Posts Tagged ‘Violence’

The Painful Need to Respond to Violence

Friday, July 8th, 2016

We face an increasingly urgent and painful need to respond to violence.

Over the past few weeks…

  1. The largest mass shooting in American history in Orlando
  2. One of the largest single terrorist events in Iraq with over 200 killed in one bombing
  3. Serious concerns around the use of lethal force by police connected to race, the latest in Minnesota.
  4. 5 police killed in Dallas in an ambush style attack last night.
Our hearts break for all the above.
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These events … tragic. Conversations around them … polarizing.  And the issue of violence needs faced in meaningful ways beyond just a simple wish that the problems go away.
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The Christian response is both as promising as it is uncomfortable, as outrageous as it is hopeful.
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Such a response clearly calls on us to “love our enemies.”  Such a response clearly calls on us to do the work of repentance, not casting the problem ‘over there’ but doing the work we can do to bring healing, work that starts with ourselves and the communities we find ourselves in.  Such a response calls us simply to love even in the face of darkness.
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That is not a love bereft of accountability.  It is judicious and wise. It is a posture towards the world and its brokenness, a brokenness we witness in ourselves and others.  As such it is far from pain free.  Far from easy or safe.
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It becomes then a vocational love, vocational as in a calling.  A calling that we not only should but must care about others in tangible ways because a world where expanding cycles of violence proceed unchecked is too awful to contemplate.
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Remembering Orlando

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

A sad week as many of us come to terms with the horrific shooting in Orlando that left 50 dead.

The hard part, for me, was the creeping, uncomfortable feeling that shootings like this indeed are the “new normal.” San Bernardino, Paris, Brussels, Charleston… one right after the other. And that list is without an even more horrific list for those caught in the violence of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Each new report of violence in some way – and hard words to find for this – somehow deadening us to the world around. Violence now the norm.

I don’t know but I can feel that slow shift in myself and I don’t like it.

This type of violence is not the norm. It is not what or who we are created to be. It degrades society, frays relationships, feeds ever widening spasms of hatred and retribution. All the things that we as Christians are called to stand against, allied with others from many faith traditions who hold to the same.

We are to stand. We are to stand against this darkness with love. Compassion. With a willingness to draw alongside of suffering in all its forms.

We are to speak. We are to speak of forgiveness. Of healing. Of a third way. Of moral imaginations able to chart new courses towards hope.

And that is what we can do.

That calls us to more than entertainment. To more than the next adventure. To more than the next must-have thing. It calls us to a deeper love, to, as the Greek in the Bible reads again and again, “agapé love”, a self-sacrificing love willing to embrace the greater good. The “we.” Serving there.

So this Sunday, we will light candles at the end of the service. We will gather. We will pray. We will remember.

A Shooting in Washington

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the violent shootings yesterday in Washington DC. 13 died in yet another spasm of senseless violence.

Where do we settle with that? How do we hold it? I think the first most prayerful place rests with all the victims. The second place is to battle the numbness such events, given what appears like their increasing frequency, can engender. I certainly hope we never with a shrug dismiss these mini-cataclysms as tragic but “normal.” And the third place, maybe a place with less flash but more commitment, is to continue to stand solidly against violence in all its forms.

Violence is the one of the greatest evils we face. It draws on control, on distortion, on self-seeking power. In short, it draws on evil.

God is clear. Loving God is “not doing violence to any soul … because every soul is in the hand of the Lord” (Divine Providence 94). There is our stand.

Saddness about the Violence in Egypt

Friday, August 16th, 2013

The stories arising from Egypt as a violent crackdown continues are saddening. Over 600 known dead. Countless others injured. Much of the violence perpetrated either in the name of religion or the fear of religion.

Idolatry is often not holding onto the wrong things. Idolatry is, as Roger Owens noted, “Holding onto good things wrongly.” Religion is a good, and we often, oh so very often hold it wrongly.

At the danger or creating another split, what is the right way to hold faith? I offer some simple guidelines …

(1) Keep religion focused on our own personal journey calling us to loving engagement with the world.

(2) Avoid seeing in faith a wide ranging political program. Jesus never speaks to the perfect form of government or the perfect economic system. He speaks frequently of the need for all entities to serve the vulnerable.

(3) Gather as communities of faith that in turn become a healing presence in the world.

(4) Never engage in violence.

There is no place for the bloodshed that is occurring.  There is no place for the hatred and distrust that fans it.  To throw stones in the name of religion or  from the fear of it saddens.  To shoot in the name of religion or from fear of it destroys the very fabric of our better selves.

Reframing towards Newness

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 Norwegians, mostly school aged, because he felt called to defend Norway from the onslaught of Islam and therefore “bore no criminal guilty and rejected all authority of the court.”

An Israeli officer was suspended for striking a Danish activist in the face with his rifle. The activist was part of bike riding tour engaged in non-violent protest to draw attention to living conditions of Palestinian villagers in the West Bank.

The natural human orientation is towards the “law.” Here I am not talking “law and order” per se but the “law” as in binary forms or lenses through which we describe and make sense of the world.  At an elementary level, that proclivity is harmless – “Touching the hot stove is a bad thing.”  But it is dangerous and naive to carry that same propensity to divide the world between boxes/ polarities into adulthood and into nationhood.   Our opinions too readily serve as our “law.”  Functioning in this way leaves little recourse but violence.  How else do we ultimately express the division but by smashing the opponent?   And no one gets a “pass.”  If our opinions become our law and our law becomes our divisions of the world into “friend” and “enemy” violence at some level, even quiet violence, appears inevitable.

I think the above in no small part is why the call of faith is the call to reframe our lives away from a world of self defined polarities and the resulting violence.  The Christian Way is modeled on that very principle.  Simply look at who Jesus spent his time with  - “EVERYBODY.”  He was known to the poor and powerful.  Romans and Jews.  The social elites, and the downtrodden.  That inclusive reframe, as Christ put it, actually brings life to law.

Living in a world of self defined polarities is frankly miserable.  As the apostle Paul put it, “Who wants to go back to our weak and miserable principles?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them?  … What has happened to all your joy?”  (Gallatians 4:15)  I don’t want to live in Breiviks’ world nor in the world of  the never ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Everyone appears to claim self-defense. There is no room for moral imagination only room for never-ending retribution.   And that is the every problem – a world of polarities IS often about self defense,not self-less defense.  If we found our very lives on these kinds of ego-based polarities, our life will reflect that dividing, “present in every single element of us.”  (Secrets of Heaven, Vol. II, pg. 66)  Christ calls us to more.  Newness.