Violence Begets Violence

I can understand a church’s desire to protect its’ people. We’ve seen far too many massacres at churches (or anywhere, for that matter).  But, despite that reality, threatening more violence in reaction to violence doesn’t even remotely approach having anything to do with the teachings of the faith.

When relating the story of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemene, Matthew 26:52 tells us that when a disciple sought to defend Jesus from those arresting him:

…Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

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Righting a Wrong

The administrators of Catholic Memorial High School are correct: Corporate Responsibility teaches us that we must all bear responsibility when some in our community commit verbal or physical violence against “The Other.” But, we must also remember that using it as an excuse for violence and oppression of others is an evil lie: you cannot blame an entire population or community or religion or economic class for the (real or imagined) actions of a few.

20160356e4a1fec96cbWith regards to the recent furor in our local (Boston Area) news about how students from Catholic Memorial High School [CM] in West Roxbury, MA chanted “You killed Jesus” at a recent Basketball game against Newton North High School (NNHS, which has a large Jewish student population.  Both schools are within 5 miles of the graduate school were I received my Masters of Divinity, Andover Newton Theological School.)

I understand how many students at CM feel cheated because of the actions of a few dozen of their peers.  And some may feel that the slurs shouted at them by students from NNHS at that game were just cause for the hateful speech that was directed at them in return.

It appears that the school administration has made the hard decision of putting morality and repentance ahead of popularity or convenience. And, they are emphasizing corporate responsibility for what happened (which is also at the heart of the #BlackLivesMatter movement).  “Corporate responsibility” is the moral law that says we can’t escape responsibility for wrongs done against others by those who are part of our own community, even when we are not directly involved. (Sadly, based on the student Tweets quoted in this article, the school will be facing a tough challenge on teaching this to some of their students.)

I will be interested to see how this plays out in the weeks to come: the school administration has pledged to make a determined effort to educate their students more carefully and thoroughly with regards to the evils of anti-Judaism and other forms of exclusion of those who are “Other.” And, in addition to a ban on current students attending the championship game, they have already contacted both NNHS and the Anti Jewish Defamation League to make significant apologies and pledges to reform.

But I wonder, will this determination to right the wrong and to change one’s behavior for the better extend to the teachers and administration as well? The students did not do this in isolation; since, as already stated, the absence of personal responsibility for a wrong does not free anyone in that school from corporate responsibility.  It’s a hard lesson to learn.  I also wonder if the NNHS community, whose students shouted similar (though less incendiary) slurs at the CM students, are in need of learning a similar lesson for themselves.

And, I should add, the very idea that “Jews killed Jesus” is a serious misunderstanding of the Gospels, as Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley made clear in a speech at Temple Emmanuel here in the Boston area just the night before the game.  “Corporate Responsibility” does not lead us to conclude that all Jews must bear responsibility for the faults of a few in leadership positions in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, even if it really was exclusively their fault to begin with (which it wasn’t, if at all).

Corporate Responsibility is an important tool for repentance and healing, not an excuse for violence against “The Other”: using it as an excuse for violence and oppression against others is the evil lie that Donald Trump and others in the current Presidential Campaign are trumpeting every chance they get, but they are wrong: you cannot blame an entire population or community or religion or economic class for the (real or imagined) actions of a few.

Which brings to mind this thought: those who are advocating violence and oppression against others in this political campaign are part of our national “community” – even if we wish it were not so.   So, how do we repent or atone for the damage that is being done by them and those who support them; since they are Americans just like we are, and so we must acknowledge our Corporate Responsibility for their words and actions?


Making Guns our God

The discussion on gun control needs to be on where to draw the line – on what is in the best interests of society as a whole. Claiming that it is a matter of “personal rights guaranteed by the constitution” is a profound misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of a document that was intended from the start “to create a more perfect union” by delineating the boundaries between the responsibilities and rights of the State vs. those of the individual.

IOF-32-REV-1[Just a reminder to all: I make an effort to approve all comments regardless of the writer’s perspective.  But when it comes to contentious issues like this (where passions are strong), I recommend reviewing my comments policy before writing your response.]

I agree with the basic premise of author Mark Lockhard’s recent post on the Sojourners website entitled “Making Guns our God”:  Claiming that the best response to “the other’s” (real or imagined) possibility for violence is to have an equal or greater capacity for violence of your own is not in line with any flavor of Christian thought (thoughtless Christianity exempted). It is also futile and never ends well, as both history and recent news headlines have repeatedly shown.

But, I tend to be a bit more of a pragmatist, I think.  We will not and cannot eliminate guns from society, and while I will never own a gun myself, I realize that we as a society have to make room for those who like having and using guns for sport and personal enjoyment; as well as for those who hunt.

The gun debate is about where to draw the line when it comes to owning tools of violence. We don’t allow people to own all the atomic bombs, fighter jets, tanks, or grenade launchers they want to have – i.e., our laws already make it clear that people cannot arm themselves with whatever weapons they want. So, the claim that gun ownership must have no limits [whether based on a questionable reading of the 2nd amendment or not] is unreasonable, just as a complete ban on all gun ownership is equally unreasonable. The line is somewhere in between.

Continue reading “Making Guns our God”

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