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Monday, June 13, 2016

Vision as Alternative to Violence

People like to blame the media for sensationalizing the problems, especially the violence, of our times.  There may be some truth to that, but I think that can be overdone.  There is a sneaky assumption that sometimes goes with this sensationalism.  The assumption---false in my mind---is that publicizing the violence in the way media does it only incites more of the same.  Sometimes this is called copycat violence.  It is easy to think of the high school mayhem that was the Columbine story in Colorado.  If we publicize in a sensational fashion, then other copycats will do the same.  And so the logic goes with other arenas of violence.

Certainly violence is not new to our age.  I grant that we may know more about the ravages of violence than ever in history.  Our media is so technologically sophisticated that we know more and we know more quickly things that happen in our back yard and in the back yards of places half way around the world.  That we know more is uncontested.  The internet has made public violence immediately accessible.  Whether it is the collapsing of the Twin Towers in New York or the latest hooliganism at a soccer game, we know about it.

My inspirational reflection, however, is not about violence.  What else is there to say about violence except don’t do it!  Rather, I am more interested in an alternative to violence.  We know very well what many so-called solutions to violence are: more cops, more guns, more surveillance, etc.  Some of this is appropriate, although none of them are fail-safe solutions to the problem of violence.  I would like to propose the ultimate solution.  In so doing I recognize many folks would dismiss this as idealistic or, even, unrealistic.

My alternative to violence is vision.  Clearly, this sounds too general and amorphous to be useful, some would claim.  But I will elaborate.  Of course, the word, vision, is very general.  It is of little help until we get a sense of the “what” of vision….vision of what?  The vision is the opposite of violence.  Violence is a commitment to harm, suffering and, ultimately, death.  Vision is a commitment to health, well being and life.  Violence is destructive; vision is constructive.  Violence is never a long-term solution.  Inevitably, it causes reactions.  And these reactions too often breed more violence.

When I think more about vision, I am sure the vision is in large degree a vision of love.  Love is the energy of vision, just as hate is the energy of violence.  Putting it this way gives us a sense of the degree of love needed in vision.  We all know the intensity of hate.  Hate has a raw edge and a drivenness that makes it hard to combat.  Only if love has the same level of intensity does vision have a chance.

Clearly, this calls for a kind of love that is different than the puppy love of new romantics.  Puppy love is cute, but there is no intensity to it.  Instead, we need the kind of love that is evident in the life of Jesus.  If Jesus is too high for a model, then we can settle for some of his disciples.  We think of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Surely, he had the kind of love that demonstrated an alternative to violence.

It is too easy to dismiss King, because he died violently at the hands of thugs.  We could imagine a different scenario.  Imagine King and his colleagues being armed with guns and shooting back at the shooters.  That would not be visionary.  King might have survived that assassination day, but he surely would face it again.  He was a target precisely because he modeled a vision---a vision of love, of inclusion and of integrity.  The bullets killed him, but they did not kill the vision.  It lives on in others who in their own way model the vision of love.

Ultimately, it is either/or for all of us.  Which way will we choose and model: vision or violence?  Not to choose the vision of love means you have de facto chosen the lesser one, namely, violence.  Of course, most people don’t do violence with guns and bombs.  But we might do it with disinterest, dismissal and disgust.  Instead of gunning someone down, we might put them down.  We trap people in misery.  To treat anyone miserably is to do violence.

Sadly in our world, the default operating mode is violence.  To choose a vision of love---alternative to violence---is to make a conscious choice.  It is counter-cultural.  It may seen like the choice of weakness.  But I am confident it is ultimately the winning choice.  I am confident not because of my own desire to be a visionary rather than violent.  I am confident because I am really confident how the Spirit of the Holy One is at work.

It is with the Spirit---the giver of life---that I take my stand.

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