Michael Devlin, Cause and Effect, and Prophecy

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.

5 thoughts on “Michael Devlin, Cause and Effect, and Prophecy

  1. Shana

    Your comment about how people will decide that Michael Devlin went “too far” as being one that will allow their own perversions to continue is right on. It seems many genuine people (not media) truly want a better life or answers to their questions but they don’t want to change any of their personal choices. After September 11th I remember talking to some friends from work who really wanted answers about how this could happen to us and why God would allow it. They were fine listening to the history of Muslims, Jews and Christians but when it came down to discussing that God is not going to protect a nation that continues to profane his laws they tuned out.

    There are so many atrocities in society that we wouldn’t ever have to discuss or deal with if people would understand that there is a consequence to their actions, such as abortion, illegitimacy, divorce etc. but we don’t teach that to children anymore. Instead of abstinence we promote safer sex and abortion if that doesn’t work. Instead of marriage being a lifetime covenant before God we make easy divorce acceptable. People don’t have to take responsibility or even learn the relationship between cause and effect because there is always an “out,” until one day one goes too far past societal norms and turns into a Michael Devlin.

  2. Deano

    Howdy Mr. Smith,

    Excellent commentary. A couple things came to mind reading it. The first and obvious one was that often times neglect or abuse are factors in corrupt behavior later on in life. Then you hit that one.

    You made a greater point though in bringing out that our choices MATTER. Even if one DOES come from a bad background as an adult we have the responsibility to make appropriate changes to overcome the past – not live in it and use it as an excuse to be miserable and/or harm others.

    Something else came to mind as well. Judas Iscariot got to a point where the Devil was able to literally possess him. I believe it was a process that occurred due to wrong choices based upon, to a great degree, greed. If I remember correctly he pilfered the treasurey box before he went on to get the 30 pieces of silver. He was living a lie and he ended up betraying our Lord and committing suicide.

    Then I thought a big part of the problem lies upon false religion. The idea that we can do anything we want because Jesus did it all for us and the law is done away. This along with faulty education and corrupt governments seem to be the three biggies, humanly speaking, that are the causes of most of our problems. It’s like we train ourselves to be this way.

    A verse came to mind as well. “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Eccleciastes 8:11.

    A little leaven leavens the whole lump as it were.

    As these Fall Holy Days pictured, it will be so wonderful and awesome when these problems are dealt with, in the right way, at our Lord’s return.

    Anyway, great commentary Mr. Smith – thought provoking as usual.


  3. This is a great post. I completely agree with your point about “influence” and “choice.” I believe very strongly that God influences us through His Word and His Spirit, but it is ultimately up to to us to make choices. It is the one seat of power He gave us, and we will give an account.

    I also think your point about society’s desire to assure themselves (ourselves) that we could never be a Michael Devlin is also astute. But for the choices we make, we certainly could be. “There is no temptation except that which is common to man,” and if he got down his path through porn, then there are millions of others who are at risk.

    Lastly, your statement that:
    (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.)

    Made me LOL =)


  4. Shabbat shalom!

    The comment that made Will Riddle “LOL” reminded me of something. I’ll speak in more detail privately. Let me just say here that we seem to have a common and natural annoyance at refusal to look at the blindingly obvious.

  5. Pingback: Am I really writing about Britney Spears? « Thoughts En Route

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