Creating A History of Violence

Friday, October 13, 2006
I have read how during the civil war many of the soldiers didn"t have the stomach for fighting. They would aim their weapons above the heads of their enemies and fire.

By the time the world wars came around the numbers of the soldiers who would aim directly at their enemies had increased. But you still had stories like “Christmas in the Trenches”? coming out of the battlegrounds.

Armies have done a lot over the years to deal with the insides of the soldiers. They do things to make them better fighters, less considerate of their own instincts, and more ready to follow orders into violence.

I was talking with someone this morning about this whole thing.

We seem to have become a society in which training for violence is a normal part of life.

The games we play are increasingly violent. I"m not even talking about the semi-violent kinds of video games out there. But some of the stuff that"s out these days is so violent and requires such a rawness that it"s breathtaking. One popular game is described as;
“Player is a young man working with gangs to gain respect. His mission includes murder, theft, and destruction on every imaginable level. Player recovers his health by visiting prostitutes then recovers funds by beating them to death and taking their money.”?

Yeah, one of the more popular games out there that many are playing.

And if it"s not real enough in the video game, you can shift to real life where you can go out and learn to shoot actual people in games of laser tag or paint ball. Certainly the level of violence is different, it"s apples and oranges. But still, does it train us for violence?

This week I"ve been under the weather, flu wise, so I checked out some television the other night. I"ve never seen CSI before, (and yes, I realize how much I"ve just confessed!!) but wow. Some of the images shown on that, and a few other shows are so amazingly violent. They are the kinds of things I"ve seen occasionally when I"m in the hospital doing on call stuff. It"s not what you would see in the normal course of a life. And they are violent, shocking images that deaden the senses. I mean hey, when you"ve seen every side of a woman in a bikini, hanging upside down, decapitated, what"s left to see really.

My point is, are we raising a generation of hardened, violent, sense-less people for whom it"s a normal response to a hard life to go to school with a hate list and a gun, or to take a bunch of school aged, nonviolent Amish girls hostage to sexually abuse and then kill?

Don't hear me say that anyone who plays the games or watches the programs is wrong or even evil. It"s just not that simple or clearly a right or wrong thing. But I am concerned how we as children, youth, and adults, are being trained and shaped by the world in which we immerse ourselves.

Maybe we should take the time to look at how we are being shaped, and what is being trained into us.

If it"s true that you become more like the people you hang out with, maybe it"s also true that you become more like the things you immerse yourself in. And in a growing number of cases, that is a very very scary thought.

For what it"s worth.


  1. A number of years ago Christianity Today carried an article "Trained to Kill: Are We Conditioning Our Children to Commit Murder?", by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, that made some convincing arguments about the conditioning/de-sensitising effects of violent entertainment. CT has an online version for subscribers only ... Grossman has the article on his website at

  2. We've never owned a TV since the day we were married. As a result our children were shocked and frightened when, at the ages of 10 and 12 they saw 'Independence day'. New programs were also horrifying to them if they ever caught them at friends houses (v seldom). Sarah watched a horror movie at a 'friends' house and it too around 2 years to unpick the damage. That child had been watching hardcore horror since she was 5 and her parents split.

    It IS very subtle, how society hardens itself.

    It is also interesting what is socially acceptable and what isn't. A friend that used to be in church leadership said that he enjoyed violent films and had no problem with that on screen. It seems peculiar that sex is such a taboo subject, where argueably people are having a good time together (yes, I know there's another side too) yet it's fine to see people and creatures doing the most unspeakable things to each other.

    This isn't new, although the channels through which it comes are, relatively. Historically, people have always gathered round to watch a good hanging/flogging. They have also been happy to treat each other in brutal and cruel ways that seem at odds with their often professed faith in this day and age.

    I guess the current drive toward more extreme versions of everything is partly what's shaping the current lack of sensitivity towards fellow man at the moment. Christians are apparently at the centre of those affected, judging by comments I read on a christian forum.

  3. I agree with you Randall. Violent games in my youth desensitized me pretty far. I would say tht some of that has been undone, but not much. After finding the Saskatoon police/EMT/Fire scanner the other day I listened for awhile and heard a response to a 75 year old woman who stopped breathing... A while later the call came for the coroner and I found myself choked up. I'm sorry she died but I'm relieved that I'm not numb.

  4. Good and challenging post Randall. I have never replied to your blog before but have read it on occassion, always interested to here what you have to say. I confess I am one who probably has exposed my children to more violence on TV and movies than I should. Largely because I have immersed myself in much of pop culture and often have not given enough thought of the violence and sex that is contained within it. True games can desensitize people to violence, war and oppression but I wonder to what point does it begin to desensitize us?
    My wife and I have tried to limit the amount of TV our children are exposed to and the amount of gaming and internet they are participating in. I for one have spent probably way to much time engaged in computer games that depict violence, and that doesn't make me a great example to my children. I have studied much into world war two history, especially the battles and tactics. I have always been facinated by these things but I can't imagine personally the horror of war. I have found that as my many years of studying ww2 history my overall thought on war has changed, its not about herosim and glory, its about avoiding it at every possiblity because of the pain and suffering it causes not only during the conflict but the many decades following it.
    My hope is I can learn everyday that violence, war and suffering by oppression is not some laughing matter or meer game to engage in on a 17" monitor, its real and tragic. My children need to know about it but not think that its something to play with or to become desensitized to.

  5. I read this post after watching a portion of the W5 Documentary on the violence teachers are facing from students in the schools these days! The documentary gave me the chills. It was as if I got a picture of how deep the moral decay in our society really is. It made me wonder if this is what Rome was like before she fell!

    And now this post! It only adds to my deep feeling of a society that has lost its moral fiber! My only hope is that God has enough of his people scattered throughout the society to act as salt and light. God have mercy!


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