Violence with Violence or Nonviolent

I felt nauseous when I heard of yet more school shootings in Oregon, Arizona and Texas. Is it just me or does this level of violence seem to be out of proportion? Does a gun really solve an argument, mend a broken heart, satisfy a bullied spirit, or protect anyone from people who think so? Where is the public outrage? By whom are we being silenced and why do we allow paralysis against preventive action?

Sunday’s gospel according to Mark 10:35-45 shows Jesus challenging the cultural assumptions of the disciples. Hidden in their request for positions of greatness reveals their need for security in the midst of fear. Jesus has been preparing them for his execution and they are, naturally, terrified about what will happen to them. Jesus’ response only turns their world more upside down because he tells them they have to live differently … completely opposite of their cultural norms.

The way of God is not about ruling over people or by control of any kind. The way of God is service and nonviolent resistance. The way of God is to confront systems of domination by resisting domineering ways of living. The systems of domination tell us to fight back – violence with violence; they tell us to use power over anyone we can; they tell us someone has to be a winner and a loser, or insiders and outsiders, or honored and shamed. It’s an either- or world for humanity, but for God it’s all about community – all winners, all insiders, all honored. God is continually trying to reclaim us through the work of the Holy Spirit and through the example of the life and ministry of Jesus.

To claim the label Christian, we must apply these God-ways and carefully examine the cultural ways. Culture says: money is power and control over people and government. God might say: money is meant to be shared generously so that others may be comfortable, too. Culture says: you need a gun to feel safe. God might say: violence begets violence, resist the system that teaches this lie.

In the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

“O Divine Master, grant that I may not seek to much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

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