Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

How Do We Stop the Violence?

Over the last few weeks our country has been ravaged by violence. Attacks on people have taken place in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Texas. Many people have lost their lives and many more have been seriously injured. It did not take long at all for this to become a political issue. People on the right and left have taken advantage of these tragic events in order to get their message heard on the 24 hour news conglomerates. Politics has stymied the discussion, and some do not want to weigh in because they fear they will be labeled conservative or liberal, when in reality they are simply striving to be reasonable. Christians often feel as though they only have two choices, and never consider a third option. Instead of responding as a conservative or liberal we should respond as Christians. Our answers to serious questions should have more to do with our faith than our political affiliation.

How can the Christian community help to prevent further acts of violence? How should Christians respond when violence grips our nation? I do not pretend to have all the answers, but here are a few suggestions. I would love to hear your feedback on this issue, but please keep the discussion civil.

We Must Address Redemptive Violence: As a nation we have openly embraced redemptive violence. It can be found in our entertainment, politics, religion, and even on the mouths of those we love. Redemptive violence is the idea that violence will solve our problems. When someone asks, “What do we do about all the terrorists in ________ country?” It is not unusual to hear a response like, “We should just drop a bomb on them.” This is an extreme example, but our children are exposed to redemptive violence every day. It is found in the video games they play and the television shows they watch. Redemptive violence is different than violence in general because it teaches us to solve our problems through violence. This is a problem. The church needs to speak more about the dangers of redemptive violence. Parents need to teach their children that problems are not solved through violent acts. Once a person embraces violence as the only solution to their problems, then innocent human beings are in danger.

We Need to Focus on Community: Christians need to work at strengthening communities. We should begin with our families and churches, and then move outward to our neighborhoods and towns. God has designed us to live in community. When we neglect this we are creating opportunities for sin and trouble. We must work at creating caring and loving communities that are alive. Just because you belong to a church does not mean you are a part of a healthy community. These are things we must work at. Often when you hear about a terrible act of violence, you will later discover that the person was a loner, someone who had separated himself from community. Strong communities will not be able to prevent every act of violence, but they will be able to prevent some. Communities can recognize warning signs when something is wrong. Communities give individuals the opportunities to talk through their problems rather than acting them out. Communities also remind us that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.

We Must Strive to Minimize Fear: Why does violence occur? There are many reasons, but one of the most prevalent reasons is fear. People act out because they are fearful of something. Some of these are real fears and others are created fears. When people are afraid they sometimes respond in irrational ways. As Christians we need to strive to minimize fear in ourselves and others. Fear is a tool that is used to manipulate others. Companies use it to get us to buy certain products. Politicians use it in order to get a vote. We must recognize these fear tactics so that we do not fall victim to them, nor perpetuate the fear by passing them along. “Do not fear” is the most common command found in Scripture. The only antidote to fear is faith. We must help people to free themselves from the strangling power of fear by introducing them to the freeing power of faith in God.

The Debate is About the Sanctity of Life: When I hear people talk about gun control after a terrible act of violence they often speak about their rights. You hear the same arguments in regards to abortion. You will hear people say, “This is my body. This is my right.” As Christians the debate is not about our rights, but about the sanctity of life. Life trumps our rights. Jesus commanded in Luke 12:33 that we sell our possessions and give to the poor. Jesus argued that the life of poor people trumps our right to possessions. Now a person can still argue that more guns or fewer guns will make our country safer, but it should not be about rights. The debate needs to be about what we can do to protect the shedding of innocent blood. The answer may be more guns or it may be fewer guns, but our reasoning needs to be about protecting life, not our own wants and desires.

Lament and Prayer Should Come First: The most powerful thing we can do is pray. We live in a fallen world. Sin is rampant. In Eph. 6:12 Paul reminds us that, “our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of the present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Our weapon of choice in this battle is prayer. We need to spend time on our knees. When violence engulfs our nation we need to lament all the evil in the world, and take our worries and concerns to our heavenly Father. He is the only one with real solutions to the problem.

9 Responses to “How Do We Stop the Violence?”

  1. Great post full of great suggestions.

    When talking about violence, almost everyone says that “no one loves violence” meaning that they don’t love violence. Well that may be true but that doesn’t mean that violence is not valued and treated as an effective and ethical way of living. Thus, the value of violence seems to be a major problem for both Christians and non-Christians. When it comes to public society, one of the reasons why we have laws insuring the civil rights of minorities is because the value placed on racial/ethnic discrimination has significantly diminished. As our beliefs and values about the equality of each individual person regardless of race/ethnicity changed, so did the treatment of minority people within society. Likewise, when our beliefs and values about violence changes, the way violence is celebrated and practice is likely to change…I would assume.

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex

  2. I appreciate your thoughts, Scott. I am still left with a conflict on what you are calling “redemptive violence.” Romans 13:4 acknowledges that some sort of violence for the sake of vengeance is necessary and is the very work of God (whether we should call that redemptive or not is another matter). On the other hand, Jesus makes clear repeatedly that administering this violence it not the function of his kingdom (John 18:10-11 & 36). How God can condone something in His creation but not in His kingdom is something of a mystery to me. Regardless, I think we can agree that less of it would be a good thing, and that the gospel of Jesus would lead us away from it if for no other reason in that it leaves no room for it. Perhaps the vengeance of Romans 13 would decrease if we would allow the gospel to cause us to do less things that need avenging in the first place. Thanks again, Scott, for your thoughts. – Ben

    • Redemptive violence was a term first coined by Walter Wink. He defined it as “the story of the victory of order over chaos by means of violence.” In that definition I think he is referring to the Babylonian creation story and how that victorious violence has continued on to this day. People can debate whether or not Wink has a valid point, but I wanted to merely point out how redemptive violence has permeated our culture. Can violence play a part in our society? If you believe in just war, the death penalty, etc., then yes, but that is another debate. I think most of us would agree that there are too many situations, real or fictional, where violence is presented as a reasonable solution. If our children repeatedly see violence used as a solution to problems, then should we expect them to act differently? My point is simply to challenge people to look for other solutions.

      I think your last point is great. The more we conform to God’s way of living the less violence there will be.

  3. [...] How Do We Stop the Violence? by Scott [...]

  4. Nice, Scott. Thanks for sharing and I am definitely in agreement with a lot of your points. The church needs to be a place that holds up hope and Christ, not becoming politically divisive (worldliness), which we do all too often. I appreciate you sharing this.

  5. Unfortunately, my brother, violence can’t be stopped this side of judgement. Sure, it can be curbed by convincing others of the suggestions you made but at the end of the day we still live in a fallen world and evil has a foothold in it.
    I think you have some great points. The challenge, in my opinion, is not getting others to believe these things, but to embody them.


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