Watching Murder Is Acceptable Again

Watching Murder Is Acceptable Again

Impulses suppressed when Christianity reigned are bound to reappear as Christianity wanes. Bloodlust is one of these passions.

Romans before Christianity watched as gladiators killed each other, the crowd hoping for good sport and dignified deaths. Execution of state enemies opened proceedings to set the right tone and whet appetites. Even with this prompting, fighters sometimes had to prodded by hot irons to remind them of their duty. Animals hunts with men as hunters and hunted were also popular.

People took enjoyment from these sports, expressing pleasure as victims were ripped open, stabbed, or had their throats slit (often to ensure deaths weren’t faked). Since many of the “contestants” were condemned criminals and would anyway have been executed in mundane ways, why not have some fun with them? Besides, many gladiators were volunteers, the celebrated performers of their day.

Why not have these contests now? After all, why shouldn’t consenting adults be allowed to do what they want? And to charge admission for it? Consenting adults killing each other does no harm to anybody else. It would seem to provide a sort of catharsis for audience members. They can have their lust for anger and murder assuaged in the ring, where it is controlled, and keep it from spilling out onto the streets.


Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus

Tertullian didn’t think so. In about 200 AD he wrote a profound and compelling argument condemning bloodsport. In De Spectaculis he castigated Christians for attending gladitorial games and circuses. “The servants of God are directly forbidden to have anything to do with such assemblies!” he wrote.

The reasons Tertullian gave for this condemnation were sufficient to convince his brother Christians to abandon the arena and take up gentler pursuits. His and similar admonishments held for some 1,800 years.

That was then. Tertullian’s arguments are not well remembered today. We don’t have now, or yet again, live action killings. Maybe we don’t need to, given the astonishing advancements in cinematic technique. Torture, killing, dismemberment, and so forth can be made to seem so realistic it’s almost as if you were there. Slaughter is now art.

Stilled Life

Art was the goal of pervert director Lars Von Trier, the man responsible for Antichrist (in which genitals are show being shredded) and Nymphomaniac. His new movie is The House That Jack Built. (This is only one example of an increasing number.) It is reported that when it was shown at Cannes, scores walked out.

Even jaded critics well used to sick screen sights had too much. One called the movie “vomitive”. Another said “Vile movie. Should not have been made. Actors culpable”. Women and children are “brutally — and graphically — murdered” and then mutilated (descriptions can be found by simple searches, but I won’t link to them). “The Danish director said the new movie is his most violent film to date — and he’s proud of that.” Just as you can be proud of clicking here to read the rest.

Bonus link! Here’s a coincidence: It’s Time To Finally Admit Professional Sports Are Bad For Society (see references for Tertullian).


  1. Of course, Tertullian saved his sadism for the afterlife. He spoke of the joy he looked forward to when he could spend eternity laughing at those he didn’t like being tortured by hellfire – people such as poets and philosophers. And this Church father explained to other Christians that they could look forward to this eternal enjoyment was one of the benefits of believing in Christ.

  2. Sorry, “was one of the benefits” should have been “as one of the benefits”.

  3. grodrigues

    Lars von Trier is the quintessential example of an artistic fraud. I have seen three movies directed by him; his first, “Europa”, was at least tolerable if a pretentious nullity, but then he goes downwards and downwards, each one worse than the previous, if that is even possible.

    And as an aside, curious how the list of quotes produced by the above commenter from St. Thomas manages to completely mangle what he *explicitly* says as he illuminates in what sense the Just in heaven will rejoice in the punishments of the wicked, namely:

    “I answer that, a thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly.

    Reply to Objection 1: To rejoice in another’s evil as such belongs to hatred, but not to rejoice in another’s evil by reason of something annexed to it. Thus a person sometimes rejoices in his own evil as when we rejoice in our own afflictions, as helping us to merit life: “My brethren, count it all joy when you shall fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2).”

    Intellectual integrity is a special commodity; much better to mouth off in blissful ignorance.

  4. grodrigues

    @Lee Phillips:

    “I don’t see any commenter above reproducing quotes from St. Thomas.”

    And I do not see any commenter commenting on anyone, you included, “reproducing quotes from St. Thomas”. The closest that appears on this thread is the sentence “curious how the list of quotes produced by the above commenter” and then continues to focus on the specific case of St. Thomas that “illuminates in what sense the Just in heaven will rejoice in the punishments of the wicked”, something that ignorant trolls will miss from the horrible mangling.

  5. I guess I was thrown by your “curious how the list of quotes produced by the above commenter from St. Thomas”. I still don’t know what you’re trying to say. (I’ve never been to the island of St. Thomas, if that’s what you mean.)

  6. I think I get it, sort of. You’re quoting from Aquinas, calling him “St. Thomas”, who wrote a thousand years after Tertullian. And this is supposed to show somehow that I lack integrity because I summarized what Tertullian actually said, rather than what Aquinas wrote a millennium later, that puts a somewhat different light on things? Do I have that about right?

  7. grodrigues

    @Lee Phillips:

    “And this is supposed to show somehow that I lack integrity because I summarized what Tertullian actually said”

    The integrity comment was not directed at you, but your reading is possible, nay very plausible, so an apology is in order — my apologies.

    St. Thomas wrote 1000 years later than Tertullian, sure, but he *explains* in what sense the Just in Heaven will rejoice in the pains of the damned in hell — and that is how Tertullian should be read. You did not summarize Tertullian in any way whatsoever. To suppose otherwise, is to read Tertullian as railing against sadistic and cruel spectacles in this life, to then finding solace, expressed in the *last* section of his work, in enjoying such spectacles in Heaven. Neither is he “laughing at those he didn’t like being tortured by hellfire – people such as poets and philosophers”; he is not laughing at poets qua poets (for then he would have to laugh of say, the psalmists) nor of philosophers qua philosophers. He speaks of “governors of provinces, too, who persecuted the Christian name”, “the very philosophers, in fact, who taught their followers that God had no concern in ought that is sublunary”, “Poets also, trembling not before the judgment-seat of Rhadamanthus or Minos, but of the unexpected Christ!”

    Now I well understand that this is all futile; you want to cast Tertullian as a closet sadist? Disregard everything I have said; who I am to confute you?

  8. Michael 2

    Tertullian: “Moreover, a man pronounces his own condemnation in the very act of taking his place among those with whom, by his disinclination to be like them, he confesses he has no sympathy.”

    And yet Jesus seems to have done that very thing, took place among sinners, had disinclination to himself be a sinner and had no sympathy for sin (but yet sympathy for a sinner).

    So I get the point (I think) that Tertullian is making: To wallow in mud is to become muddy oneself; but a charitable person might have to wade into the mud from time to time to help someone out, where by asked or inspiration one realizes there is someone willing to be pulled out of the mire.

    As to celebrating the punishment of sinners, that is a thing that my particular branch of Christianity disavows. There will be no punishment; for there will be none to punish (perform the acts of punishment), and no point or purpose to it. The wicked will probably engage in criminal behaviors on each other of course then as now but will be ignored by spirits that occupy a higher plane. If God does not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance (or look on it AT ALL), why would you or I? I believe that in that day, we won’t choose to look on it.

    It’s like going to a flower garden. In that garden are hundreds of varieties of beautiful flowers, but there’s also a pile of dog poop. Your only concern about the dog poop, your notice if it, if at all, is to not step in it.

    So it will likely be in Heaven. Who will *want* to watch whatever it is that the wicked are trying to do to each other? It serves no purpose, it is not beautiful, not informative, not even entertaining.

  9. Dr K.A. Rodgers

    Titus Andronicus anyone?

  10. swordfishtrombone


    “Who will *want* to watch whatever it is that the wicked are trying to do to each other? It serves no purpose, it is not beautiful, not informative, not even entertaining.”

    Let’s not be too hasty – it might be a bit entertaining.

  11. Joy

    Then there is Brigs favourite quote, (still quoted recently)
    —What is best in life?
    To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.
    Conan the Barbarian. Much quoted by W m Briggs.
    High brow stuff!
    This movie was on recently, it was absolute tripe. The draw, I think, is that the women walk around topless. There’s much blood and guts and mud wrestling. What Briggs loves the most.

    So forgive me for not taking a post seriously that implies disapproval of all things Katie Perry. It’s right up his street!
    I think that quote is crass.

    Taking delight in the misfortune or pain of others is a sign of mental disturbance. Not remotely a mark of aChristian.
    Lee Philips has it right on that point. Christians have no superiority when it comes to sin.
    Christianity is not about sin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *