During the Reformation, the concept of monasticism came under serious attack from several of the reformers. Among those were John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli. Calvin, in particular assailed the concept of monasticism and it is in large measure due to him that we have the term “cloistered virtue.”
Christians of that time viewed the world and our place in it as a struggle to enable that which was good in us to overcome that which was evil. That the world offered many temptations then as it does now is undeniable. But Calvin believed that only those who confronted evil and overcame it had the potential of being one of God’s elect. Those who sat in monasteries, far away from the world’s allures could never overcome evil because they were secluded from it.
Allow me a simple example to explain his philosophy.
We will assume that consuming alcohol is a “sinful behavior”. There are two people involved in our discussion. One lives on a desert island where there is no alcohol. As a result, he never consumes any. But he is not virtuous because he never was in a position to consume it. The second individual never takes a drink either. But he lives in a home within a few minutes of six alehouses. He is virtuous because demon rum was available to him yet he rejected its temptation.
Obviously, the world has changed in the last five hundred years. There are few uninhabited desert islands left – and virtue is something we leave to dull people who really aren’t with it. That brings me to the subject of this post which is the horrific shooting spree in Aurora, CO.
If you read my earlier post, http://juwannadoright.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/i-have-an-idea/ you realize that I do not want to talk about the young man who was the perpetrator of this tragedy. I don’t even really want to talk about the tragedy itself. I want to talk about why this happened – and how we can minimize the likelihood of such events from recurring in the future.
But I am going to break my own rule for a moment and discuss a specific aspect of this event because it provides a good segue into my main discussion. That is that there was a three month old infant who was among the injured.
What kind of people are these parents to bring a newborn who needs rest and quiet to a movie theater with sonic-level audio effects when their child should be at home sleeping? How self-absorbed are these two – and what further damage will they inflict on this child as they “rear” him? What sort of future is in store for this infant, growing up in a home lacking positive and thoughtful parental direction?
Okay, I’ve gotten that out of my system and I apologize for what may be a rant. But I know that my parents took far greater responsibility with me than the parents of this newborn. I was very fortunate. And I admit that I’m more than a little mad that there are so many people roaming planet earth who possess the genitalia but not the common sense to bring children to life and then fail to nurture them.
We should not be surprised at the incident in Colorado. We live in and extoll a culture of violence. We are almost inured to it through the daily reports of how people, whether a rogue individual, a cadre of extremists, a gang or a government inflicts death on others.
When I say extoll, I mean that we stand in line to buy the newest and most violent video games. We enjoy movies in which there is violence – the more gruesome the better. We spectate at boxing matches which have produced numerous permanent brain injuries and wonder why some of those boxers go home and physically abuse their spouses and children.
Is there an explanation for our increased embrace of violence in our culture? Some will suggest that we have abandoned our standards of decency – and I think there is much to argue for that viewpoint. But I think there is something even more insidious – if you can imagine something that is yet worse.
There is an historical corollary between what is happening in America today and what befell the Roman Empire as it went into decline. As the Empire started on its way to collapse, so did the moral standards that had been its underpinning. Depravity and orgies replaced philosophy and reason. And the games in the Coliseum became more and more gruesome.
“Panem et circenses.” Bread and circuses. It was described by Juvenal as a way those in authority used to distract the common people from the collapse that was imminently to befall them. The uneducated can easily be lead down the path that leads to destruction. And there is no one more willing to initiate a policy of distraction than a politician who is looking to hold on to his own job.
So is there anything we can do to reverse this trend?
We can elect people to represent us who hold to high standards of ethics and actually serve as examples to the rest of us through their conduct. And we can rid ourselves of those who talk the game but prove through their actions that they are unworthy of our support.
We can refuse to buy any violent computer games and demand of those companies that create them that they stop producing them, explaining our reasons for boycotting their products.
We can stay home and read books that have guided mankind for centuries rather than sit and watch worthless drivel in our movie theaters and explain to Hollywood that unless they elevate the quality of their product we will not patronize them.
We can turn off our cable boxes and instead of exposing our children and ourselves to a constant stream of violence and infidelity, we can support each family member in a loving environment.
We can insulate ourselves and our children, at least in small measure, from some of the atrocities of this world that we have begun to think are the norm rather than the exception. Or we can allow our exposure to continue to all that is most dehumanizing and destructive.
Do we want to raise the next person who will randomly kill tens of people? Or do we want to sequester our kids from exposure to the sort of behavior which leads to these acts of violence? Isn’t that what responsible parenting is all about?
I guess it’s a question of whether we believe in the validity of “cloistered virtue.” I think you know where I stand on this issue.