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Archive for the ‘Meditation’ Category

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

We live in a world marred by violence. Last week as I read through our local newspapers I noticed that there is a great degree of violence in our community. People of all ages and from all backgrounds are victims of violence: husbands and partners abusing their spouses, parents abusing their children, brother punching sister, people being attacked on the streets. Last Wednesday’s daily local paper reported no less than six separate grave incidents of violence in our local area. Despite what appears to be an increase in acts of violence I don’t think that we can say that our society today is more violent than in the past. Human propensity, or predisposition, to violence is something that is inherent in our nature. Biologists tell us that these aggressive tendencies are part and parcel of our natural instincts for survival which enabled humans to survive and evolve. But they also tell us that evolution has not just shaped humans to be violent but also to develop societies and morals that are based on cooperation and peaceful coexistence.

Walter Wink, an American theologian who died last autumn and is best known for his advocacy of nonviolent resistance, argued that violence permeates and is persistent throughout our culture because we perpetuate knowingly or unknowingly the belief that violence ultimately is just and necessary and is the final answer.  He calls this belief the ‘myth of redemptive violence’ where the victory of order over chaos is achieved through the means of violence. This myth is constructed on the belief that human beings are incapable of living naturally in a peaceful coexistence, therefore order has to be imposed from above, men over women, masters over slaves, and so on. Unquestioned obedience is required and order is imposed by force if necessary. We see this method played again and again in our public and political affairs.

The myth of redemptive violence is reinforced through our cultural media too – the most popular characters and the heroes on our TV screens and blockbusters are often those individuals who are victorious through violence. Some of us who read this column will remember that our favourite cartoon characters such as Tom and Jerry, Popeye, Superman, all prevailed over their arch enemies through violence.

The Christian message though is that God is love and that violence is not God’s way of bringing order out of disorder and it is not the way of life. Starting with the first chapter of Genesis, we see the myth of redemptive violence – that was the core story of the ancient religions – being opposed and replaced with a new story, of a God that creates out of love. In the old Babylonian myth (and also Greek mythology) creation happens through violence, the gods fight among themselves and evil precedes good. In the biblical story God creates a good world, and good precedes evil. Neither evil nor violence is part of the creation, but enter later as a result of free decisions and choices made by the creatures.

Throughout the bible we find this myth of redemptive violence being challenged and replaced by a new reality – the way of love. The prophet Isaiah prophesies and dreams of a world where peace will prevail, weapons will be turned into ploughs and people will live in harmony. But the myth of redemptive violence was defeated once and for all in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In the sermon on the mountain Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile” (Matthew 5: 38-41).

In Jesus death on the cross God took upon himself the violence of all humanity and through Jesus’ resurrection He has declared the myth of violence, the myth that order which is imposed by force and violence is the order of the day, is defeated. In Jesus’ resurrection a new age has dawned where the power of love triumphs over the power of violence, a new humanity has emerged that is moved by the power of love and sacrifice, which are life giving and life affirming.

Last Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, when traditionally Christians are invited to prepare for Easter through prayer and fasting. Let us this Lent seek to resist and challenge the myth of redemptive violence that is so prevalent in our cultures, and sometime even in our churches, by seeking to live out the alternative way of Christ in love and self-sacrifice, which is life giving and life affirming. Only then our community will become less violent and more life affirming.

Published in Arbroath Herlad on 15Feb 2013 edition

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“Sadly, there is something about public life that seems to make it difficult for people to be honest about their mistakes”.

Audio: Another Thought of the Day with Richard Halloway on the Guardian website.

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Hope photDespite the economic, social, environmental and political mess we seem to be in at the beginning of 2009, there are still reasons to feel hopeful about the future.

I like Mark Veron’s reflection on his blog Pessimism and the possibilty of hope in 09.

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I attended a meeting today in my field of work – justice. Stephen my colleague brought a prayer for us which we read at the start of the meeting. After that we had a few moments of reflection and sharing with each other as to how this prayer spoke to us.

I feel I should share this prayer with anyone who happens to stumble onto this humble site. I hope it challenges you as well.

Thanks Stephen.

Blessing of Discomfort

May God bless us with discomfort
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that we may live deep within our own hearts.

May God bless us with anger…
at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless us with tears…
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war
so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them
and to turn their pain into joy.

And, may God bless us with enough foolishness…
to believe that we make a difference in this world,
so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

Amen.

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I cannot resit posting the following text of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. He was an Indian nationalist and the principal architect of India’s constitution. He came from a Dalit background. I came across this text on Gashwin Gomes’ blog.

Religion is for man; man is not for religion.

If you want to gain self-respect, change your religion.
If you want to create a cooperating society, change your religion.
If you want power, change your religion.
If you want equality, change your religion.
If you want independence, change your religion.
If you want to make the world in which you live happy, change your religion.

Why should you remain in a religion that does not value your manhood?
Why should you remain in a religion that does not let you enter its temples?
Why should you remain in a religion that does not give you water to drink?
Why should you remain in a religion that does not let you become educated?
Why should you remain in a religion that bars you from good jobs?
Why should you remain in a religion that dishonours you at every step?

That religion which forbids humanitarian behaviour between man and man is not a religion but a reckless penalty.
That religion which regards the recognition of man’s self-respect as sin is not a religion but a sickness.
That religion which allows one to touch a foul animal but not a man is not a religion but a madness.
That religion which says that one class may not gain knowledge, may not acquire wealth, may not take up arms, is not a religion but a mockery of man’s life.
That religion which teaches that the unlearned should remain unlearned, that the poor should remain poor, is not a religion but a punishment.

Do not say that men who treat animals with more respect than humans and who respects all Brahmans as Gods are religious.
Do not say that men who feed ants with sugar and let men go hungry religious.
Do not say that men who embrace another religion and push their own far from them hate society”.

A provocative text even though the author seemed to have in mind Hinduism.

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