Please pardon the great yet necessary length of this post.chain Link

WARNING: This post deals with extremely disturbing subject matter and may not be suitable for those with a sensitivity to violence and bloodshed.


I will never forget those moments as I watched the video.

I will never read or hear news stories the same way, for the rest of my life.

But let’s back up a bit. I was in the car on my way home from work on Thursday, and I was listening to  the Sean Hannity show. Now, Hannity is not for everyone. I myself often find him annoying and somewhat crass. If you don’t already listen to his show and want a better idea of what I mean, you’ll just need to spend some time and find out for yourself.

On this particular occasion, however, I found the show to be thoroughly worth the time. He was taking calls and spoke with one caller in particular about an interview he did the night before about Wednesday’s events. In the discussion with his caller, he made a few comments that caught my attention.

He first said that, being in the news business, he is exposed to a lot of things that most people are not. As such, he sometimes references certain subjects that are shocking to the average person.

Following this comment, he said that he makes a particular recommendation to many people: If you believe that you can handle it, you should look up and watch videos of beheadings and other executions posted to the web.

To many of you, that probably seems a brazenly ridiculous suggestion. But I ask that you re-examine that judgment.

Firstly, he specifies that you should only do it if you believe that you can handle it — certainly not everyone can, and he says that those people should not subject themselves to such an experience.

Secondly, his reason for wanting people to watch these materials is so that they understand what is happening in the outside world. If we bury our heads in the sand or even minimize our experience with the realities of events such as these, we may never be moved to timely action.

Take, for instance, our war with Hitler’s regime in WWII. Yes, many believed that there was some persecution going on within their areas of control, but we really had no idea just how massively despicable and widespread it was until we had “won the war” and went in to see for ourselves. The images that came out of that period are grizzly almost beyond comparison. Had the outside world known, seen, and heard exactly what went on at the time, I and many others believe that the world would have risen up and taken Hitler down more quickly and more forcefully.

Moving the focus back to current events, why would we deprive ourselves of that motivation when groups air their own dirty laundry in public? Why would we consciously (or even passively) avoid seeing the heinous crimes that could well motivate us to rise up against actions such as these?

In my case, I watched a video of a beheading that was paired together with what looked like news stories of political inaction and denial that has seemingly become the norm. I did not watch the news pieces to see the actual content, because I was late going to someone’s house at the time. Therefore, I cannot vouch for the extra materials beyond the beheading (what an odd thing to say).

I don’t know just what I expected. I suppose that I usually imagine beheadings in the context of capital punishment — quick and efficient. I think of a guillotine, as was used on French royalty. I think of an axe, as was probably used on the Apostle Paul. I think of anything that is businesslike — distant rather than involved. But what I got was entirely different. Rather than the end of a life being the point, the means were the calculated focus — being the repulsive method of a carving knife of sorts followed by a butcher’s cleaver.

But what struck me in particular about this video was the way in which they handled the situation. The victim was treated like cattle, but with more onlookers than a steer or a boar generally has. The executioner handled the knife in a fashion that tells me he has done it before. He seemed as though he had no qualms about the deed, moving his knife in quick, short cutting motions, the motions you may expect to see used by a deli worker readying an order for a customer, or a mother preparing dinner for her family. I will not describe anything more for your sake as you read this, though there were several other details that will stay with me for a long time.

The point I wish to make is this: Capital punishment generally has the goal of eliminating the life of the person being executed, thus ushering in a new period of some sort of change. This video in particular, and probably many others, was not aimed simply at the extinguishing of life’s flame and forward movement but was instead a display of brutality, malicious hatred, and example-making — all of which often coincide with absolute rule and terror. The executioner played his part in such a way that displayed his distaste and disregard for his victim.

It usually takes a lot to ruffle my feathers when it comes to visual violence — despite my active imagination and love for the physical sciences such as anatomy — but I discovered that the main reason for that is the reality of the hatred behind the violence. Movies and video games have the suspension of disbelief — not so for these deplorable performances. This man’s hatred is what turned my gut, watching as he performed this act.

This is not a conservative issue or a liberal issue, as many liberal sources would have you believe. This is not an issue of religion vs non-religion, though many say it is. Watch this video of Bill Maher and Charlie Rose (in its entirety!). Look up other statements that Maher makes. He points out things that many wish would stay buried. He is certainly no friend to the conservative Christian, but his perspective are worth considering, by all in this case. </tangent> (only computer geeks and their friends will get that one.)

The 18th-century poet Robert Burns once wrote:

Many and sharp the num’rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves,
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav’n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, –
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

Watching a few of these videos will leave upon you a few scars, indeed! But aren’t a few scars worth it in the end if they cause shockwaves big enough to thwart the death of even one potential victim? Can we not “pony up” as a society and share a load of small pains in order to preclude the load of just one death? Please, I ask you to consider watching some of these videos, gruesome as they are. It has forever changed the way I view the world, and I guarantee that it will change yours.

  1. Flo Schuler says:

    Oh Ben, I so appreciate your blogs and the thoughts you share. As for beheadings, I cannot watch; your short description was enough for me! The evil that men’s hearts can carry out is so very disturbing and yet is not new. The scripture does say there is nothing new under the sun and that men’s hearts are continually evil and we all need the the salvation that God offers. Without Him in our hearts we are are all capable of such wickedness and THAT is frightening. Political activism is important but we know that there is only thing that will bring about a change: a man’s heart yielded to Christ.

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