There is hope for America
For the best part of two decades, people of faith have expressed increasing concern that our society was collapsing into a moral morass, a veritable cesspool of debauchery fueled by easy access to images and language that objectified, demeaned and denigrated.
It seemed as if our cultural outlets were leading the charge, either by intent or accident. Musicians (in the most flexible definition), magazines, television and movies all seemed to be in one headlong race to the bottom of toilet bowl.
Violence, sex, and a general sense that if it shocks it sells has pervaded our media marketplace.
Excepting the people who lead faith congregations, most of us shook our heads in regret, but then tuned the radio, CD player, or television to Hollywood's latest and most disturbing offerings.
This societal dumbing down has serious consequences, far beyond the embarrassment of parents having to answer children's innocent questions about what they've seen and heard.
Mass shootings, while maybe not all motivated by violent imagery, seem to reveal common threads about sustained exposure to video and computer games where the act of taking a human life is part of the strategy for "winning."
Spend enough time alone in a room with a trigger and the barrel of a firearm spewing a fusillade of bullets into a computer-generated person, and a vulnerable person could lose what little inhibitions toward violence they have left.
Add to that diminished emotional processing capacity and you have a Jared Loughner (the Arizona mass shooter), Dylan Klebold (of Columbine High) or Adam Lanza (whose handiwork was on display in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT).
Please don't misinterpret this as a call for a return to the 1950's. Time marches on, and societal evolution is an undeniable reality.
This isn't about denying shifting trends in culture; this is about acknowledging that some things, no matter how appealing, are not necessarily appropriate for mass consumption.
The argument over gun control begrudgingly includes references about cultural contributors to shocking tragedies involving mass shootings. As with past examples, we'll restrict Second Amendment rights long before we address violent movies, music or video games.
If it sounds like we're resigned to further and more outrageous examples of violence leading to future tragedies, there is hope.
Hope in the form of a family of duck call makers in eastern Louisiana. That's right, one network, A&E, has discovered a programming gem that offers hope for the future of the American soul.
Hyperbole? Well, maybe. On the other hand, would anyone have been able to predict the ratings success of a 30-minute television show featuring a lovable but odd family of camouflage-wearing, sweet tea-drinking, church-going rednecks who patented and sold millions of highly effective duck calls?
Father of the clan, Phil Robertson, designed the original duck call. He built and sold the calls out of his backwoods home, until his second youngest son Willie graduated from college with a business degree and a head for big deals.
Now, the company called Duck Commander sells duck calls at around $30 a pop (or quack), tee-shirts, ball caps, hunting videos, and a catalog full of related merchandise.
The television show, called Duck Dynasty, is the number one rated non-scripted show on television, where 8.6 million households tuned in a few weeks back for the season three premier.
Not a show for animal lovers who think man has no right to kill another creature, the Robertson's truly live off the land/swamp, so ducks, frogs, squirrel, fish and deer grace their table on a regular basis. Nothing goes to waste, as these stewards of their lands understand the interconnection of man and his natural environment.
And in the end, that explains how a humorous reality show about a family business offers hope about faith in our culture. This family also happens to believe in the redeeming power of their Savior, and they celebrate that faith on a weekly basis.
Each 30-minute episode ends with the entire family gathered around the dinner table, hands clasped, heads bowed as they express their gratitude for the both the bounty that has been provided for them and the blessing of family.
They fight, prank, and fuss each week, one sibling or employee trying to outdo another. They get frustrated, competitive and jealous. In the end, though, they acknowledge that all of their success and blessings come from their shared faith.
Kanye West and 50 Cent can rap about drive-byes and pimpin'. Leatherface will continue to swing a chainsaw through terrified teens in Texas. Legions of youngsters will still flock to Best Buy for the newest Call of Duty video game.
As long as 8.6 million households gather in the living room to watch a family who loves one another celebrate their shared success and thank God for giving them all that they have, then one can't help but hope that faith will find a way through the darkness.