Archive for the ‘Nonviolence’ 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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” White Evangelical Christians (in USA) are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus….. Before attempting an answer, allow a quick clarification. Evangelicals don’t exactly hate Jesus — as we’ve provocatively asserted in the title of this piece. They do love him dearly. But not because of what he tried to teach humanity. Rather, Evangelicals love Jesus for what he does for them. Through his magical grace, and by shedding his precious blood, Jesus saves Evangelicals from everlasting torture in hell, and guarantees them a premium, luxury villa in heaven. For this, and this only, they love him. They can’t stop thanking him. And yet, as for Jesus himself — his core values of peace, his core teachings of social justice, his core commandments of goodwill — most Evangelicals seem to have nothing but disdain”.

Phil Zuckerman, “Why E vangelicals Hate Jesus”, in the Huffington Post, read the rest of the post here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/phil-zuckerman/why-evangelicals-hate-jes_b_830237.html.

An alarm bell indeed! Let’s hope it is not to late to wake up.

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A fellow colleague (for the ministry) and friend of mine has just started a blog (Oh my Cod) where he records what he tells us in an email, his life changing experience, during a spell in Israel/Palestine this summer with the Christian Peace maker teams.

the following sentence from his reflection during his second day in Israel caught my attention, in part5icualar as it is made in the context of reflection on archaeological research in Israel: “What is this theology of the land where the living are unimportant and the past is priceless?”

The full paragraph is: “We are taken to the Garden of David. The claim is made that this land is where King David drank tea in his garden overlooking Jerusalem. And so the archaeologists come in. Not state archaeologists but NGO’s. Ngo’s are given complete control over the area. And they strip all the soil, all the history away until they get to the Jewish level. The other stories of the past are but dust and rubble, of no interest, worthless. Archaeological war crimes. And the Palestinian homes, which rest on the earth, which hold the stories of the past, are of no interest, an inconvenience. Some are bought off, some are harassed and bullied to leave. One remains. The house is ‘worthless’ the ownership of the land is priceless. And we hear of offers of millions of dollars to sell but they stay. What is the land worth? What is a home worth? What is this theology of the land where the living are unimportant and the past is priceless?”

Thanks C!

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Quote of the day

With the approach of Passion week, where there is so much violence on display in churches I thought this reflection from a non-violent perspective is quite challenging:

“If God is commonly understood to be angry and vengeful, to appreciate human suffering and sacrifice, to have desired the death of God’s own son as payback for human error, then humanity will not only tolerate violence, we will perceive a genuine need for it in order to be in relationship with God”.

A Theophany of Geese, Preaching Peace blog.

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