House GOP Witness: Reading Bible Can Cause Violence

This morning, VA Rep. Frank Wolf convened a hearing of the Commerce Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee he chairs. The subject of the hearing was youth violence and, specifically, the role video games play in encouraging violent behavior. A star witness, however, Psychologist Brad J. Bushman, has a tendency to see lots of things contributing to violence. One paper he wrote a few years ago even found that exposure to Biblical stories caused an increase in violent behavior, especially among believers. 

Psychologist Brad J. Bushman has made a career of out preconceived notions and sweeping generalizations. Bushman is best known co-authoring an article with Brigham Young Professor Robert Ridge entitled, “When God Sanctions Killing” which appeared in the March 2007 issue of Psychological Science magazine. The study found “compelling evidence that exposure to a scriptural depiction of violence or to violence authorized by deity can cause readers to behave more aggressively.”

Even though in the study Bushman et al even acknowledge a variety of factors could mitigate or cause violence, they persist with their conclusion. The Bible is the best-selling book of all times and more recently, a top TV show. So nearly everyone has been exposed to the Bible, so it has to be a factor.

The authors were quick to point out their study was not meant as Bible-bashing yet they compared followers to terrorists noting, "when you think about terrorists and they say, 'God will sit in judgment,' and they sometimes refer to a scripture, our question was, 'Could that really make a person behave more aggressively?' And the answer is, yes, it could.'"

If Mathew, Mark, Luke and John can cause violence, according to the logic of Dr. Bushman, it makes sense to believe that can "Call of Duty" can, as well.

Mr. Bushman was brought in by Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) to testify before the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing today on a recent report on youth violence published by a National Science Foundation subcommitte co-chaired by Bushman.

The report draws some dubious conclusions about youth violence and video games by studiously avoiding the vast amount of actual, credible research that debunks any causal link between video games and violence among youth.

That’s the problem for Professor Bushman and his ilk. Their methods and research don’t hold up to even common sense scrutiny. Video games have proliferated since the 90’s. The video game industry sells hundreds of millions of games annually. And yet violent crime has continually decreased.  

But despite the facts, Mr. Wolf continues to believe that congressional action against video games is part of a "three legged stool" to end violence -- the other components being gun control and background checks on gun purchasers.

This is an issue that isn’t going away.  And its a dangerous slippery slope. Just as advocates of gun control seek to discard citizens’ Second Amendment rights, advocates such as Mr. Bushman and Wolf seek to discard citizens' First Amendment protections in the name of stopping violence and are apparently willing to manipulate the facts to achieve it.  

If, according to Bushman, Biblical stories can increase violent behavior, then, almost literally, everything can increase violent behavior. This suggests a larger rot in society, far beyond what stories we read or products we consume. 

The facts are clear -- neither gun control nor censorship can stop an insane individual from undertaking acts of violence.  The quicker the GOP distances itself from the likes of Brad Bushman and Frank Wolf, the better they will be.   

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