When it comes to celebrity news or sensationalism-centered reporting, I am happy to chime in with most others: it’s annoying. The world–in many places–is unraveling at the seams, we are a nation at war, and the news cycle revolves around So-and-so’s loss of child custody, or What’s-her-name’s drunken driving arrest. Frustrating isn’t the word for it, but it is a frequently heard complaint and one that I would rather discuss at another time.
I’ve been debating whether the coverage of Michael Devlin’s court appearances falls into this category, and whether it does or not I will have to admit more interest than I normally have in such media frenzies. The public often wishes to fixate on the macabre or morbid, and this case provides a fix to those so thirsting, but I think my interest is stirred for the same reasons it is for many others.
For one, I have children, and seeing a monster brought to justice gives me a sense of satisfaction, especially in light of the unavoidable fact that other such monsters continue to lurk out there, uncaught. Another reason is that the kidnapping of Ben Ownby occurred fairly close to where I live, and his kidnapping — as well his rescue and that of Shawn Hornbeck — impacted my family in a personal way (which I related in this previous blog entry some time ago).
But ultimately, I must admit that I am curious about the path that Michael Devlin took from birth to crime. The media (including today’s story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) is full of the usual “how could it have been this guy?” type of comments from those who knew Mr. Devlin. Current accounts depict his upbringing as rather normal, from the little I have read.
Yet, life is cause and effect. Situations like this demand rational explanation. We are in a very real sense ruled by the choices we make and the consequences of those choices. Time and chance may play their parts (limited to the space on the stage that God provides them within His will — a discussion for another time), but it is our choices that generally act in the starring role.
That said, what series of choices did Michael Devlin make that took him down this road? The media will most likely focus on trying to dig up influences on him — abuse in his past, etc. — that could make his choices more comprehensible in some way in light of his own personal universe. Yet, while I admit that such a digging could be helpful and informative, being over focused on influences dilutes our understanding and appreciation of the cumulative power of cause and effect brought into play by our choices. We seek evidence (reassurance) from the news reports that we could never become monsters, ourselves, like Michael Devlin — that our background is different, or that we didn’t have the same kind of family, etc., and therefore there’s no way to get there from here, so to speak. But the fact is that, like Michael Devlin, we are slaves to the results of our choices.
Oddly enough, I am reminded of the brouhaha about Gardisil (the vaccine meant to reduce the cervical cancer incidence rate by protecting against a sexually-transmitted virus) and of the debate about sex education in schools — primarily because I recently read some blog entries by a medical intern with typically asinine comments about both. (They were “typical” in that they fell into the “Let me display my open-mindedness and my logical acumen by being completely close-minded and irrational” category.) The posts on it were a good illustration of the general lack of appreciation of the connection between cause and effect that exists out there — or at least a lack of appreciation for the depth and richness of that connection. It seems as though it is impossible for some to believe that there are more dangerous consequences — both to individuals and to society — to sexual immorality and the sexualization of youth than pregnancy, STDs, or even cervical cancer. But I digress…
The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 6:7 — “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Sometimes we have to reap what others have sown, as well, but so far there is no indication that Michael Devlin is reaping much more than what he has sown, himself. But the reaping is more than the sentencing he is currently experiencing in our courthouses. The perverted life he led, as well, was very likely what he reaped from a previous sowing. Will that path of connected sowings and reapings be revealed in a future media investigation? Will we see a path that was walked from one pornographic pursuit to another? If so, where will popular culture decide he “crossed the line”?
Jesus prophesied that in the end times “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12) and we see a terrible coldness present in the choices of Michael Devlin. But the reason that love will grow cold is also given by Christ in the same verse: “Because lawlessness will abound…” No one should think here that Christ was speaking of the laws of man. The first step Mr. Devlin took toward becoming what he now is was his first step away from God’s way of life. Whether it was the so-called “harmless” porn of cable TV or any other entertainment product generated by our sex-drenched culture that trains its participants to regard human beings as little more than objects and sources of self-gratification, we can be sure that in the path of choices and cause and effect that Michael Devlin walked, society will be very careful to define the step that was “too far” as being one that is far enough down the road to allow their own perversions of choice to continue.
People will judge their own brand of lawlessness to be OK because it is not as bad as Devlin’s.
But cause and effect will continue their reign. And the love of many will continue to grow cold.