You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. -Matthew 5:27-28
“As someone who suffers from severe Chronic Pain and a Chronic Illness worsened by stress, it leaves me with a great need to release stress, I find great release in Violent movies of the lone hero (or anti-hero) like “High Noon”, “Die Hard”, “Rambo”, “Taken”, “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” or “Django Unchained” and in violent video games such as “Max Payne”, “Grand Theft Auto”, and ANY WW2 game, (what’s more of a release then pretending to kill NAZIS, 20th Century’s greatest embodiment of EVIL?)I can attest that it gets the aggression created by my suffering out of my system and by taking out my pain and frustration on virtual bad guys in games and movies, thus not taking it out on my family and friends. I rarely ever loose my temper and haven’t hit someone in anger since I was a teenager. Pretty much everyone I know who enjoys violent movies and violent games are even tempered.”
“As a sufferer from a mental illness that HAS led me to violent fantasy at times, though I’ve never acted on it, I do have to say this: fantasy violence CAN be cathartic.”
Those were two responses to my post A Myth of Cathartic Violence, which mentioned violent video games as one factor in the undeniable violence of American society. It strikes me as strange that these men, both practicing Catholics, believe that indulging a passion somehow “heals” the problem; that fantasizing about something somehow cures evil desires. Such an attitude is common; I even have a friend who is a total pacifist, one who took issue with my decision to buy a gun when my family felt threatened, who loves to play violent war games. To him blowing away the “bad guys” in a violent rampage is harmless fun.
Christ, when he said that to look at a woman with lust is to commit adultery in one’s heart, surely did not mean that such fantasy has the same rippling negative effects that the act of adultery does. It does not, ordinarily, lead to divorce or the other complications and pain that can ensue in the wake of adultery. Isn’t “mere” fantasy relatively harmless? Cathartic, even?
For that matter, one could argue that online pornography is “cathartic”, that it prevents one from indulging in “real” sins. Surely it is better to engage in a little graphic fantasy than to cheat on one’s wife?
But what Jesus Christ was concerned about was the state of the soul: to engage in evil thoughts darkens one’s soul, and it damages the Body of Christ if you are baptized, and the more elemental human solidarity that is the collective consciousness of humanity if not. And any passion, if indulged, grows stronger, not weaker.
The heart of intercessory prayer is expressed in the Litany of Peace from the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern churches, and the very first prayer in that litany is “For peace from on high and the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord: Lord have mercy.”
I’m pretty sure that such peace is unattainable if one is expressing wrath or lust, even in the privacy of one’s own fantasy.
If it is wrong to commit adultery in your heart, surely it is no less so to commit murder.