taking the words of Jesus seriously

During what one moviegoer hypothesized as “part of the movie, ” 12 people were shot and killed with 38 more wounded during a midnight showing of “The Dark Night Rises” outside of Denver late last night. The President and First Lady issued a statement  saying they were “shocked and saddened” by the shooting and pledged the administration’s support for victims of the shooting. The statement went on to say, “As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family.”

While driving into work this morning, one radio talk show host commented on the tragedy of such a “senseless act of violence.”

But where is the line drawn between a “senseless act of violence” and an “entertaining act of violence”? No doubt the scores of moviegoers who lined up for hours yesterday to be first in line for the third film in the Batman trilogy would have been a bit miffed and disappointed had Batman not disposed of twelve individuals during the film. 38 injuries is little more than an opening chase or accidental car crash into a building or crowded highway. The President’s own words, “darkness and challenge, ” represent two of the reasons the Batman trilogy has been such a success.

Related: Can we have a Rational Conversation about Guns?

Violence has its place in culture, namely on the big screen, in books, imaginations and cartoons. But not in an actual movie theater, an actual crowded street or meeting room. Upon entrance into the actual the act is ruled “senseless” and “shocking” versus “entertaining” and “awesome” while it is on the screen. TV producers, writers and directors are honored for their creativity in depicting something so awful that didn’t actually happen whereas people are condemned when their acts mimic those on TV.

This is not to say those who bring such things to reality should be treated as movie stars. In fact, this is to say just the opposite: a violence and horrific act is equally violent and horrific whether on or off the screen and should be viewed as such.

It is truly a tragedy when 12 people are killed by a deeply senseless act of violence. It is also a tragedy when the human mind is molded to enjoy and celebrate similar acts of violence on the big screen. May we mourn with our fellow humans over the loss of those 12 last night. And may we also work to re-sensitize ourselves to the violence in our entertainment, to the callouses developed over death and destruction that we take in every day.

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