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“Get down! Now! Behind the desk! Hurry!”, Kendra squealed as she darted for the nearest cover. The whole room was in a panicked furry as everyone scrambled to find safety.

“Kendra, what happened to your face? You are bleeding?” Jason asked as Kendra jumped behind the desk where he had been fearfully hiding since he heard the first shot ricochet through the hallowed halls of Eastmore High. “He got me, Jason. He got me.”

The next two hours seemed to last an eternity as the students in Mr. Jeneson’s composition class wondered what their fate would be. Before each shot rang out, the students heard the terrified screams of schoolmates who seemed to be begging for their lives. They had no idea what was happening outside the sanctuary their classroom had become, but one thing was sure, it sounded like total chaos.

Finally the nightmare was over. Kendra breathed a huge sigh of contented relief when she saw the comforting face of her father walking through the door that had created the fortress that had saved her life. She ran for him as fast as she could and took refuge inside the safety of his powerful grip. However, her relief soon turned to anguish as her father told her that her best friend Clara had been gunned down in the mayhem that had resulted in the bloodiest massacre their town had ever seen. Twenty-seven of her schoolmates were dead and many others, like herself, had been wounded. As grief gripped her heart, all Kendra could think about was “who?” Who had terrorized her and her classmates with such unimaginable horror? Who?

It wasn’t until the next day that Kendra learned the identity of the person responsible for such an atrocity. The gunman who had callously murdered her friend – her best friend – along with several other students, was none other than Donald Wester, Kendra’s ex-boyfriend of three years. Surprised by the disclosure of such disturbing news, Kendra was left with only one question, “Why?” What could have caused someone with such a great personality, who was widely loved by so many, to do such a horrible thing?

Although this story may seem like a fictional piece of work written by a demented author who had nothing better to write than the gruesome murder of teenagers, it is, in fact, a story based on events being played out in real life all across the globe. The sad fact is, more and more teenagers are going to school with guns, killing their friends, teachers, enemies, and themselves. Instead of being institutions of learning, schools have become battlegrounds for the mentally tormented who seek to end their pain in an aggressive and brutal way. A tragedy that has become all too commonplace in recent years.

As many of you know, my husband has been in law enforcement for the past seventeen years. His current position as Captain of the West District yields him, among other things, supervisor over the school resource division of our local sheriff’s office. Due to the nature of his position, it is of vital importance that he stay aware of the dangers that lurk inside the hallways of national schools.

Because staying one step ahead of those who would commit such senseless acts of violence as school shootings is of utmost importance to keeping kids safe, my husband attended the National Training for School Safety last week. Law Enforcement officers, as well as school personnel, from all over the country gathered together to share insight, wisdom, and strategies for making the schools in America a safer place for children to be. The information shared at these meetings was very informative and gave great insight into the minds of teenage killers.

Perhaps the most light-shedding fact given, media violence was named the main culprit behind the inspiration for most teen killers! Research gathered from around the world clearly shows that the one thing every society who breeds teen killers has in common is violent media influence. Although there are other factors such as dysfunctional families and child-hood bullying that go into the making of a teen killer, the one thing every culture has in common is media violence. Some teen killers have come from great family backgrounds with solid roots, priorities, values, and morals. Some teen killers have never been bullied a day in their life but instead were loved and revered by their peers. Some teen killers did not suffer from suicidal depression or repressed anger at all, but were inspired to acts of violence from what they had seen or experienced through media.

By media we are not just talking about movies and television, although those are major culprits in and of themselves. We are also speaking about literature, music, and video games. Did you know there are video games on the market that give you points for hiring a prostitute, having sex with her, paying her, then killing her to steal your money back? Did you know there are video games who give you points for attacking a peer and bashing his/her head in with a baseball bat? Did you know there are songs being produced whose lyrics scream at you to kill, maim, or injure another human being just for kicks? These are the kinds of things that we, as a society, are allowing our kids to listen to, to infiltrate their minds with, to mentally feast upon, and then we wonder where such bizarre and unimaginable acts of violence such as school shootings stem from!

Media violence is at an all-time high. It is estimated that by the age of 18 most children will have witnessed over a thousand murders through media! Wow! Talk about desensitization! Violence is glorified and deemed the necessary evil in dealing with life circumstances. Take the Incredible Hulk, for example. How does Bruce Banner deal with his frustration? His anger turns him into the Hulk and he goes around bashing things in, throwing cars around, busting out windows, etc. to get even with those who have ticked him off. Sure, the “moral of his story” is that he is taking his anger out on those who have done an injustice, so he seems heroic in his actions. The reality is, he is allowing anger to be displayed in a very violent, often harmful, way. There is NOTHING heroic about that. However, many kids who witness this type of “media hyped heroism” now find it noble to allow there anger to be displayed against those who have done an injustice in their sight. Blowing up and taking aggressive acts towards the school bully seems noble, after all, that’s how Bruce Banner would handle the situation.

Friends, I know when people start talking about media influence defenses go up. We want to make believe that what we listen to, watch, or read doesn’t affect us because “it isn’t real”. We feel we can differentiate reality from fiction and control our behaviors accordingly. We falsely believe that what we allow to enter our minds is harmless entertainment that has no impact on our behavior. We are dead wrong and this erroneous belief is destroying our world!

The Bible talks a lot about the mind and its imaginations and thoughts. Every evil thing is first conceived in the mind. Thoughts that are dwelt upon eventually take hold of our cognitive thinking and work their way into our actions. That is why the Paul wrote that we should bring every THOUGHT captive unto the obedience of Christ. (see II Cor 10:5) What we are and what we yield begins in the mind. The Bible says it very clearly when it says, “but be transformed by the renewing of your MIND” (Romans 12:2), “and be renewed in the spirit of your MIND” (Ephesians 4:23), and “put on the new man who is renewed in KNOWLEDGE” (Colossians 3:10). Our mind is the seat of our soul and the essence of our character. It must be renewed by thinking on good things. Ephesians 5:26 tells us how to renew our minds. It is done with the Word of God! Philippians 4:8 is our pattern for right thinking. We should mentally feed upon, or feed our children, things that are “true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report” if we want to have the kind of minds that produce good behaviors.

You can choose to believe what you will, but there is biblical evidence that what we are and what we become is due to what is going on in the mind. “As he THINKS in his heart so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) Our imagination, thought patterns, and beliefs come from what we hear, see, and read. It is that simple. If we want our children to believe that murder is justifiable, fun, or the ends to a mean then all we have to do is allow them to keep watching movies with murder, playing video games that glorify murder, and listening to music that incites murderous thoughts. Think it silly or not but listen to the words of Ted Bundy who said that seeing media violence gave him the ideas for his gruesome murder spree. He predicted that violent crimes would increase because of the influence of media and it seems he was right. Maybe, if won’t listen to the cautions in the Word of God, we should at least listen to the cautions of a maddened killer who knew his own motivation!

Friends, I implore you today to begin implementing a new set of guidelines in your home if you haven’t already. Games, movies, television, and music are not harmless child’s play. They are food for the soul! What kind of diet are you letting your kids eat?

***note – although I do believe war is often necessary, and supported by scripture, constant viewing of – or game playing of – war scenes can also desensitize us to “killing”. we should not aggressively seek to fight but should fight to protect ourselves or others from the heinous acts of aggressors. Ecclesiates 3:3, 8 tells us there is a time to kill and a time for war, but those times should NOT be eagerly looked forward to and should grieve us when they become necessary. war and bloodshed certainly is no game!***