For some time now it has felt to me as though civilization in general made a decision to include all of us in a cult of death, and then failed to notify me that I was a member simply by living without protesting the way death permeated more and more of life.
When a nation goes to war we can have various feelings of being uninvolved or, as in the current case, deceived into thinking that war is necessary, and later that continued war is the only honorable response to the initial decision. But now that so many are questioning that orchestrated act of “consensus,” maybe it’s time to pull back even further and wonder if we aren’t also being pulled into some relaxed attitude about death and the value of life that none of us agrees with, yet we confirm simply by not responding against it. This is not the same as my being pulled into any “Right to Life” camp, although we’ll get back to that in a moment.
Recent events have caused me to question the possibility of my own passive “membership” in the cult of death. One car bomb incident alone on July 7 in an Iraqi village killed 105 people. That’s just one day there. If I have knowledge that my government’s actions are provoking that, why do I not demand a halt? When a troubled youth kills 33 innocents at Virginia Tech with easily obtained guns, why do I not demand reform in the laws pertaining to those weapons? When events like Virginia Tech take place and I have certain knowledge that video and computer games are largely based on acts of homicide, why do I shrug as production of those games continues to be a thriving division of the global entertainments exported by my country?
Is it because we’ve moved on from being desensitized to death to something else? Are we all members of the cult by somehow accepting that we must swim in death as part of modern life?
On July 10 a man named Chester Turner was sentenced to death in Los Angeles Superior Court. Turner was found guilty of killing 10 women, including one that was pregnant, between 1987 and 1998. DNA evidence was overwhelming, and the judge agreed with the jury in their finding that death for Turner was “proper according to the law.” While Turner is without question a piece of work, I was still struck with the fact that in the 21st century we answer death with death and that that activity is transacted on my behalf by the courts of my state.
The day before Turner’s sentencing there was a turn in the Phil Spector murder trial. Testimony revealed that, years earlier, Spector had angrily stated that women “all deserve a bullet in their heads” during rants at a holiday party. While Spector now appears to be sole member and president of his own disturbed cult, he’s also a member with standing in a society that has relaxed attitudes about guns. Thanks to that cult, if you will, he can keep his guns close at hand. That society may also soon decide to administer death to Spector.
I naively assumed that when the body count in Iraq exceeded the number of dead from the events of 9/11, there would be a dramatic turn away from killing and leaving our troops in harm’s way. That moment has come and gone, as have so many others, without enough anger about the proliferation of death on our planet at this time.
Now we find ourselves increasingly preoccupied with the potential death of our planet by global warming. We appear to be more easily persuaded to action about the anti-life implications of rising temperatures than we do our death cult and its ascent by way of casualties of war, pervasive handgun ownership and deployment and the often-giddy representations of death in our entertainments.
Maybe the notion of going “green” needs to expand. If we agree that “green” means “life of our planet,” then maybe “green” can include “life on our planet.” The phrase “Right to Life” has always been a semantic twist meant to cloud the issue and thus deny women crucial rights in their life. But even evangelicals are beginning to see that environmental “green” lies down quite properly with their beliefs. Waiting up the road may be a harmonic convergence in which there no longer is confusion about all of us wanting life more than death.