A man described to me a game his teenage son played at church. It’s an electronic version of paintball, where kids wired up in battle gear shoot each other with beams of light. “We’re going to give him all the equipment for Christmas,” the dad said. “It’s kind of expensive, but he’s a good kid. He doesn’t ask for much. I think he deserves it.”
“Really?” I responded. “He deserves to aim a laser gun at other kids and pull a trigger until they are all, um, eliminated? It sounds like you’re teaching your son to kill.”
“Oh, you’re making too much of it. It’s just a game.”
I objected. For more than an hour.
That conversation was two years ago. In light of the mass murder at a Connecticut elementary school in December, I feel even more strongly about my objection to the “game.”
As a denomination, Southern Baptists took up the cause of the unborn not long after abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. By several counts, the number of babies aborted in the U.S. since 1973 is almost 56 million.
Every year, many congregations mark “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” near the January anniversary of the court ruling. And many Christians participate in pro-life activities, standing outside abortion clinics, placing fields of white crosses on church lawns to demonstrate the numbers of babies lost, and supporting crisis pregnancy ministries to aid pregnant women.
That work is admirable, and must continue until abortion is ended. But what the killings in Newtown tell me is that in our recent discussions of the sanctity of life, we’ve missed the value of the already born.
Our culture has so devalued life that death seems to have little consequence. And we’re teaching that to our children every day. Parents might dismiss this as a predictable preacher’s rant, but I think it’s time to examine carefully the influences we allow into our kids’ lives and the values we uphold before them.
In so many movies and video games, for example, the goal is killing, and killing is rewarded. And for shooters who do the deed electronically, there’s no blood, no corpse, no funeral, no consequence for their actions – other than scoring points.
Perhaps it’s time for a field trip to the cemetery, so children can see that death is real, grief is deep, and life must be valued and protected.
And we need to broaden our discussion of the sanctity of life again, starting rightly with the unborn, but also including the first-grader in the classroom, the teenager on the gang-dominated streets, the despondent contemplating suicide, and the terminally ill. Sanctity of life is about protecting all the living.
Life has value – on earth and ultimately in heaven. But let’s not rush getting there.
Eric Reed is a pastor and journalist living in Wheaton. He serves as editorial consultant for IBSA media.