There isn’t a good person alive who wouldn’t do everything in their power to stop the horror story that keeps playing out in our nation’s schools. It shouldn’t matter what political party you subscribe to, how much money you make, or where you’re from, everyone wants the shootings that have snuffed out hundreds of innocent lives to end. But, the reality is, until we have an honest conversation about our culture and what’s driving our young people to do this, it won’t. An honest conversation was exactly what Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) was trying to have during a meeting with local pastors last week. Unfortunately for Diane, who’s running for governor in Tennessee, her opponents just couldn’t resist the opportunity to take her quotes out of context and turn an opportunity for sincere dialogue into a cheap political headline.
Like a lot of conservatives, Diane knows that there’s no magic solution to the violence that’s sweeping through society. Our children aren’t picking up guns and killing their classmates because there’s a Second Amendment. There’s been a Second Amendment for almost 230 years — and commonplace shootings have only been around the last 20. As Dr. Ben Carson once said, the heart of the matter is the heart. Gun control only deals with one aspect of that. Until we’re willing to address the motivation for the violence, Americans won’t change anything. There has to be a moral component – an agreement that, somewhere along the way, our society lost its way.
“We have devalued life in this country,” Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said after the Parkland shooting. “We threw God out of school… We have families that are broken apart, no fathers at home. We have incredible heinous violence as a game, two hours a day in front of their eyes. And we stand here and we wonder why this happens to certain students.” Rep. Black couldn’t agree more. She, like so many Americans, thinks a big part of the problem starts at home. “As a nurse, I look at the root cause…I think it’s a deterioration of family. They don’t have that good support system. And where are they looking? They’re looking for something… maybe on the internet, maybe something in a small group of friends. And they’re going in the wrong direction.” She made the connection with violent movies, and the steady desensitizing that’s taking place with America’s young people. And it isn’t just violence, Diane went on, but pervasiveness of all kinds.
“Pornography. It’s available — it’s available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store. Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there’s pornography there. All of this is available without parental guidance. And I think that is a big part of the root cause that we see so many young people that have mental illness get caught in these places.”
“Every one of those school shootings go back to looking at that child, and their friends can actually pinpoint a time where they saw a change in their behavior.”
“So I believe mental illness is something we’ve got to address. We’ve got to address the family.”
Almost immediately, some liberals ran to their keyboards and started tapping out columns, suggesting that Diane Black was blaming school shootings on pornography. Obviously, that’s a distortion of what she said. Pornography is just another example of the damaging influences that have somehow become morally acceptable in this culture. With the advent of technology, violence, sex, profanity, contempt, ridicule, bullying – it’s all at our fingertips. And worse, at our children’s.
Thirty years ago, every teenager wasn’t walking around with a smartphone that let them download every vile and grotesque thing on command. If you think pornography isn’t one of the contributors to violence, then you haven’t read the data. The link between crimes like sexual assault and porn is there, whether the media wants to admit it or not. Our friends at Fight the New Drug make a pretty compelling case that, like so many other addictions, pornography is mentally numbing.
“‘… [T]he FBI’s own statistics show that pornography is found at 80 percent of the scenes of violent sex crimes, or in the homes of the perpetrators.’ Now we think that’s kind of tough to ignore, while those who promote porn think this is easy to overlook… We’re not saying consuming porn will automatically make someone a serial rapist. Even so, looking at the raw data, porn is connected with sexual violence.”
Still unconvinced? Read this astonishing piece in the New York Times about what teenagers are learning from online porn, including how to rough up your sex partner. “‘It gets in your head,” Q. said about the harsh treatment of the actresses in these videos. ‘If this girl wants it, then maybe the majority of girls want it.'” “As one suburban high school senior boy told me recently, ‘I’ve never seen a girl in porn who doesn’t look like she’s having a good time.'” Maggie Jones, who did every parent in America a public service by publishing this feature, points out that Indiana University did a national survey of teenagers, and around one-sixth of boys admitted to sex acts like choking a partner. And yet we think that violence won’t translate into other aggressive behavior? Or worse, we don’t understand that devaluing or disrespecting other people gradually chips away at human decency — or dignity?
Pornography didn’t kill those 17 bright, promising futures in Parkland. No one, including Diane Black, is suggesting that. What we are suggesting is that these are the slow burns of the cultural crisis that’s destroying us.
Josh McDowell delivered a powerful talk on the impact of pornography at our Watchmen on the Wall conference last month. If you haven’t watched it, please do so.
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.
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