Tag Archives: violence

6 April: The Passover Sequence III: The Road.

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As soon as we heard the news

We went to her,

To sit with her,

Hold her,

Protect her.

But she did not lament,

Falter.

No tears, her face was set ….

. her bearing!

Oh that you had seen her!

But the sorrow was deep in her eyes,

In the softness of her voice,

The finality of her hands

To embrace each one.

Then swiftly gathering her shawl

About her head she went …. out,

Out …

To meet her Son.

And we were left, bewildered,

Broken.

We could hear them coming,

Such noise,

Jeering, shouting,

You know what these mobs are like.

While she stood

In the middle of the road, alone,

Waiting!

Three crosses!

And so he came to his Mother,

Eyes, raised from the ground,

For her.

Steadily approaching.

The said he had already fallen twice

And they brought a man to help him.

He could have left them all

And run

To their meeting!

Oh that you had seen them! ….

The soldiers tried …. tried, to move them on.

While they stayed,

And looked,

And knew,

And parted.

She came to us at last.

He walked on,

Alone.

SPB.

Winchester Cathedral.

 

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5 April: The Passover Sequence, II. The Soldier.

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Enough, lads!

Leave it,

Go … go … leave it!

Why do they tell us to do these things?

Soldiers of Caesar … are we not human?

They had their fun

Till it sickened

And they laboured.

And I stayed.

Here! Put this back on!

See he shivers in the shock,

Such violence!

Not the usual cursing, angry vagrant,

Shouting, struggling,

Shivering. Yes,

Their bodies react like that,

But his eyes are calm.

He looked at me.

I am ashamed.

Here, let me help you.

Why do they do this?

Why mock the man?

Why strike?

Why spit?

No-one seems to know.

But for their satisfaction

And more to come I hear.

Well, I’ll leave you here … where else?

I’m off duty soon,

My wife will have my meal,

I’m hungry now.

But you!

What for you?

The hordes are ravenous,

Whipped up for blood.

Do you not have friends?

Family?

Who speaks for you?

Defends you?

I must go.

Someone will come for you soon.

But wait here ….

here ….

I’m sorry ….

SPB.

 

 

The Crowning with Thorns, Strasbourg Cathedral, West Front.

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4 April: The Passover Sequence, I. Yesterday.

 

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Yesterday we walked with him,

talked with him.

Tho’ he was quiet,

Wanting us there.

So much to tell us,

So much we could not understand.

Yesterday ….

He spoke often of his Father.

How could we know?

fishermen –

Caught within the rapture of their presence.

Unable to comprehend,

Held by the comfort of their closeness.

For it was, it was, … closeness.

More than himself,

A Son,

Submissive, obedient.

But what love, what love!

It touched us all,

Caught up,

Tax-collectors –

He told us that he would die,

Leave us

When all within was caught in that love.

What could we do?

Yesterday

We ate with him.

Oh! He wanted that!

We wanted that!

“… with desire…”

He spoke of his Father

Intimate …

With us, wondering men,

Not knowing how we should respond.

Embraced in such love.

I mean, people do not love like that,

Do they?

Such foreboding

As if this was the last time.

And it was.

He told us

But we didn’t understand.

So we walked in the quietness of the evening,

Walked with him …

what words can tell you?

If there were tears they did not flow,

Instead we, all of us,

Bore the weight of his leaving.

We came to the garden, deserted,

Full of dark shadows,

The lingering scent of thesun-filled day.

He went on alone to speak with his Father.

We were left,

Working men,

Fishermen,

Chosen by the Son of God,

His brothers,

Each weighed down by his own self’s grief.

We slept.

He came back to us and found us sleeping,

Such gentle reproach …

Could you not …

Even one hour … ?’

And once again

Our hearts’ heaviness

Forbade his comfort.

His friends!

One of the others said later,

An angel had come to him.

I did not see.

I was asleep.

Ashamed.

But when he stood

Facing the mob in their torchlight

His features were beaded with blood.

We could have fallen back into the shadows,

And we did,

We could have run,

And we did.

We could leave him

And we did.

But that Love!

Who are you?

Who are we?

So we fell back into the shadows.

And he went on, alone,

With the mob.

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3 March. Little Flowers of Saint Francis, XV: Francis the Peacemaker

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Now as they went along this way, Brother Masseo marvelled within himself, wherefore Saint Francis had made him do as do the children, before the worldly folk that passed that way: howbeit for reverence sake he dared say naught to the holy father.

As they drew nigh unto Sienna, the people of the city heard of the coming of the saint and hied them out to meet him ; and of their devotion bore him and his companion right to the bishop’s house, in such wise that they touched not the ground at all with their feet.

Now at that same hour certain folk of Sienna were at strife with one another, and already two of them lay dead. Saint Francis having won there preached to them in so devout and saintly a fashion, that he brought them one and all to peace and close unity and concord together. For the which cause the bishop of Sienna, hearing of the holy work that Saint Francis had wrought, bade him to his house and received him with high honour that day, and eke the night.

And the next morn Saint Francis, who with true humility sought naught in all his works save only the glory of God, rose up betimes with his companion, and without the bishop’s knowledge was away. Whereat the said Brother Masseo went by the way murmuring within himself.

 

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January 19: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; Introduction to this year’s theme and background.

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The material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018 has been produced in the Caribbean.

There are 1.4 Million Christians living in the Caribbean region, across a vast geographical spread of island and mainland territories. They represent a rich and diverse tapestry of ethnic, linguistic and religious traditions, with a complex variety of governmental and constitutional arrangements.

The contemporary context is deeply marked by the history of colonialism which stripped people of their identity, dignity and freedom. Christian missionary activity, closely tied to the colonial system, seemed to support, encourage and excuse it. During five-hundred years of the colonial system, scripture was used to justify the enslavement of the indigenous people. In a dynamic reversal, those same scriptures became the inspiration and motivation for people to reclaim their liberty. 

Recognising the hand of God in the ending of enslavement, the Caribbean Christians offer Exodus 15, a song of triumph over oppression, as the motif of the Week of Prayer. The hymn, The Right Hand of God, reflecting the song of Miriam and Moses in praise of the liberating action of God, has become the anthem of the ecumenical movement in the region. Like the Israelites, the people of the Caribbean have a song of victory and freedom to sing.

Yet, contemporary challenges continue to enslave and threaten the dignity of the people. Many of the contemporary challenges are the legacy of the colonial past. The Caribbean economies have traditionally been based upon the production of materials for the European market – sometimes producing only a single commodity. They have never been self-sustaining and their development has required borrowing on the international market. The servicing of the debt has caused a reduction in spending upon the development that it was meant to facilitate.

The chosen passage from Exodus 15 allows us to see that the road to unity must often pass through a communal experience of suffering. The Israelites’ liberation from enslavement is the foundational event in the constitution of the people. Although our liberation and salvation is at God’s initiative, human agencies are engaged in their realisation. Christians participate in God’s ministry of reconciliation, yet our divisions hamper our witness to a world in need of God’s healing.

The themes of the daily material raise some of the contemporary issues addressed by the churches of the Caribbean. Abuses of human rights are found across the region and we are challenged to consider our manner of welcoming of the stranger into our midst. Human trafficking and modern-day slavery continue to be huge issues. Addiction to pornography and drugs, continue to be serious challenges to all societies. The debt crisis has a negative impact upon the nations and upon individuals – the economies of the nations and people have become precarious. Family life continues to be challenged by the economic restrictions which lead to migration, domestic abuse and violence.

The Caribbean Churches work together to heal the wounds in the body of Christ. Reconciliation demands repentance, reparation and the healing of memories. The whole Church is called to be both a sign and an active agent of this reconciliation.

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12 January, Temperance VI: Temperance, Restraint and Anger.

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One of the important aspects of the virtue temperance is that it is not just about our physical appetites. It is about all our appetites, and develops our ability to handle such emotions as intense fear, desire and anger. And so, it complements moderation with something that uses perhaps more ‘muscle’ – and that something is restraint. Restraint is that power of soul whose act is to choose. In so doing, it curbs the desire for immediate gratification by showing us that we may fulfil our being more truly by making a reasoned choice than by gratifying an impulse that is coming (as in the case of anger) from a hidden desire for vengeance.

Restraint has particular relevance to the passion of anger. Anger can be a very strong passion indeed, and it is worth dwelling on it for a moment. St. Thomas grants that some forms of anger are useful: the anger that surfaces in regard to injustice, for example, and any kind of abuse. Anger is a necessary passion in these circumstances. I would go even further and say that there are some situations to which anger is the only healthy response. But, once again, anger must be directed by the light of reason. Intemperate anger can be destructive and abusive itself, and St. Thomas would not allow that it is good to fight violence with violence. This is where restraint comes in. Blind wrath, bitterness of spirit, revengeful resentment: these forms of anger are highlighted by St. Thomas as being the most dangerous aspects of anger and therefore most in need of the curbing powers of restraint. Blind wrath, he says, is anger that is immoderately fierce and destructive. Bitterness of spirit is to do with a state of anger that lasts so long that it becomes a part of one’s very character and personality. In this case the offence remains in one’s memory, and gives rise to what Thomas calls ‘lasting displeasure’ that does not stop until punishment has been inflicted. Revengeful resentment is an aspect of this ongoing bitterness in which the disposition becomes chronically sullen and the mind is endlessly preoccupied with taking revenge.

When these aspects of anger are delineated here in writing, it is easy to see how harmful they can be – to ourselves and to others – but let’s face it: we have all been there and probably done it. I don’t doubt that many of us have at times been swept away by the intensity of our feelings and indulged in precisely the kind of angry behaviour Thomas describes. These temptations are part of the weakness we have as fallen beings. But the virtue of temperance brings good things to bear on this state of affairs. Through gentleness, justice and charity we can restrain the onslaught of anger.

Gentleness, contrary to what we might think, does not mean that we never feel angry, or that if we do, we can get over it almost before we feel the full force of it. Rather, gentleness is what makes a person master of herself, and therefore master of the power of anger, according to St. Thomas – for anger is a power, and as such is capable of accomplishing something good. Gentleness is about channeling that power rightly, dealing with the cause of the anger fairly, addressing the whole situation that gave rise to the anger in such a way as to change it for the better.

In order to do this, of course, we need to enlist the aid of our reason. We are back to the need to think. Our reason then, brings justice and charity to bear upon the situation that has caused our anger. Justice and charity working together with gentleness enables us to focus on something other than our own pain. We become able to focus on the feelings of the one (or ones) who offended us, on seeing the situation from the other side, and on effecting the changes that will lead to the establishment of peace – even if some of those changes are changes that need to take place within our own heart.

SJC

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November 28: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxviii – And So

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There is no end. Earthly existence comes and goes – yet everything lives on in a creative universe like ours. Everything works in a cooperative fashion as it is designed to do, within a great deal of freedom and choice. The point of relationships is to have no end. Creation resembles a musical instrument being tuned to ever higher vibrations until they weave together in the orchestra called creation. For this to happen we need to vacate our heads and move into our hearts and see with new eyes what really is waiting to be seen.

The fact that many relationships are not right is not Creation’s fault. It is the fruit of the way of redemptive violence we have universally installed. Mother Earth is weary of our adolescent aggression. We have a choice – between life and extinction. We need to awaken to a new dawn in the warmth of the rising sun which will lead us out of the darkness of exclusions and aggression.

Not many will forget Boxing Day 2004 – the Tsunami in South East Asia, claiming 250,000 lives. Devotees of all religions asking what the divine is up to; was this a punishment for evil, why did God not intervene? The day started like any other, holiday time, bright sunshine – some did notice that the water had receded from the shoreline – very few noticed the absence of bird-song and animal life. A tribe of gypsy people in Thailand did notice – and they discerned that the receding waters would return with a vengeance – they took to the hills and no one was lost. These people did not try to take control. They listened to the deeper wisdom from their lived history – as did the animal kingdom.

Earthquakes have been well described as Mother Earth in the birth pangs of new possibilities; without them all would be arid and lifeless – no animal or plant life, no human beings. Without the paradox of creation and destruction there is no freedom, wonder or mystery. Many of them are highly destructive of human life – the result of ignorance and injustice. Research has enabled us to build earthquake resistant towns and cities – with minimal loss of life. Why hasn’t this facility been universally shared, so that the poor can benefit also? If we refrained from polluting the atmosphere hurricanes and tsunamis would not be so ferocious.

Governments and religions call the gypsy folk of Thailand primitive – and ignore them, as we did with Jesus who reminded us: they did it to me and they will do it to you!

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older

The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated…

We must be still and still moving

Into another intensity

For a further union, a deeper communion

Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,

The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters

Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning. Eliot

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November 13: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xiii – ‘Resurrection is the affirmation of a life fully lived.’

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He is risen!

 

Little by little, slowly and gradually, the process of dis-covery [uncovering] is worked out to the subversion of the persecutors when the innocence of the victim becomes more and more evident: Joseph, Job, and Songs of Suffering Servant in Isaiah – when God is distinguished from the violence of the gods, and clearly on the side of the victim.

This is the genius of Judaism, having nothing equivalent elsewhere. This is what we call Revelation, God’s self-revelation by means of the innocent victim. We never reach the full revelation of this in the Old Testament, nor a full revelation of the innocence of the victim, nor a separation of God from involvement in the sacred self-deceiving violence. Such fullness occurs only in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

If we diminish the significance of Jesus’ death are we not undermining the very essence of the Resurrection? If we honour, as did Jesus, the primary role of the Kingdom, life radically lived to the full, then resurrection is not so much about the vindication of his death as about the affirmation of life fully lived. Resurrection belongs to life rather than death, an affirmation and celebration of what fully alive means.

Following Jesus has become synonymous with belonging to a denomination, and inevitably came to see Jesus as a ruling Lord – with scant reference to the freedom and empowerment of the powerless which is his hallmark. By the time of Emperor Constantine the Kingdom of God was clothed in the imperial system of Rome. Whereas the freedom Jesus brought would happen not by intervention from above but by empowerment from the ground up. The one and only time Jesus approved of them calling him king was when he chose to ride on a donkey – he embraced kingship but turned it on its head.

AMcC

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November 12: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xii – ‘Violence against violence.’

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For Jesus, non-violence is at the heart of his message, in which we are called to love – even our enemies. This was so threatening to the Roman and Jewish authorities that they eliminated Jesus, hoping his way would die with him. But the message was more enduring. However, early catechesis missed out on the dynamic power of life fully lived even to death. Missing the significance of life resulted in death being seen as the primary constituent for redemption. This led to the notion of redemptive violence: salvation coming through the cross, by the one made perfect through suffering even to the last drop of blood in obedience.

My desires are in imitation of the desires of others. My “I” depends entirely on those who surround me. If I recognise my dependence on other for my desiring, I will be at peace with this other. But as soon as I insist my desire is original I am in conflict with the other. Someone appears wearing a new fashion; someone I like and admire: I’d like to be like. I buy the same item – others comment on my doing this in imitation I reply yes I like what he’s wearing. However, by far the majority of us would resent the implication – insisting my desire has nothing to do with him. The world of advertising seeks to seduce us by showing someone/thing attractive – if you buy X you can be like Y!

We all desire through the eyes of another. The promising protégé soon experiences alienation from the teacher when the latter fears his standing is being eclipsed by this brighter student – and wonders what has happened – what have I done wrong to merit this reaction? Friends have become rivals.

In an attempt to patch things up we seek for a common scapegoat – this would never have happened if he’d never come here – get rid of him and all will be well again. Having achieved this, we experience a kind of peace – but not real peace. It is peace based on deceit, and the covered-up rivalry will emerge eventually, leading to an eventual exclusion of somebody else, to restore such peace.

In this scenario we have to establish 3 things to maintain peace: 1. forbid all sorts of behaviour that would disturb the peace and lead to conflict; 2. repeat where possible the original exclusion or expulsion, which led to our peace, which consists of ritual actions ending in the immolation of a victim – originally human, later animal; 3. and tell the story of how we were visited by the gods and founded a people – so giving birth to myth.

So, social exclusion is a violent form of protection against violence, made possible by murder – disguised through being ritualised. This universally accepted way is a blind justification of what we are actually doing – cultivating a belief in the guilt of the innocent victim. Cultivating such blindness is the only way to resolve conflict and to avoid social self-destruction [it is good that one person die…].

There is only one way this can be challenged. When someone with an entirely different perception, one not dependent on such a lie, comes to the group and points it out. The Jewish story is a long, slow discovery of the innocence of the victim. Look to the foundation of human culture – Cain and Abel – so too with Romulus and Remus – the two brothers who fight about who is the founder of Rome. They organise a competition to see who has received the blessing of the gods. Remus sees some birds, Romulus sees some more impressive birds. In the fight that ensues Romulus kills Remus and becomes the founder of Rome. Remus was accused of impiety towards the gods and for that reason Romulus was right to kill him.

So too with Cain and Abel [Genesis] – the same thing happens – Cain kills Abel; but there is a difference of interpretation: God says to Cain – where is your brother? A – His blood cries out to me! This declares that the murder is no more than that; a sordid crime, and God is on the side of the victim.

AMcC

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November 11: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xi – ‘ sinners feel at home with him’.

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Jesus is inclusive in his relationships, especially at table. Tax collectors and sinners feel at home with him – not a male with soft edges, but one who is radically different – relational rather than rational. But there’s more – a dimension that has eluded scholars for centuries. His is a presence that transcends space and time. The stereotypical dualism of male and female is transcended in favour of an integration that relativises both the male and female as seen in basic biology.

Redemptive Violence – Women shed blood to give life; men tend to shed blood in order to take life. Ancient cultures saw blood as containing the life force – a force often misused and abused for an angry god. Thus emerged the notion of sacrifice. Shedding blood as an act of appeasement can be traced back to shedding animal blood so that humans could survive. It is said that humans have always hunted for food and killed animals to get it. But research going back 40,000 years has uncovered evidence that the initial gathering of food was from plant life, and animals were killed only when such was unavailable.

Slaying animals does not seem to have been practised during early agricultural times [around 8,000 BC]. Although more food was gleaned from the land, the desire for meat was also present; and during this time the shedding of blood acquired religious significance. Governance was by fiercely aggressive males, who validated what they did through belief in a sky god, who rapidly became like themselves – domineering and demanding; and so pacifying strategies came into play. Animals were the primary victims along with first fruits of the seasons. On rare occasions humans were sacrificed. In this way the notion of the scapegoat came to the fore.

René Girard traces the notion of scapegoating to mimetic [imitating] desire leading to rivalry and violence; it was extensively used to counter threats of aggression. Girard and others see the death of Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice that renders the scapegoat redundant forever. The notion of blood sacrifice is a child of the patriarchal system of around 10,000 years ago. Bloodletting and sacrifice evolved under an anthropocentric world view that man is the measure of all things. In the human, blood seems to be life’s energy, and so must be the life-blood of everything in creation, including God.

Blood sacrifice was seen as restoring the balance, setting things right with the offended one. The notion of victory crept into language for the vindictive God and his earthly representatives. The Hebrew Scriptures reveal a God who is pleased at the slaying of enemies, and whose glory is enhanced by victory through the sword. This is a far cry from the earlier Goddess whose bloodletting was at the service of life-creating.

These two become confused in Jesus. New life was the key-word for Kingdom living, but this tended to be lost with the understanding of salvation through death on the cross – hence understandings like obedience through suffering. For Jesus, non-violence is at the heart of his message, in which we are called to love – even our enemies.

This was so threatening to the Roman and Jewish authorities that they eliminated Jesus, hoping his way would die with him.

AMcC

I had not planned that this post should appear on Armistice Day, but it is worth pondering why violence and war happen, today of all days. WT

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