Is pop culture to blame for the Newtown massacre?

One topic inexorably brought up during times like this is the influence of video games on young adults. But why? Video games are but one of many ways human beings entertain themselves. There’s an entire media complex filled with television shows, movies and music that, more than we realize, influence our actions. So why are so many commentators blaming video games for what happened in Newtown, Connecticut last week?

One could argue that video games are unique because they put the user in control. Games like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Doom allow the player to shoot pistols, throw grenades and set off mines with the goal of destroying their enemy. This is different than simply listening to music or watching a television show, so it’s more likely to have a direct effect on the consumer.

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On the surface this is a valid point. The gunman in Newtown, like the shooters at Columbine, was a frequent video game player, and his hobby could have had something to do with his decision. But as Robert VerBruggen points out at National Review, studies indicate that even though there may be a link between violent behavior and violent video games the relationship between the two is somewhat ambiguous.

But that doesn’t mean video games shouldn’t be part of the gun control debate. When you blow off a German soldier’s head during a shootout in Berlin by pressing the X button there’s going to be some amount of desensitization toward violence. However, pinning the blame for shootings like the one in Newtown on video games ignores the larger issues: Adults who act like children, crass television shows, profanity-laced music, and movies that glorify alcohol, sex and tobacco all contribute to what society defines as acceptable human behavior.

Mike Huckabee received a lot of flak for suggesting that the Newtown shooting was due to the absence of God in public school classrooms. Seeing how the motives of the shooter are yet to be fully ascertained, and most likely never will, it’s unwise to agree with the former Governor at this time. But his larger point is most valid: What happens to a society when Christianity is removed from the public sphere?

Catholics know the answer to this, and they should see to it that their values are well-represented in public debates. By virtue of their rejection of pop culture and its morbid value system, Catholics should be leading the way not only on how to incorporate faith into everyday life, but on what constitutes appropriate entertainment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Too many times Catholics fall into the trappings that this world has to offer and they forget what was written in St Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Our anti-Christian pop culture may certainly bear some culpability in the Newtown shooting. But that means Catholics do too. We haven’t done a good enough job at evangelizing the culture. Just look at college campuses, concert halls and movie theaters. God is absent. And when God is absent Satan has a better chance to get individuals to do his bidding. Human beings without faith, which statistics show are on the rise worldwide, can only withstand his temptation for so long. We must do better.

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