Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Manifestations of Woe

Broken families, STD epidemics, school shootings, neighborhoods in which you can not walk down the sidewalk in broad daylight without fearing for your safety; there is no denying that these are a reality of life in the USA today. To some degree we are all numbed to the suffering associated with each of these realities – we see evidences of them nearly daily on the news but until it impacts us personally we do not understand the full weight of the pain associated with these events. It is then that we start to see the realities of “woe.”

What is “woe” and why would I write a blog post about it? defines woe as:
1. grievous distress, affliction, or trouble: His woe was almost beyond description.
2. an affliction: She suffered a fall, among her other woes.
—Synonyms 1. anguish, tribulation, trial, wretchedness, melancholy. See sorrow.
—Antonyms 1. joy.

“Grievous distress, affliction or trouble.” Do we see this in our nation? I would say that we most certainly do. We see radical increases in violent behavior amongst our children. We see a radically sexualized teen population suffering from STDs at unprecedented levels.(1) We hear about senseless murders essentially every day on the local news, and many of us have found ourselves in a neighborhood in our city in which we felt unsafe – I know I have and I am a 6’2” 250lb man in my 30’s. On two occasions in the last five years or so I have personally encountered groups of young men in the Phoenix area who were clearly assessing whether I could be victimized easily. Where do these behaviors come from? Why do we tolerate them? What brings woe to a person, or in this case even a nation? Perhaps we should turn to scripture. Isaiah 5: 20 (ESV) states:

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.

So what is the point? Certainly I can not be proposing that our culture would suggest that random acts of violence and teen sexuality are a good thing? Am I? Actually I am.

I read an article today about a recently released video game titled Grand Theft Auto IV. The review begins:
“Criminal action video game "Grand Theft Auto 4" won near-perfect praise in early reviews on Monday, boosting the shares of publisher Take-Two Interactive Software Inc as much as 3.4 percent ahead of the game's midnight launch.” (2)
An interview of a player buying the game reads:
“At a GameStop store in midtown Manhattan, excited fans like John Alba and Enmanuel Lorenzo had been standing for hours in a line that nearly reached the end of the block to get their hands on the game.
‘It gives you the opportunity to escape reality,’ Alba said. "This game has everything -- sex, drugs, cars, money ... anything you want."
"Grand Theft Auto 4" casts players as an Eastern European immigrant who runs drugs, shoots cops and beats up prostitutes after falling in with a crime syndicate -- stuff that has drawn fire from family groups and politicians.
Avid fans like Lorenzo seemed drawn to the excitement -- but only in game play.
‘Violence is like sex. It sells,’ Alba said outside the GameStop shop. ‘I like violence in games, it's cool. Not in real life.’"

An antagonist of the game, Jack Thompson, points to a video made by a gaming related website ( from content in the game.
“The game's lead character, Niko, drives up to prostitutes, honks the horn, then shoots them. You see a simulated sex act, only to have Niko run the hooker over afterwards with his car. The video shows graphic lap dances featuring one, and then two, girls. The language is even worse, including—and excuse the stars, ’F*** the s*** out of it, you nasty f******.’" (4)

So wait… We have a video game that is based on the premise that entertainment is found in simulating cold blooded murder, sex acts with prostitutes, and many other criminal actions. Response to the game is described on its Wikipedia site like this:
“Grand Theft Auto IV has received ‘universal acclaim’ from video game critics. Ahead of its worldwide release, most publications were not sent copies of the game. Instead, reviewers had to play the game at Rockstar premises or in booked hotel rooms. The May 2008 issue of Official Xbox Magazine (UK) published the first Grand Theft Auto IV review, giving the game the maximum score of 10/10. The magazine also stated that the game has an ‘amazingly realistic world; stunning action set pieces; genuinely engrossing storyline; hugely entertaining multiplayer;’ and that it is ‘vast in every respect.’”(5)

Is the videogame at fault – is it the cause of the “woe” that we are experiencing in this nation in the areas of sexuality and violence. No – it is a reflection of a culture that actively calls evil things good. It is an example of the sinful nature of the American people, no, more even that that, it is an example of the abandonment of our people to their sinful desires.
How should we respond? Certianly standing against the game is a good thing – but more importantly we must explain WHY we stand against the game. We must first call evil out for what it is – we need to confront our moral relativism. Our grevious trouble is rooted in our unwillingness to stand for truth when confronted by the lie that evil things are good – that it is “just entertainment.” Don’t be fooled – the consequences are not trivial.


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