Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The End of Violence

Amid retaliatory violence in Gaza and Israel, blood baths in CAR, beheadings by ISIS, and American leaders vowing vengeance, I lift up the contrast and clarity Gil Bailie brings to this pathological death spiral.

METASTASIS OF THE CANCER OF VIOLENCE. Gil Bailie’s book Violence Unveiled would be a timely read right now if you have not read it. Particularly if one thinks that America can continue to use violence for the good without being negatively affected by it, Bailie is helpful. "The gospel's insistence on forgiveness is both profound and pragmatic, but we cannot fully appreciate either until we realize how routinely moral indignation leads to the replication of the behavior that aroused the indignation. Righteous indignation is often the first symptom of the metastasis of the cancer of violence."

HISTORY'S MOST FUNDAMENTAL DILEMMA. "Violence is immensely compelling. Those who witness spectacles of violence can be seduced by its logic even when -- perhaps especially when -- they are morally scandalized by it. Violence is labyrinthine. It turns back on itself in serpentine ways. The paths that seem to exist from its madness so often lead deeper into its maze. Violence is literally a-mazing. The traditional way of resisting evil causes the contagion of evil to spread, perpetrated by those who are most determined to eradicate it. How to resist evil in ways that prevent its spread is now history's most fundamental dilemma."

THE CRUX OF HUMAN DESTINY. "Both Christianity's scriptural sources and its creedal formulae pivot around a public execution, an act of official violence regarded as legally righteous by the political authorities and as a sacred duty by the religionists. The Christian Scriptures and creeds make the outlandish assertion that because of this public execution the grip of sin has been broken, the human race has been offered a new lease on life and, at the same time, placed in grave peril if it refuses the offer."

ONLY ONE THING CAN FREE US. "By moral effort alone one cannot free oneself from the grip of violence. The logos of conventional culture consists of so pervasive a web of conditioned reflexes that we remain largely oblivious of its influence. If we are to be freed from it, something from outside the cultural mix must break in on us. Structurally and anthropologically speaking, there is only one thing truly outside this matrix: the victim whose expulsion brought the system into being in the first place, the stone rejected by the builders of all culture, the Lamb slain since the foundation of the world."

ALREADY AND NOT YET ACCOMPLISHED. "The spiritual and anthropological revolution set in motion by the crucifixion is a glacial process the driving force of which is the 'Spirit of Truth,' -- the Paraclete (John 16:7-8). It was to be the task of this Spirit of Truth to gradually 'accomplish' historically what was 'accomplished' in the hearts of Jesus' disciples at the crucifixion and in the days that followed it."

THE QUESTION IS... And so here we are, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, with self-righteous violence continuing to be justified and used--now in the name of so-called Christian nations. At the same time, the Spirit of Truth continues to deal with and convince hearts of what was clear on day One. The question is, as ones who have been freed from the cycle of violence by the slain yet ever-living Lamb, why would we ever again engage in or approve of violence as a means to a desirable end?

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA