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.
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).