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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Mythology of Rectitude

If violence only begets more violence, why do you do it? If running away from your problems or striking first doesn't solve your problems, what does? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1119).

We typically think that violence manifests hard realism and an aggressive tendency to "get real." But it can be seen that the contrary is most often true. Violence can be an expression of rampant escapism by both parties. The most fundamental form of escapism is that of failing to see your opposition as essentially a reflection of the same human nature you share. What you hate your enemy most for is no different from the proclivities of your own nature. A gang member, for example, may label all officers of the law as "crackers." This is simply a way of expressing a total lack of kinship. The law officers, on the other hand, may label all gang members as "thugs." Again, for the same purpose. It is said that "subtle differences make all the difference." Actually both "thugs" and "crackers" constitute pejorative stones thrown giving testimony to the commonality of human behavior--a marked tendency to render inhuman one's opposition. Surely the first step down any path of violence is the dehumanization of the opposition--which is itself a totally human form of behavior--something profoundly shared by all human beings. An additional indication of escapism is that conflict resolution can be a complex, painstaking, and resource demanding activity. It can require patience, tenacity, and an immense degree of quiet and non-sensational work. Is it any wonder that humans often opt for escape from these assiduous requirements of conflict resolution and choose instead the dramatics and heroics of violence? Again, what unites us is widespread and profound.

The fallacy of seeing ourselves as righteous compared to far lesser human beings has been made plain by Jesus when he discussed murder this way: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22 NIV). No one is exempt from the vulnerabilities of mankind, and we can be rest assured we fully share commonality with the totality of the strange mammalians called homo sapiens.

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