Why does the USA have so many murders?

Sculpture by Elhanan ben-Avraham

“To whom much is given, much more is required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” 

If you will bear with me a moment, I’d like to speak of a basic underlying principle in the Bible. “To whom much is given, much more is required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” In other words, those who know are held more accountable than those who do not. The great freedoms and abundance achieved in the USA, along with religious freedom to choose, has made it the envy of much of the world, and the nation that millions are still desperately trying to enter.  With that remarkable success in a relatively short time has come the means to be perhaps the greatest influencer upon the rest of the world (through film and art and technology). Reagan called America “the shining city upon a hill” (quoting Jesus). America has been granted much, with a church on every corner, and a Thanksgiving turkey in every home. Or as I once taught in my classes in the USA, “America’s abundance is not merely a product of nature at work.”

To dismiss the persistent effort by certain minority segments of society to influence and confuse and convince our children by imposing the idea that perverse sexuality is normal and healthy is, in my opinion, naive. Add that to the daily input of TV, internet, easily accessed pornography, and regular doses of violent and perverse films, and you shape a society by opening Pandora’s Box of delights.

The people chosen of G-d to be His messengers and example- the Jews- are held at a very high responsibility. It is said to the Jews, “Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3). And, “unto Me you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you are to speak to the Israelites” (Exodus 19:6). IMHO it behoves us as a people to consider the consequences of our choices and our long and painful history. We are witnesses of that long chastisement, and today Israel is given another chance, after two thousand years, back in our own land.

The same holds true for America, a unique nation who has known the goodness (and the severity) of the Old God, perhaps more than any other.

When a nation such as the USA chooses to turn away from Heaven and produce their “bad art,” even driving out the Ten Commandments from public view, it is not a neutral and happy safe-space they find, but Heaven’s antithesis that fills the vacuum and void, equal and opposite- simple physics. When the presence and blessing of G-d is withdrawn, men see themselves as Victims and turn their swords one against the other in blame for their misfortune- even guns (see Lincoln’s comments on the horrific Civil War). Those nations who have never known that blessing and presence, cannot lose what they never had, but may enjoy the comforts and stagnant poverty of lesser gods- be they the materialistic of the ‘happy’ Communists, the non-divine of the Buddhists, the multiple-choice gods of the Hindus, or the viciousness of Allah.

I do believe in the power of Art- and so did the Romans and Greeks, the churches, as well as Hitler and Mao. And don’t kid yourself, Judaism is full of art images – the Menorah, the Ark of the Covenant and the Cherubim, and the star of David. The various forms of art have always influenced the populations in setting standards, for better or worse. Today with the help of the hi-tech of internet and TV media, all travels out at the speed of light. I’m not qualified to lay out a scientific paper with statistics and probabilities, but ‘you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows’ (Bob Dylan). To draw clear lines connecting the dots is best inferred in poetry, I think.

An example is the tattoo, a low form of art. When we were kids a tattoo was reserved for a sailor tattooing ‘Nancy’ on his arm, as per a Rockwell Post cover. Now one celeb tattoos up and down his arm and up his neck, and in a short spell you see folks around the globe with the same – athletes, artists, actors, druggies, prostitutes and urchins, even outdoing each other in bravado. Ideas are carried in those art images setting trends and setting limits or breaking limits in human behavior. The broken limits have now opened Pandora’s Box of horrors, making our macabre headlines, shattering families, spreading hopelessness and homelessness and despair, the proliferation of abortion diminishing the intrinsic value of human life, and increased drug use to fill the void, all eradicating purpose and filling the vacuum with emptiness and vanity, mocking the Old G-d.

When such power is granted to a nation that has known G-d (ask President Washington) along with the great freedoms to use it, a responsibility accompanies the grant.  America has become a prime exporter of extreme pornography, promoting illicit sex and relationships and the glorification of realistic violence for fun and profit in her cinema and computer games offering to the world. That is the food being imbibed by a generation (‘You are what you eat’).  And do not tell me that it has no proven affect on human behavior. Rare is the likes of Quo Vadis, The Robe, The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Jesus of Nazareth, Ozzie and Harriet, the common fare of my generation, found on the menu. Our experience back in the ‘60s was different, as I recall only the Texas university shooting from the tower that shocked the nation and, other than the assassination of the Kennedys, only ‘normal’ inner city violence, Watts etc, as opposed to today’s almost daily suicides, murders, and mass killings of Americans by Americans, from the Columbine high school massacre to today’s outrages.  But my generation had the good fortune to come up essentially in the Norman Rockwell/Billy Graham America. Thank G-d for the few wholesome productions that are still being made, and for which I endeavor to add to the stream of consciousness of our times,  even perhaps only as effective as Don Quixote.

We cannot break the Laws of the Creator with impunity.

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Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published five illustrated books of poetry, painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, and most recently produced THE JERUSALEM ILLUSTRATED BIBLE, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.