Two days ago, a 13-year-old girl put on a white mask, waited for her mother to come home, and attacked her with a knife. The attack followed one from a week ago, when two 12-year-old girls lured one of their friends into the woods on a sleepover, stabbed her 19 times, and left her for dead in the bushes. Thankfully, the girl crawled to safety and survived. What was the reason for these unthinkable attacks? The “Slender Man” made them do it!
Slender Man (also known as Slenderman), is a relatively new, internet based version of the “Boogie Man.” But the “Boogie Man” was primarily a way to scare children into behaving at night, not an excuse for murder. This week’s 13 year old attacker was said to have been influenced by Slender Man, and last week’s 12-year-old attackers were hopeful to gain favor from Slender Man by murdering their friend.
Our initial reaction might be anger: “Why are 12-year-old girls visiting horror sites on the internet?” Perhaps we are simply heartbroken for these girls as well as for their victims. Certainly, their lives and their view of the world will forever be scarred by these incidents. But in seeking to understand, and in searching for answers, how should the Christian respond to these latest challenges to our sense of morality and values? Is there anything new to all of this? Or is it just, “the Devil made me do it!” all over again?
People have been shirking personal responsibility for thousands of years. In the days of the early church, James reminded his readers not to blame God or the devil for sin, but to take personal responsibility. When we become “carried away and enticed by [our] own lust,” and that lust “has conceived” and given birth to sin, that accomplished sin will lead to death (James 1:13-15).
What peaked my interest, though, was not the blame game aspect of this story, but how one of the girls said in her confession, “The bad part of me wanted her to die, the good part of me wanted her to live.” There was a battle going on in her between “good” and “bad” parts. And truth be told, the Christian must admit that a battle rages within each of us. The heart wrenching thing is to see it begin in those so young.
The Apostle Paul recognized this battle in Romans chapter 7:14-25. The crux of that argument is: “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” His conclusion? “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” that Paul could be set free from the wretchedness of a life enslaved to sin.
We each have to deal with fleshly, sinful lusts and passions. Some days, sin seems to be our master. But we would do well to remember that we have been freed from the mastery of sin and have become willing bondservants to righteousness. We have a higher, spiritual purpose and an eternal soul worth protecting. Not God, not the devil, not the Boogie Man, nor the Slender Man…no one is responsible for my sin other than me. And I have the strength to rebuke sin through Jesus Christ who gives me strength to do all things (Philippians 4:13).
So, how should the Christian respond? Where will I direct the impressionable minds of my children? To Philippians 4:8. And I will remind them to view and concentrate on the things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.” Avoid sin for as long as possible and whenever possible. Accept personal responsibility when you do sin. Embrace the grace and mercy of Christ. And pray for the safeguarding of innocence in our young people.