The recent killing spree in a Colorado movie theatre has experts again asking, “Why?” Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University and the past president of the American Psychological Association, has argued for a concerted effort to study what he calls the “heart of darkness” in humanity. I think Farley is on the right track.
The “heart of darkness” is rooted in original sin and in our turning away from God. It exists in all of us and has existed throughout humanity’s long history. So, why are senseless multiple killings by crazed individuals becoming more frequent?
I believe it’s mainly because the old restraints and balancing factors are being eroded.
Our society is much less Christian than it once was. People who believe in God and believe that they are accountable to Him are much less likely to “go postal.” Today’s high divorce rate and family instability have helped create many psychologically imbalanced, angry individuals. Our porn-saturated culture has encouraged cynicism, callousness, depression, feelings of inferiority and social alienation. Finally, parents, teachers and guardians have, by and large, abandoned traditional child rearing methods. This has given rise to more selfish, spoiled people than ever before.
The setting of the latest killing spree, the interior of a movie theatre showing the “The Dark Knight Rises,” also helps us understand the “Why?” The Batman character has undergone a great transformation over the decades. In the 1960s TV series, Batman was good to a fault. He drank nothing harder than milk, never said a bad word, was against gambling, and didn’t seem to have a sex life. The characters in the show sometimes made references to prayer, God and the saints. However, the more modern Batman, as portrayed in Hollywood movies, is “complex.” He does have a sinful side, after all!
Okay, maybe the new Batman is more “believable” than the squeaky clean version of yesteryear. And maybe showing the ugly side of humanity in movies, TV shows and books is, in a way, more honest. However, let’s remember that all media portrayals are constructions, not reality. In the past, say up until the end of the 1960s, the media usually presented good role models. Evil was not presented in graphic terms and was always punished in the end. Since then, the media has often glorified evil and mocked goodness. By often graphically and sympathetically depicting the “heart of darkness” in all its manifestations, the modern media has, in effect, promoted it. In developed nations, the media has largely defined and, arguably, has even become the culture, and there are many people who have trouble making the distinction between fantasy and reality.
A final reason for the “Why?” might be that, over the past few decades, tens of millions of young people have been treated with mind-altering drugs. It seems that every other young person today has been diagnosed as depressed, hyperactive, attention deficient, autistic or bipolar. They are given psychiatric drugs such as Prozac, Ritalin, Risperdal or Haldol. Who knows what all the long-term effects of these drugs may be.
Given all the factors I’ve mentioned, should we be surprised that an increasing number of people are “going postal?”