Thursday, June 29, 2017

Internet Famous: How a Young Couple's Quest for Fame Turned Deadly


A young couple wanted to be famous on YouTube. They aspired to have 300,000 followers and millions of views. What kind of stunt could they do to get that much attention? So the young man, Pedro Ruiz III, got an idea. He would have his girlfriend, Monalisa Perez, fire a gun at an encyclopedia he held to his chest, convinced the bullet wouldn't go through.

The gun Perez used would be a Desert Eagle .50 caliber pistol -- comparable to a .44 Magnum and can hit with the force of a .308 Winchester rifle. But Ruiz thought he was safe. He had tested the stunt on a stack of encyclopedias and it didn't even go through the first one. Perez was of course reluctant to participate, but her boyfriend talked her into it. She posted on Twitter that they were "probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever."

Ruiz thought this was the ticket to becoming internet famous and he would be throwing parties. The couple resided in rural Minnesota, Perez a stay-at-home mom pregnant with their second child and Ruiz working for a railroad company. They wanted something more than their meager living. YouTube fame was their way to stardom.

But the stunt went horribly wrong.

On Monday evening at the couple's residence, a camera was fixed on a ladder and another on the back of the car to catch the feat from two different angles. Ruiz held the inch-and-a-half thick book in front of him. Perez fired the gun from a foot away. It went through the volume and hit Ruiz in the chest. Their three-year-old daughter was with them.

The Norman County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call around 6:30 from Perez, admitting that she and her boyfriend were trying to make a YouTube video and she accidentally shot him in the chest. Ruiz was pronounced dead on the scene.

Perez is being charged with second-degree manslaughter, meaning that according to the law she killed her boyfriend out of negligence and not malicious intent. For this stunt, she could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Her family has said that she will have to live with this for the rest of her life, and that's penalty enough.

"I really have no idea what they were thinking," said Sheriff Jeremy Thornton to the New York Times. "I just don't understand the younger generation on trying to get their fifteen minutes of fame."

Indeed, fame is toxic. Even deadly. The Apostle Paul said, "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8).

In other words, anything we try to gain in this world that we think will bring satisfaction to our flesh will ultimately result in destruction. That might not happen as quickly for you as it did for this young couple, but it's still corrupt and will come to ruin.

You know that. You observe it in the world around you. The tech gadgets you love so much today that you can't imagine your life without are the stuff of tomorrow's garage sales and garbage heaps. So why are you trying to find joy in things that will not last? That ultimately we know cannot bring us any lasting satisfaction? Surely you've heard the proverb that says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25).

That's what happened to Pedro Ruiz III and Monalisa Perez. And everyone else thinks they know better. Prior to this disastrous stunt, their YouTube videos had a couple-thousand views each at the most. Thanks to the attention caused by Ruiz's death, they now have views into the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands, one video with half-a-million views.

I scrolled through the comment section of those videos, and it's full of people who think they have more sense than Ruiz or Perez. Said one comment, "Now you're a stay-in-jail mom!" Another said, "I hope nobody feels sorry for his death, you two are idiots" (profanity omitted). Another said, "Playing Stupid Games will award you Stupid Prizes."

But what if the stunt had worked? What if they got the attention they wanted without someone having to lose their life to get it? I wonder how many of the same people who are decrying the couple's foolish antics would have become immediate participants in their quest for fame. How many copycats would have tried to concoct a potentially deadly stunt just to get a million thumbs ups?

Maybe you have enough sense not to shoot someone in the chest. Maybe internet fame is not important to you. But given the circumstances, you are just as capable of doing self-destructive things to get the things you think you need to be happy. Maybe that destruction won't happen in the length of a trigger-pull, but again, you will be destroyed with whatever worldly thing or idea you sow to your flesh.

The Bible talks about a day that is coming when the world will be judged with fire, and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Whatever was done for the glory of God will survive, and that person will receive an imperishable crown in Christ's eternal kingdom. Whatever was not of God will be destroyed, along with those who did such godless works.

Said the Apostle Peter, "Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace" (2 Peter 3:11-14).

The Bible says to set our minds on things that are above, not things that are on earth, and we will live forever with Christ in glory (Colossians 3:1-4). All flesh is like grass and its glory like the flower which withers and fades into nothing (1 Peter 1:24). For those whose minds are set on earthly things, their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame (Philippians 3:19).

Jesus said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" (Luke 9:23-26).