Drinking, Gambling, Guns, and Porn Are Not Problems

December 5, 2012

Over the weekend, a tragedy in my city made the news.Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, Jovan Belcher, shot his girlfriend (and mother of his infant child) nine times on Saturday morning.  Then he went to Arrowhead stadium where he shot himself in front of his coach and general manager.

Over the last few days, people have been trying to explain why such a thing would happen.  Why would a twenty-five year old football player do this?

They say he was hooked on painkillers.

He drank heavily every night.

He and his girlfriend had been having “problems,” and the Chiefs were providing counseling for the couple.

I hate to say it, but something can be learned by the rest of us from this event.  Jovan’s problem was not drugs or alcohol or his girlfriend.

His problem was the same one you and I have.

We Don’t Have a Gun Problem

Just as predictably as people have been trying to explain the unexplainable, there have been the talking heads shamelessly taking advantage of a tragedy to preach their agenda of gun control.

“We have a gun problem!” they say.

That’s a lie.  We don’t have a gun problem.

Kansas City proper has racked up about a hundred homicides this year (which, incidentally, is a worse murder rate per capita than even Chicago.)  Meanwhile, the equally populated areas of the metro which surround Kansas City remain relatively peaceful, with just a few murders per year, though many residents of those areas own guns too.

Our culture doesn’t have a gun problem.  That’s like saying Medieval Europe had a sword problem.

We have a violence problem.

A gun is never going to kill anyone.  No matter how much you try to piss it off and provoke it, it remains an inanimate object. Violent people will hurt others.  And once we start to realize that our society’s problem is violence, not the tools of violence, everything else comes into focus.

What’s the Diagnosis?

Our culture loves scapegoats.

We love to be “understanding” toward people who do unthinkable things.  We try to find reasons for unreasonable actions. We like to diagnose people with “diseases” so no one is ever responsible for their own actions.

Drunk wife beaters now have a “disease” (which isn’t even the right word. “Illness” would be the more appropriate misnomer.)

Child molesters have a disease.

Deadbeat miscreants have a disease.

Give me a break.

The tabloids say that Lindsey Lohan is drinking two liters of vodka a day in despair over her life these days.  Anyone would say she has an “alcohol problem.”

Not me.  Her problems are much deeper than that.  Two liters of alcohol will never force itself down your throat.  Lindsey Lohan’s problem is not alcohol or the press hounding her.  Her problem is Lindsey Lohan.

Jovan Belcher’s problem was not his family or alcohol or pills.  His problem was himself.  On Friday, his resume was 25 year old football star.

On Saturday, his resume was reduced to “murderer and coward.”

I Have a “Me” Problem

You and I do not have alcohol problems or porn problems or gambling problems.

Those are just things.  Things are not problems. None of those things force themselves on any of us.

Your problem is you.

My problem is me.

We have “Me” problems.  Not drinking problems or gambling problems, but Me problems.

That is to say we have sin problems.  Sin is born into us.  It is part of us.  It is violent, addictive, selfish and depressing.  It is not outside of us, in a bottle, or in a bullet.  It is in us.  There are no other “underlying factors” or “root causes.”

As long as we keep our scapegoats around, we may feel better in the short term.  We may think we’ve “rationalized” our world.  We have escaped blame.

But until we say “I have a ME problem,” we’ll never find redemption.

What do you think?  Has our culture over-diagnosed every bad behavior, creating a catch-22 of excuses?

31 responses to Drinking, Gambling, Guns, and Porn Are Not Problems

  1. You do write some very provocative titles. I understand and agree with you but to most people, you tell them this and they’ll start screaming “you’re judging me! You’re a Christian and you aren’t supposed to be judging me!”
    They know the truth. They just don’t want to admit it.

  2. Good word Matt. Do you think we also need to let people know not just that they have indwelling sin, but that it also puts them at odds with their Creator and His wrath abides on them because of it? It seems today that because we are in a post Christian society where most people are not famaliar with the biblical storyline, that if we just tell them they have sin that their immediate response is “who cares”. But if we tie it to the fact that they were made by God and therefore are accountable to Him, then maybe with the Spirit’s help they can then make the connection that they must repent and turn to Jesus to find redemption.

    • I think you’re right. Calling people out on their sin comes off as judgmental and even hypocritical to a post Christian culture. They need to know that it is not we who judge ultimately, but God, and they are missing out on their purpose in life by living sinfully.

  3. Expecting people to take personal responsibilty for their actions is often seen as intolerant and lacking in compassion. I accept that there are probably a myriad of circumstances which may have contributed to this tragedy, but you’re absolutely right, ultimately there is one person responsible for it. All this to say, I completely agree with you.

  4. It’s so much easier to blame everyone else.
    “If they would change then things would be better.”
    “If they paid me more I would be a better worker.”
    “If she treated me with more respect I would be a better husband.”
    “If God would heal me I would be happier.”
    “if the government would…if my parents didn’t…if the mortgage company could…”

    There is only one thing under my control; ME. When I start taking responsibility for me and all my actions things will change. As long as I am waiting for everyone else to change it will be a difficult life. McManus said that violence is arrogance when it doesn’t get its way.

  5. As an atheist I found this reasonably entertaining as a read, but you need to understand when you go about preaching “you’re full of sin, repent!” etc. to non-believers we really do not care. At all. We’re not being judged by “God” and there is no evidence to suggest any of the religious dogma which floats about. Incidentally, which god are you referring to? Presumably the monotheistic Christian “God”, but there are thousands you can choose from. Interestingly it was disocvered recently that, in ancient Rome, Christians were referred to as atheists by the Romans as they didn’t believe in their good Zeus.

    And the problem isn’t always “me” or you; have a read of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat (Oliver Sacks) to understand neurology and how the human mind often can’t even contain itself. This can induce people to have problems such as alcoholism etc. through no fault of their own.

    • “No fault of their own?” Dispositions towards some things may not be our fault, but actually delving into those things are our fault.

      So, as an atheist, do you believe in a moral code to follow or are we fated to live by neurology programmed into us by chance or culture or whatever? Since there is no rule maker can we just make up the rules as we go? Just wondering…

      • “Actually delving into those things are our fault.” You’re a bit vague here, but the example I’ll use is someone who has bipolar disorder or is a manic depressive. Often turning to drugs, such as alcohol or doctor prescribed pills, is the only solution. To just reel off the nonsensical, “you have sinned, sinner, find Jesus and all will be well” is illogical at best. And why? As it’s based on no evidence or facts whatsoever. Case in point the Christian couple who, instead of taking their son for medical attention when he had a severe illness, decided to pray for his recovery. The result? The son died. The parents escaped court as they’re Christians. Frankly this seems to me more of a disposition than an alcoholic, who at least has an epiphany at some stage, realises the futility of existence, and ends their life. This may seem bleak and harsh but it is simply facing up to reality.

        I’m an existentialist so I believe in absurdity within a godless, futile Universe. There is peace in only one life, it’s just a shame others cannot see this. Instead we have the belief in wild fairy tales and idiotic anachronisms. Anyway, humans will just make up whatever we want as we bumble through history. The moral codes we have created for ourselves are still being refined. That’s evolution for you.

  6. Sorry, but this is all way too damn simplistic. All this stereotypical, right-wing talking point whining pisses me off, quite frankly.

    My little sister is in the hospital right now following a suicide attempt. She does not have a “sin problem”, nor does she need to “take responsiblity” for something or other. Sorry if it sounds too much like “making excuses”, but she’s got some kind of mental illness and that’s a FREAKING DISEASE.

    She has an actual disease that is not going to be fixed by prayer or “getting right with God” or whatever Christianese you’d like to throw at it.

    Because, when you think about it, all of us have a “sin problem” of some sort–yet not all of us throw ourselves off bridges.

    • Yes – you have it exactly right, Abby – _ALL_ of us have a sin problem – your sister, you, me, Matt…..EVERYONE. And that sin manifests itself in different ways in different people. There’s also the corporate sin of the world that has something of a cumulative effect on our bodies and minds (my family has a tendency toward depression, my husband’s toward ADD (our kids are doomed)) – all because Adam sinned and his kids sinned and so on all the way to us with our bodies and minds getting further and further from the perfection that was created.

      Is your sister where she is because of a specific sin? My guess is probably not…but is she where she is because of sin? Absolutely. We all have a sin problem. There are medicines, there are treatments that can deal with symptoms of our condition, but until we deal with the root problem, we’re never going to get better.

      I can’t imagine what you and your family are going through right now, but please know that I’ll be praying for you guys, and especially for your sister.

      • This is exactly the insane type of gibberish I have spent years writing about. The only thing that should be happening with religion these days is humans should be mocking and ridiculing such childish fairy tale nonsense. Science has developed so much over the last 150 years that religion is now almost entirely superfluous. Embrace some logic for a change. Facts. Evidence. Science helps provide this. Religion just clouds judgement.

        • Wow, Dr., you are rather rather bleak and depressing. I think even Solomon wrote about this when he said that “everything was vanity and chasing after the wind.” Unfortunately you cannot explain what has happened to my soul, and in my soul. You may choose to mock it and call it unscientific, but nonetheless I encountered the living God and my life was altered. The proof? The hope, the peace, the way I treat people differently, and life; not breathing and heartbeat kind of life, but something else. Just as my convictions won’t change you, you can’t change this. I do appreciate you answering my question. Thank you.

        • Apparently you’ve never heard of a certain French mathematician and physicist named Blaise Pascal. According to him, the only _logical_ choice is to believe in a creative, supernatural force (i.e., God). It’s commonly called “Pascal’s Wager.” Look it up.

      • With all due respect, Melissa, my sister is in the condition she’s in because of a chemical imbalance in her nervous system, not a “personal” or “societal” sin. Given the way she’s presented, I’m guessing it’s either bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

        I appreciate the prayers as always, but there is no “getting to the root problem” in this situation. What she needs right now is a good psychiatrist to get her properly diagnosed and treated–frankly, that’s all I’m praying for right now. (Since she’s been living in Texas without health insurance, that kind of help has been hard to come by.)

        Thing is, if she were lying in the hospital with meningitis would there be any duscussion of how sin was involved? If the football player in Matt’s story had a physical illness instead of a mental one (which it clearly sounds like he had), would Matt have even wrote what he did? I doubt it very much.

        My family is finding out that, as well-meaning as they can be, pastors know exactly jack $%&#t about mental illness. Matt’s piece here just proves it.

        It’s tempting to chalk mental illness up to a spiritual problem, which is why Christians seem to suck at dealing with it so much.

        • Thanks for categorizing all pastors with one sweep of your hand. We know about mental illness and psychiatric disorders and do not discount the power they have to make life very difficult. We know those disorders are not solved by more prayer and bible study. Matt certainly isn’t saying that either. I am sorry about your sister but it seems that you are venting your anger in the wrong direction.

          • Oh, please. As if I haven’t got enough going on right now without having to be concerned about your delicate feelings, Brian. I’m a random person on the internet–you can either interpret what I write as a personal slight or you can do the grown-up thing and ignore it if it bothers you that much.

            You don’t even know me–you’ve got no right to tell me where to vent my anger. And, believe it or not, this isn’t all about you.

        • Abby, I can’t begin to know what you and your family is going through, but I will also definitely be praying that you can find a good psychiatrist, that the doctor will quickly find the right dosages and mix of medicines that will help her and that your sister will be diligent to take the medications consistently. I agree that medicine can help a situation like bipolar dysfunction, thyroid disease (me) and high blood pressure/high cholesterol (my husband). However, even though those medicines are highly beneficial, life-prolonging, and even life-saving, they will never heal your sister, me or my husband. Only God can completely heal us in every way–physically, mentally and spiritually. May God comfort you in this time of extreme pain, may He give you and your family wisdom in how to help your sister, may He bring healing to her and give her hope. {HUGS}.

        • Actually, yes…if she were lying in the hospital with meningitis, I would still blame sin. God created a perfect world – without disease (of any sort) or death. Cancer, meningitis, the common cold, ADD, the flu, depression, pneumonia….they’re all here because of sin. What we have to look forward to in heaven is a _new_ perfect world – where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain – because _sin_ will be wiped clean.

          Our bodies, our minds, our world – they’re all broken. And it’s all because of sin. And it sucks.

          • And what I keep failing to say (because apparently I’m dumb) is that I’m speaking on larger terms here. Yes – your sister needs to get treatment from dedicated medical professionals and I really do hope she gets the right treatment and that it helps her regain some “normalcy”….but _all_ neurological conditions, all diseases, all violence, all heartache…..their root is in sin. Their cause is sin. And until sin is gone, those things will remain, no matter how smart we think we are or how many new drugs or therapies we develop. No matter how many times we successfully treat the symptoms of sin, sin remains.

            I have a tendency to speak on societal terms and forget how it affects people personally. I never intended to say that your sister should get some sort of medical treatment or that I thought she could be healed by repenting of some sin or another. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely believe that she could be healed miraculously without any other than supernatural intervention, but I also believe that medicine is a very useful tool that can be used by God for miraculous things.

            But while I’m in my ivory tower, you’re in a much less black and white place. It’s something I need to work on, and I hope you’ll forgive me!

  7. Agree, agree, agree. Let’s get rid of our sinful, selfish selves, let Jesus do a work in our lives and the “Me” problem will be dealt with.

  8. It’s a little more complicated than “Your problem is you. My problem is me.”

    I would also add after those “Our problem is we. Or lack there of.”

    Focusing on individual piety and morality only gets you so far. It doesn’t address corporate evil and sin. Nor do I believe that fixing individuals will magically fix the corporate either. Gotta work on both. There’s a culture in the NFL and it’s in the business and with the individual players who often retire drug addicted, with money troubles, and divorced.

  9. “She has an actual disease that is not going to be fixed by prayer or “getting right with God” or whatever Christianese you’d like to throw at it.” -Abby

    There’s also that! On a practical level, I think our caring relationships should check and balance each other, help the other seek help from a professional source.

  10. Powerful statements brother. So right on too. Just another case of fighting symptoms in the hopes of curing the disease’

  11. As per usual I’m catching up on reading and leaving a comment. :) Also, I can imagine the reactions you’ve received for this post so I won’t bother reading them. I come here for your content and straight-shooting perspective.

    Thank you, Matt. In light of the tragedy in CT yesterday I think this post is rather poignant. And while very simplified I appreciate your sword analogy. We do have a violence problem rooted in sin and we must start w/ the man (or woman) in the mirror.

    This reminds me a bit of Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz where he talks about taking ownership for our crap.

    Keep up the good work. No matter what “they” may say about you. :)

  12. I heard a similar concept a while back regarding the increase in psychological disorders and some of the seemingly crazy ones. The speaker then dropped the bomb: “There are 7 billion ‘disorders’ in the world today and each one is unique.” Mine is called the Jeremy Mavis disorder, while everyone else’s has their name attached to it. You’re right, Matt, our problem is not “things” but rather ourselves. Thanks goodness from the Gospel!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. The politics of personal tragedy | Katdish.net - December 6, 2012

    […] I’m hardly the first to make the observation that ultimately, Jovan Belcher is to blame for th… While you might make the argument that any or all of the aforementioned scenarios may have contributed to his mental state and his acts of violence, a reasonable person simply cannot dismiss the need for personal responsibility. […]