The lawyers for James Holmes, the Aurora shooter, announced today that they planned to have their client enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Tamerlan Tsarnev, the Boston bombing suspect who was killed, can’t get buried to date because no one wants to bury him. If you read the comments following both stories, they are filled with all kinds of graphic descriptions of violence that people would like to enact on them. It is surely understandable that people are appalled at the acts of both men. But I wonder how many who write in also are Christians.
Jesus, whom Christians are supposed to follow, obviously saw, thought about, and even experienced violence and taught about appropriate responses to it as we read through the Gospels. Jesus never responded to violence with violence. And despite some modern conceptions, Jesus neither advocated walking away from or being a doormat to violence either.
When I was younger, my dog liked to go swim in Bayou St. John. Unfortunately, the place where he went (he roamed free in his early days – he was a stray originally) was where fisherman would throw useless bait out and fish heads. My dog loved to go roll in this before he came home. Needless to say – he smelled rather choice after each fish roll. And if he rubbed against your clothes, your clothes would smell like it. If someone hugged you, their clothes would smell like it.
Imagine, if you would, violence (and responding to violence with more violence) as that dead fish smell. We are not called to like it. We are not called to smell like it. We are not called to pass it on. But when we do smell it, we can hate the smell without ourselves passing on the same smell. We may even encounter people who have gotten used to the smell and think it is normal, but it isn’t.
We as a people need to work hard to shed our love for violence. It runs through our society. We are loathe to the violence but often propose as its solution more violence. We may think “we can fight fire with fire” but that so often that ends up being counterproductive. Most often everybody ends up getting burned in some manner or form.
Water (or some other chemical), not more fire, is most often the answer to a fire. Yes, there are cases where we do fight fires (lighting a backfire to reduce a larger’s fire’s spread). There are some cases where in our fallen world we can’t do anything but fight violence with more violence. But it is not the long term answer. It never has been.
Jesus’ way, even if it is not our tendency, is the right way. Let’s stand up to violence. Let’s stand against it. But let’s be careful not to run with the crowd in our response. And let’s not forget, Jesus didn’t go off to quietly contemplate. He stood his ground (even at the cost of his life). He gave of himself for others. And that is how he found eternal life.
Violence may be the way of our world but it is not the way of Jesus Christ and should never be the default answer for Christians.
Let us point to a different path – a better one.
What do you think?
Until next time,