“Are we not good enough? Are we not brave enough? Is the violence in our nature just the image of our maker? Are we not good enough? Are we not brave enough? To become something greater then the violence in our nature? Are we not good enough or is it all a dream?” [1.]
Love me a good western flick (Tombstone is my all time favorite). Oh, the Marvel movies, forget about it! These films have so much of the “good vs. evil”, the “hero becoming triumphant” and “good prevailing in the end” motif, it’s hard not to love them! Those things do bring hope to ones outlook on life. This has been part of humans mythology since we evolved from apes. Our western culture is in love with the hero. It is embedded in us. No way around it. I see this as a good thing…except one part: VIOLENCE. [2.]
I didn’t always think this was the case. To save people from the evils of this world, the good guys have to succeed by violent means if necessary. You have to “repay evil with evil” to make things “right”. The famous quote by Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”, always kept me in check. Here’s the thing that I didn’t realize: using violent means to triumph over evil…doesn’t work!
From my culture context, the U.S. has been at war 222 out the 239 years it has been a country. [3.] We are at war 93% of the time. War is not producing peace! The Just-War Theory is antithetical to the gospel of peace (Eph 6:15). Only peace produces peace. This is a tough pill for most Americans to swallow (just look at the current Presidents tweet regarding Iran).
How did I become an adherent to non-violence? It was many life experiences and realizations through my years on this earth. First off, I have always used violence when it came to threats to my safety and the safety of others. It started in elementary school all the way to my mid 20’s. It just made since using “fists of fury” to negate the enemy other. At the time, it seemed to solve the problem. But, as time went on, I could see it only was a quick fix and not a resolution to the “systemic” problem. I have spent a couple overnighters in jail due to fighting (and for being intoxicated, but that’s for another blog hehe). I received an misdemeanor from one of those incidences. It seemed even in my intoxicated state, the “might is right” response to my safety (or ego) was always my go to. We can see how this can lead to dire consequences. Why did I do this? Well, neurologists call it a function of our “lizard” brain. [4.]
The “lizard” brain is our ancient reaction of “flight or fight” to danger we encounter. This is huge when it comes to why we react the way we do when it comes to our safety and others.It’s our natural instinct to either protect or flee from a certain situation. All of my experiences with violence had to do with this reaction. So, how the hell else am I to react? It’s just my neurological structure! Lucky for us, we have other ways to combat our lizard brain reactions. It is all about changing your perspective on how you respond to certain triggers.
This brings me to my faith in a God that leads us out of our normal ways of thinking to a whole new concept: Repentance. Now, I know this word comes with some religiosity baggage. Repentance simply means changing one’s mind that in turn brings about a different mode of direction. This is how I came to see the flaw in my violent ways. When I realized that every violent action I took did not solve the entire scope of the issue, I had to change my ways. Now, another BIG realization that I have come to is the gun issue. With all the news on the horrible events from school mass shootings, it only inhightens the need for some type of “changing of mind” to how we view violence and guns in this country.
Not going into all the diverse factors that come into play with guns and violence, I just want to highlight one aspect of it that I believe is important when it comes to faith. I use to “own” a gun, go shooting, etc. Through some experiences (almost shot myself) and discovery (gun violence in our culture), my faith in the Comic Christ lead me to the stance of “if I live by the sword, I will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). This is not to say owning a gun for recreational use (target practice, hunting, etc.) is a bad thing. It’s when you have it for the intent of killing another human being is where the issue lies.
For me, when I came to this awareness of non-violence, I had to give up my gun and take up my cross. Some would call this an irresponsible pacifistic stance. Here is the thing. When we really trust that Christ died for his enemies to HEAL them, how in the world can I not be anti-violence? I have heard the rebuttal (the most famous rebuttals to anti-violence): but what if someone broke into your house, had a gun and was about to kill your family? First off, this is an EXTREMELY rare occurrence. When home-break ins do occur, the result that violence occurs is also low. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
“The incidence of burglary in the United States in 2002 was 27.7 households out of every 1,000. Surprisingly, this rate has moderately declined over the past decade. Data from 2008 shows a steady hold in the rate of burglary incidences at around 26.3 out of every 1,000 homes. This decline may seem somewhat small, but looking at the entire United States population, even a small drop in criminal activity per 1,000 households is significant. By expanding the data range from 2002 back to 1973, the declining trend in burglaries can be seen with more accuracy. In 1973, the reported rate of burglary fell at 110 out of every 1,000 households. Compared to the 26.3 out of every 1,000 households reported in the United States in 2008, this is a considerable and noteworthy statistic.” [5.]
Don’t get me wrong, we are not to be bystanders to violent acts. We also are not to subject ourselves to an pacifist stance just for “pacification” sake. We step in and battle by non-violent means for a purposeful healing and liberating end (Eph 6:12, Isaiah 2:4). Like all the powerful activists in our history (Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, etc.), they changed things with self-sacrificial love. As Jesus did with the women accused of adultery.
Brian Zahnd (pastor/author) had a very great insight to this whole “violent self-defense” claim. He says: “The Sermon on the Mount lays it out quite plainly that Jesus offers the world a radical alternative to the way of violence that has framed and formed human civilization ever since Cane killed Able.” Please see his video on “Hitler and Home Invasion” for a more in-depth insight.
Fear or trust? With our current culture of fear based news, we have become people (reference to “Christians”) of fear and not “powerful love” (2 Timothy 1:7). Look, I am still getting a grasp on how powerful the nonviolent Jesus is (I mean my kids are in karate for Pete’s sake). All I know is we need to become a people who need to turn to the cross that saves the world and not to the sword that destroys it…
“I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.” [6.]