How Is the “Death Culture” Promoted?

“Thousands of miles lie between the traumatized young refugees of Kosovo and American children exposed to violence and other painful experiences, but the emotional distance between them may not be so great.”—Marc Kaufman, The Washington Post.

Whether we like it or not, we are all affected directly or indirectly by death. This is true regardless of where we live—in a country that is racked by violent conflict or in one that enjoys relative stability.

THE manifestation of the “death culture” can be seen in the high incidence of depression, anguish, drug addiction, abortion, self-destructive behavior, suicide, and mass murder today. Professor Michael Kearl, of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A., explained with regard to the manipulation of the subject of death: “From our late twentieth century vantage point [1999], we find that . . . death is becoming recognized as the central dynamism underlying the life, vitality, and structure of the social order. Death is the muse of our religions, philosophies, political ideologies, arts and medical technologies. It sells newspapers and insurance policies, invigorates the plots of our television programs, and . . . even powers our industries.” Let us examine some examples of how this phenomenon, called death culture, is manifested in our times.

 The Sale of Arms

The “death culture” is manifested on a daily basis in the sale of arms. Armaments are used to kill soldiers, but mainly they kill civilians, among them innocent women and children. In wars, whether civil or otherwise, life is always cheap. How much does the bullet of an assassin or a sniper cost?

Easy public access to arms in some countries has resulted in a terrifying and constant increase in the deaths of individuals as well as groups of people. After the high school shooting tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, protests arose because of the widespread sale of arms and their easy availability to minors. The number of young people in the United States who die violently is alarming—according to Newsweek magazine, an average of 40 a week. Of these, almost 90 percent are shooting victims. This is equal to 150 massacres like that at Littleton each year!

The Entertainment World

Movies exploit the subject of death. For example, the plot of a film might glamorize immorality, violence, drug trafficking, or organized crime and thus minimize the value of life and moral principles. There are films in which death is even romanticized—depicting the myth of life after death and the supposed return of some to visit the living—serving only to trivialize death.

The same is true of some television programs and music. According to news reports, the young murderers of Littleton were fervent admirers of a rock singer who has become famous for “androgyny, satanic images,” and songs with “themes of rebellion and death.”

In the United States, the way television programs are rated was revised to protect young people from seeing material that might affect them adversely. The result has been counterproductive. Jonathan Alter, writing in Newsweek, comments that this “may make kids want the forbidden fruit more.” He added that in order to shame and obligate those responsible into reducing violence in the media, President Clinton would have “to publicly read the names of all the big companies (and their CEOs)” that not only make movies of knifings and recordings of ‘gangsta rap’ but also produce computer-game programs that allow children to “‘virtually’ kill people.”

Death in Video Games and on the Internet

In his book The Deathmatch Manifesto, Robert Waring analyzes the popularity of so-called deathmatch games among adolescents. * Mr. Waring believes that an underground society of gamers has sprung up around this phenomenon. These games really have the effect, not of educating, but of teaching to kill. “Playing with a live opponent from anywhere in the world, and trying to prove yourself, is a powerful experience. It’s really easy to get sucked into that,” Waring comments. Adolescents are trapped by the force of the three-dimensional scenarios designed as backdrops for the bloody struggles. Not having access through the Internet, some buy video-game packages to use on the television at home. Others customarily go to public places where they rent video-game machines and have ‘virtual’ fights to the death with other opponents.

Although “deathmatch” games are classified according to the age of the player, the truth is that there is very little control. Fourteen-year-old Eddie from the United States commented: “People usually tell you you’re not old enough, but they don’t stop you from buying [the game].” He enjoys one  that consists of shoot-out orgies. Although his parents are aware of this and do not like it, they rarely check to see if he is playing the game. One teenager reached this conclusion: “Our generation is far more desensitized to violence than any other generation. TVs raise children now more than parents do, and television caters to children’s violent fantasies.” John Leland, writing in Newsweek, stated: “With as many as 11 million teenagers now online [in the United States], more and more of adolescent life is taking place in a landscape that is inaccessible to many parents.”

Life-Styles That Lead to Death

What about behavior outside the world of “deathmatch” games and violent films? Although in real life we do not have to compete in a struggle to the death with outlandish creatures, the life-style of many people includes self-destructive behavior. For example, in spite of family influence, health systems, and other authorities who warn about the danger involved in smoking and drug abuse, these practices continue to increase. In many cases they lead to a premature death. In order to increase illicit profits, big business and drug traffickers continue to take advantage of the anxiety, hopelessness, and spiritual poverty of the people.

Who Is Behind All of This?

Does the Bible present death as an apt subject for entertainment? Are the life-styles that can lead us to death justified? No. For true Christians, like the apostle Paul, death is nothing less than an “enemy.” (1 Corinthians 15:26) Christians do not view death as something attractive and fun but,  rather, as something against nature, a direct consequence of sin and rebellion against God. (Romans 5:12; 6:23) Death was never a part of God’s original purpose for man.

Satan is said to have “the means to cause death.” He is called “a manslayer,” not necessarily because he produces death in a direct way, but because he does it by using deceit, by seducing people into sin, by promoting conduct that produces corruption and death, and by fostering murderous attitudes in the minds and hearts of men, women, and even children. (Hebrews 2:14, 15; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3; James 4:1, 2) However, why are young people the principal target? What can we do to help them?

[Footnote]

^ par. 13 In “Deathmatch” games, notes this review, “players [are] driven to kill each other in three-dimensional networked games.”

[Picture on page 7]

“Our generation is far more desensitized to violence than any other generation”