman behind him, and while they were of different races, I assumed she was the adult in charge of him, since the notion of a child apparently around 10 years old shopping by himself is already strange to me. The kid had a copy of one of the Wayans _Scary Movie_ films. The cashier told him he could not buy the DVD because he was under 18, and he had to get an adult. So he said he’d be right back, and she held up the line for him. As the rest of us waited, he returned with a young woman whom I believe was his sister, not his mother.
She grumbled about being inconvenienced, and instead of seriously questioning why the child wanted to buy the movie, or doing the responsible thing and telling him he shouldn’t, she instead complained to the cashier for inconveniencing her. The cashier explained apologetically that it was policy, with a tone of agreement that she thought the policy was stupid, and the woman complained some more. She at one point nominally turned to the boy and said something like, “Why do you want to buy a movie called _Scary Movie_, anyway?”
“It’s not REALLY scary. It’s funny, and I already saw it at a friend’s house.”
That was it.
1) How would one see the humor in a parody movie *unless* one had already seen at least some of the movies it was parodying?
2) If I had to choose one or the other, I’d rather my children see a ‘scary’ movie than a Wayans style comedy.
3) The ever-present danger of the “friend’s house,” and the problem that arises from placing one’s children in the care of irresponsible adults.
4) Why didn’t this “responsible adult,” whoever she was, have the slightest interest in protecting the kid’s soul?
Indeed, when adults *do* censor kids’ viewing, it often has little to do with moral formation and simply has to do with avoiding nightmares, or some such nonsense.
That’s what’s wrong with America, right there. That’s why we have events like Sandy Hook. And it’s something you’re not going to legislate easily in this country. If there’s an amendment we need to change to prevent mass murders, it’s not the Second: it’s the First.
Unless our government starts talking about Morality, which means Natural Law, which means the Catholic Church (see Benedict XVI’s Caritas et Veritate), this will continue to happen.
Unless families start taking real care for the moral upbringing of their children–their #1 duty and obligation as families-things like Sandy Hook will continue to happen. And that means various things. It means parents must be vigilant. It means parents must be very careful about who their kids’ friends are and who their own friends are. When kids see their parents engaging in or tolerating the very behavior they criticize in their children, it creates a double standard. It means questioning whether it’s safe to send their kids to public school or even parochial school, not because of the physical danger posed by the 1 in 1,000,000 chance a mass shooting will happen, but the very real and ever present spiritual danger posed by 8 year olds who read _Twilight_ (or worse) and play “vampires versus werewolves” on the playground.
I have a good friend who won’t let his children go to public restrooms unescorted, not just because of concern over perverts, but because he worries they’ll read the graffiti on the walls. We were dining together in November, and his daughters kept asking to use the bathroom. He was suspicious, and finally got his daughter to admit there was a TV in the restroom that they were watching.
All parents can and should be that vigilant. What’s more important: your children having a “college fund” or their immortal souls? Not to mention the damage a lot of material goods can do to our souls. Oh, wait. It’s impossible to risk someone’s soul, because people think Jesus is just gonna forgive absolutely everything they do and let them come straight into Heaven, and all that stuff about Sacraments and Penances and Purgatory is just a bunch of made-up Catholic nonsense. Jesus is a nice guy hippie dude who just wants everyone to have a good time, and He’ll understand because we’re doing it out of love. St. Augustine *did* say, “Love and do as you will,” right? (No, he didn’t: he said “love your duty and then do what comes of that”).
I have, of course, addressed this topic frequently, as I did in this post, where I quoted the actual version of an often misquoted story about St. Pio of Pietrelcina. A couple who were sad that their sons were all in jail asked him for a blessing. “I absolutely refuse to bless you! You didn’t pull in the reins when your children were growing up, so don’t come along now when they are in jail and ask for my blessing.” Bl. Louis Martin would not let his daughter’s read the newspaper (of course, in an example of how such absolute bans can backfire, his daughter St. Therese snuck around to read the newspaper to follow the case of the murderer Pranzine, whom she helped get into Heaven). Holy Mother Teresa of Avila was bothered by some lifelong sin habit that she never specifically discloses. Some insist that it was scruples, but whatever it was, she implies in her _Life_ it was a sin against chastity–and she said that despite her temptations, she never crossed certain lines because she did not want to bring scandle to her family–she once got up the nerve to tell her father, and he practically disowned her.
Why can’t we have that style of parenting today? Why have parents become so permissive, so afraid of actually rearing their children? You can ban whatever you like, but until *that* changes, our society will just see worse and worse violence. After all, children who are not taught a modicum of self-control are not going to care about what the government bans, either. They’re just going to want it all the more because it’s banned.