1 ‘History continues to validate the biblical account that man is by his own nature sinful-indeed, imprisoned by his sin.
And we are not reluctant prisoners. Like Augustine, we actually delight in sin and evil. What else explains our secret delight in another’s fall? What else accounts for our morbid fascination with violence on television or the bloody carnage of horror films? Alypius, Augustine’s friend and student who shared his experience in the garden, learned this lesson well.
Alypius was addicted to his day’s popular form of entertainment, the bloody gladiatorial games. Frightened by the grip these had on him, he vowed passionately to break his addiction. After avoiding the games successfully for some time, Alypius one day met several friends who, knowing his weakness, dragged him into the arena. Forced into the crowded coliseum, Alypius determined he would not watch. So he hunched in his stone seat, jammed among screaming, frenzied fans, his eyes screwed shut and his hands over his ears.
Suddenly, with a single voice, the crowd sent up the loudest bloodcurdling cry of delight he had ever heard. Curiosity gripped him. He opened his eyes in time to see one of the fighters fall, covered with blood. He drank in the insane violence. “And I fell more miserably than that gladiator, he confided to Augustine later.
Though Alypius thought himself above the enjoyment of such bloodshed, his will was no match for the evil thrill it brought. He became “drunk on blood and pleasure,” and he was again one with his friends and the evil he abhorred.2
Who has not found himself at some point slyly boasting of his sins, as Augustine confessed, to earn the “praise it brought”?3 So pervasive is the sin in us that we are subject to lonely shame if we cannot share in the sins of our peers.
What causes a man like Alypius to cheer lustily as a gladiator’s head is lopped off?4 Why, in our modern gladiatorial contest played out on a national and international scale, now called war, do we sense a certain spellbinding grandeur in the drama of armies moving across a field of battle?5,6 Why do those who find war’s allure the most irresistible often become national heroes?7 ( Remember the moment in the movie “Patton” when the legendary general, played by George C. Scott, looked over the field of battle from a command vehicle with undisguised exaltation: “Look,” he said to his companion, “could anything be more magnificent? . . . I must tell the trust-I love it- God . . . I do love it!”8) And why does the same bloody thrill grip a movie theater audience when [fill in the blank]….
What is it? Nothing less than the evil within us, the dark side of the line that, Solzhenitsyn wrote, passes through each human heart.’
I believe that Charles Colson has hit it right on the bulls eye. Our culture drinks violence, in movies, in video games, in books. Just look at the top seller book list: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, these games are soaked in dripping blood. Video games are like the modern gladiator arenas, just without the real people. Games where wars of past are replayed in vivid reality. When young men cheer raising their controllers in the air when they get a kill. And boasting occurs over who had the most head shots. Movies that would be rated R years ago are now only PG-13. And, the worst yet, Christians who are supposed to be the light of the world are immersed in these types of media day in and day out. We Christians have a hard time not taking part in sin along with the rest of the world. I have struggled with want to play these games, to read these books and to watch these movies. But something inside me has said, “You are not of the world anymore, you do not have to do this. You have been made a new creation in Christ.”
1- Charles Colson, Loving God pgs. 121-122
2- Confessions pg. 144
3- Confessions pg. 68
4- Many movies include such scenes: see the Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey
5- J. Glen Gray, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle
6- Men especially feel this exhilaration
7- Theodore Plantinga, Learning to Live with Evil chapter 11
8- From the shooting script of “Patton”