Does Love Overcome Violence?

by Christine Sine

In the last few days I have posted several articles about the love of God and prayer. I also posted one about the riots here in Seattle on May Day. Guess which one got the most traffic?

It saddens me to see how much more easily we are drawn towards violence than towards love – not the mushy love of lust that is so often portrayed on the TV screen – but the enduring self sacrificing love that is at the core of who God is and who God wants us to be.

Violence saturates our society and we seem to accept it especially here in America. When I set out to get statistics on violence and media consumption this morning, I could find the results of little research done in the last 7 or 8 years. And the statistics from back then are rather sobering.  Evidently the average child, from 2004 figures, will see at least 8,000 murders on TV before they finish elementary school and 200,000 violent acts by age 18. And if you want to follow the statistics SCMS Canada is well worth a visit.

Yet many people do not believe that watching violence creates violent behaviour and unfortunately much of the research produces inconclusive results as this article shows. In fact the most quoted research, though it concedes that watching violence increases aggression, states the startling fact that:

We find that violent crime decreases on days with higher theater audiences for violent movies….  Overall, we find no evidence of a temporary surge in violent crime due to exposure to movie violence. Rather, our estimates suggest that in the short-run violent movies deter over 200 assaults daily.

So should we encourage the watching of violence hoping that it will actually decrease the incidence of violent crimes? Or is there another solution like teaching both children to love and care for each other rather than competing with each other.

Fortunately there are many organizations that are more concerned with peaceful rather than violent solutions to violence. Those involved in conflict resolution have grown remarkably in the last few years. Here are a few organizations worth checking out.

Eastern Mennonite University has a great list of resources on peace and conflict resolution, though of them deal with more global issues of violence.

Alternatives to Violence Project is another group that seems to take this issue seriously.

As you can see this has only been a very quick research project this morning and I would love to hear your input. How do you think the viewing of violence on TV and the interacting with violence in video games impacts behaviour? and probably even more important – How should we as Christians respond?

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10 comments

Larry May 3, 2012 - 10:09 am

I watch lots of violence, but I am absolutely a passive, non-violent person. It’s due to the way I separate the ideas cognitively.

I don’t think there is any issue whatsoever with watching violence. “Violence” exists; it’s a term we give to certain behaviours some of us don’t like, and it will always exist.

Solution: Keep promoting the good morals of love. Love does defeat violence and as an atheist I deal in love.

Great post! 🙂

Christine Sine May 3, 2012 - 10:11 am

Thanks Larry, just out of interest – do you think that viewing violence makes you see the world as a more violent place?

Larry May 3, 2012 - 10:17 am

The human mind can easily separate between when it’s acceptable to do something and when it’s not. In fact, that’s the number one principle of our intelligence and learning! On games and films, our minds know it is a different reality to the one we exist in in day to day life. The line isn’t blurred for me, so I haven’t noticed this personally, but I suppose it’s theoretically possible. I’ve heard this about people complaining about video games etc before and, although it might affect some individuals, most appear completely unaffected, with the ability to separate between fact and fiction…for example, nobody I know is violent, yet I would be hard-pressed to find one that hasn’t watched any films or news clips with violence etc.

My recommendation would be to teach peace, but let people have the free will to explore what they want. Surely banning certain forms of media is halfway to an oppressive autocratic regime. Part of free media comes with it the ability to watch certain things, don’t you agree?

Christine Sine May 3, 2012 - 10:34 am

Now here is where the fact that I am an Australian and not an American by birth comes into play. Freedom for me does not mean everyone being able to watch whatever they choose or carry a gun whenever they chose either. All society needs to have boundaries that contribute to the common good not just what each individual sees as good for them.
Let me question your statement “nobody I know is violent”. How do you know that none of the people you are acquainted with don’t beat their spouses and children or bully their colleagues if you don’t interact with them in these situations? Most violent people manage to hide their violent tendencies very well. Hence the comments by people who knew mass murderers – they were so quiet and inoffensive.”
Part of what I see in American society is an acceptance of violence that is not prevalent in most of the other Western countries I have lived in (Britain, Australian, NZ, and Canada). Not surprisingly violent crime is much more prevalent here too. I am not sure how much TV watching contributes to this, but it certainly concerns me.

Kristyne May 3, 2012 - 5:03 pm

Your opening statement was an interesting one albeit for me to see how much I have changed over the years. I am an American living in Australia, and without realizing it until now, have come to think more as an Australian than as an American when referring to the concept of freedom.Thanks for triggering that insight for me.
To comment on how violence may affect others, I know when I lived overseas and had no access to the media, and then returned home and watched TV I was greatly affected emotionally by the violence on TV.But after a few months, I became indifferent to it.

Christine Sine May 3, 2012 - 5:14 pm

It is that kind of conditioning that we all experience that is most disturbing for me. We think we have not been affected but the mear fact that we no longer respond shows just how much we have been influenced by it. I think that it even opens all of us to the expectation that violence is an acceptable way to respond to the conflicts others initiate and because wars and conflict are also so much a part of media violence I think it is harder and harder for us to see this kind of violence as real too

Larry May 4, 2012 - 8:04 am

If you want to believe that, fine. Personally, as studies have been inconclusive about this, I have the view that my opinion is insignificant compared to real-world evidence.

earthma May 4, 2012 - 2:34 am

Hi Christine, this is a very poignant subject for me. I left a violent relationship years ago and vowed never to bring up a child with the example my ex had from his father, who was very abusive to the mother. I had a son and found his father was also abusive and am now happily married to someone else with another son and step son. I have had many issues with the care my older son has during contact with his non resident father, but I think the one at the moment is the fact that I’m regularly hearing about my 6 year old’s viewing of unsuitable media, most distressingly, certificate 18 violent war games.

I have asked for this not to happen in court but the court have said that they can’t police or enforce this, hence the problem has become worse as my son’s father stated, ‘She’s not telling me what to do’, (regardless of the fact that it may be harmful to his own son).

I have researched the effect of viewing violence and think the lack of evidence that it’s harmful is ridiculous. I only had to ask a chilminder I know and a children’s minister who works with underpriveliged children their experience of children’ behaviour when they are in a household that views violence…..a resounding YES, it does affect behaviour negatively! My son has motor skills and behaviour issues, and I am find the lack of support with regard to what he views whilst not with our family astounding.

I am raising my children with Christian values and have a poilcy of no age innapropriate media in our household. I am anti violence and am hoping and praying that good will win over and my son’s future will not be compromised by this conflicting parenting.

I have asked other people to pray to and welcome prayers…if anyone reads this please could you have a quick word with the ‘Man upstairs’ or whatever name/gender you prefer to think of as God!
God Bless, Earthma

Christine Sine May 4, 2012 - 6:25 am

Thank you for your very open response to this. I grew up in a home where there was a lot of domestic violence and know the impact of it on myself and siblings but i also know the faithfulness of God who has transformed that violence into love. May God do the same in your children’s lives. I will certainly pray for you and for them.

earthma May 5, 2012 - 12:57 pm

Christine, thank you for your kind response. I risk ‘baring all’ as I have always felt that many people do not receive the help they get when they are too embarrassed to talk about taboo subjects such as domestic abuse.

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