Thursday, February 19, 2015

Can Christians Counteract World Violence?

Who can separate us from the love of Christ?  Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Christ who loved us.  -- Romans 8:35, 37
There were 21 Egyptian Christian men murdered last week by ISIS in Libya.  First, I want to honor them by listing their names here.  More important than these fallen ones (who are now with Christ) are their families, who are still among the living, grieving their absence from their lives.  Even though the news cycle has moved on and these eleven men are passing out of our awareness, let us remember their families in prayer as they still smart from the loss.

Richard Rohr begins a talk about "How Men Change" by listing the hundreds of thousands of war dead since 1990 and comments, "When one person dies, those who knew him or her feel the tragedy; when thousands die it's a statistic and we have trouble relating.  We simply can't get our heads around it."  Some of Rohr's stated figures included, 2 million dead in Afghanistan, 1.5 million in the Sudan, 500,000 in Angola, 200,000 in Guatemala, 150,000 in Liberia, 77,000 in Algeria, and 880,000 in Rawanda (in 90 days). 

Violence pretty effectively generates more violence in it's wake. Egypt's response to the ISIS murders was to bomb ISIS bases.  Many "defense experts" feel military retaliation is a necessary response.  A State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf, got soundly criticized for making the statement, "We can not kill our way out of this war."  She was suggesting that there were socio-economic reasons for violence being perpetuated.  Why the resistance to talking about the socio-economic changes needed?  Because such change would shake the foundations of the wealthy, who ultimately benefit from the cycles of violence.

All Christians should spend time in prayer and study during Lent pondering all the structures that support and maintain violence -- from racism, classism, and sexism to a world that bases individual identity on possessions and consumption of the world's resources.  We say we worship the Holy Trinity and yet, when famine, fire, sword or other lesser threats challenge our lives we resort to defensive strategies that protect me and mine by destroying you and yours.  Rhetoric and actions that wave a flag and declare war violates the victory we already know through Christ.  In addition, hatred, hostility, and revenge pumps more massive negativity into the world emotionally and energetically.  The cycle needs to be broken and belief in Christ along with the New Testament provides a strategic plan for doing this.  The Pauline Letters, and in particular the 4th chapter of Philippians summarizes sound Christian advice on transforming the negative downward spirals in our private emotional lives, as well as in our collective global life. 

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