What's At the Root of the Violence in Our Culture?
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
TEXT: Malachi 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
My text comes from the book of Malachi. Malachi is an interesting little book. The date of writing is the 5th Century B.C. With the conclusion of God's revelation to Malachi, He did not speak to man for 400 years! There is a 400 plus year gap between the last verse of Malachi and the first verse of Matthew. This gap is call the 400 silent years. Malachi is the author and apart from the meaning of his name (my messenger), nothing is known of Malachi. This final message of the O.T. contains the prophecy of John the Baptist's ministry (Mal. 3:1-5), the fulfillment of which begins the N.T. (See Luke 1:5-20).
But my purpose today is not to do an exposition of the book of Malachi. Yet I do want to point out that this little book points out two things that God says he hates. In order to identify these we need to look back at Malachi 2:16. Though you have to look closely in the King James Version of the Bible, the verse says God hates --
1. DIVORCE - "he hateth putting away..."
Further, according to this verse we are to be on guard so that we do not do either of these treacherous things! Now, the focus of this study is not divorce but violence. But it should also be noted that the coupling of divorce and violence was done to show that divorce is violence in the eyes of God! Perhaps we will study this specific connection at a later date. My point is, the Lord hates violence! Violence must not be a part of our character!
THE DEFINITION OF VIOLENCE
Violence is the use of force to injure or wrong. The Bible identifies "violence with the ruthless exercise of power, by actions involving physical force or unlawful intimidation, resulting in loss, injury, or constraint to the unprotected."1
GOD'S VIEW OF VIOLENCE
Hate is a strong, intense word. An interesting study is to go through the Bible find out the things that God hates (Deut 12:31; 16:22; Psa. 5:5; 11:5; Prov. 16:16-19; Amos 5:21; 6:8; Zec. 8:17; Mal 2:16). God not only says that he hates violence in Mal. 2:16 but he says it again in Psalms 11:5 -- The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. God abhors and is the enemy of those who are violent...those who use threats and intimidation to get their way...those who use physical force against others to accomplish their own selfish purposes.
VIOLENCE AND AMERICAN CULTURE
Violence is a major problem in American society. Since God hates violence, we should find out what is lending fuel to the fire and then cut off the fuel supply so that neither we nor our children adopt the "violence mentality" of our society.
What is fueling the propensity for violent behavior in our culture? You may not like my answer but, TV is the gasoline that is inflaming it! Allow me to read an extended quote from an article entitled -- It's Four P.M. Do You Know What Your Kids Are Watching?
His body, stripped to the waist, is covered with rivulets of sweat. Standing in the middle of a deserted, rundown warehouse, he beats his chest like a modern-day Tarzan. This time, however, he's not interested in saving Jane, because in a nearby room an attractive--yet obviously frightened--young girl awaits her fate. A rape is in the making, and millions of kids are watching every move on MTV, the music video network beamed into households from Seattle to Senegal.
Where else but on MTV can the Stone Temple Pilots be given an international platform to sing about the joys of rape, as they do in their video "Sex Type Thing"?2
"But Pastor" some may be protesting. "My kids are Christian kids!" I hope they are but I also know that "according to Barna Research Group...Christian baby busters were more likely to have watched MTV during the last week (42%) than their non-Christian counterparts (33%)."3 I remember about two years ago when I was talking to a couple of fellows in the youth group who were misbehaving. At that time I could not figure out their response. They laughed a strange laugh. Some time later, there was a special on the evening news about a woman who claimed that MTV cartoon characters Bevis and Butt-head were responsible for the death of her two year old daughter. They showed a clip of B&B and I heard that idiotic laugh...I put two and two together. "It was nearly two years ago when MTV first introduced these animated juvenile delinquents to the world. Stuttering their way through life these misfits get excited about lesbian sex, watching people urinate, and joking about perverted sex. Even the occult gets the thumbs-up (Butt-head: "Is this like, satanic music?" Bevis: "No way. It's not cool enough.)"4
Folks, MTV has now been on the air for 13 years and according to ADweek MTV "is a cultural force. People don't watch it. They live it. MTV has affected the way an entire generation thinks talks and buys"5 and I might add, acts! Parents, MTV is rude, crude, vulgar and violent. Al Kasha, two time Academy Award winner said, "MTV is a very destructive force in society primarily because, for many, it plays a surrogate parental role. MTV is raising a generation of young people."6
So what's a parent to do? I agree with what Hollywood film critic Michael Medved said to James Dobson- "There is absolutely no excuse for MTV to be present in the home. It is 100 percent negative."
About now some of you are saying to yourself, we don't have cable so we do not have to worry! BIG WRONG! If you have TV you had better listen up! Research clearly demonstrates that regular (non-cable) TV violence greatly influences your children (and you). "A 14-month-old infant can adopt behavior it has seen on television. Because young children are unable to distinguish fact from fantasy, they regard television as information about how the world works."7 The article goes on to say, "Seven U.S. and Canadian studies establish correlations between prolonged childhood exposure to television and a proclivity for physical aggressiveness that extends form preadolescence into adulthood."8
Do you see than handwriting on the wall? What you allow into your eye-gate via the TV affects the way you think and respond. The Bible laid down this principle long ago. Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. We are to protect or guard our minds. We are to watch out what we expose our minds to because it is our mind (heart) that influences everything we do! If you don't think so, consider this --
"Before television was belatedly introduced, they (social scientists) monitored rates of inappropriate physical aggression among 45 first and second graders. After two years of television the rate increased 160%, in both boys and girls, and in both those who were aggressive to begin with and those who were not. The rate in the two communities that had had television for years did not change."9 (Read the entire April 8, 1993 Milwaukee Sentinel article I have given to you.)
Parents, you are the key to cutting off the "gasoline" flow to the fires of violence pouring into the minds of those under your roof. Get control of your TV or throw it out! TV is the number one cause of escalating violence in American culture. God charges the parents to Train up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6) not the way they want to go! [Just a aside -- Beware of the Power Rangers! In just a brief survey I see elements of both violence and the occult in this popular kids show.] Remember -- God hates violence. We must hate it too!
VIOLENCE INVITES GOD'S JUDGMENT
The global flood was God's response to a world filled and corrupted by violence. Genesis 6:11-13 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. 13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
The Lord sent the city of Jerusalem into captivity because the people were so violent. Ezekiel 7:23-24 Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence. 24 Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to cease; and their holy places shall be defiled.
Further, we are warned in the Word of God that those who live violent lives often meet violent ends. Psalms 7:16 His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate (top of the head).
God will judge violent people and violent nations because, what God hates he will not ignore! If you are to be the friend of God, violence must be put off. It must not be a part of your character. I know we are living in the last days and that violence is one characteristic of that will be obvious. 2 Timothy 3 says people will be "fierce" (434) as the end times approach. This word is the Greek word that means not mild, ungentle, violent, savage. But the believer must make an all out effort to resist violent behavior. We are to set the example, lead the way, be the light in modeling non-violent character.
In our next study, we will look at specific character traits that we are to build into our lives that are not violent. If you are prone to violence in word or deed, pray the God will help you to put off this character flaw. Outbursts of anger, cruel words, hitting others, the desire for revenge, the desire to hurt others are all symptomatic of a violent character.
Finally, parents may I urge you again to get control of the television in your home. If you cannot get rid of it!
1. Ellwell Evangelistic Dictionary -- CD ROM Edition; Topic -- Violence