The Common Good

Violence Makes Losers of Us All

If you were walking down the street and a stranger approached you and punched you in the face what would you want to do in that moment? Sure, this is an odd hypothetical situation, but really, answer the question.

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Few would say, “I would want to give that person a hug.” Depending on the size of the attacker most would either fight back or run away. But let’s suppose you fought back, and even vanquished your assailant, pummeling him repeatedly for his dastardly deeds. What then?

Would he, through being beaten, come to understand his wrong in hitting you? No, he might start plotting his revenge, or his friends would think about getting you back for what you did. If they did, then you would have friends that would want to get them back. So it goes with the endless spiral of violence.

We have been fooled into believing that violence is a respectable solution for problems in our world. What we fail to see is the many problems that violence brings with it, beginning with more violence. Violence also brings hurt, fear, anger, a desire for revenge, death and enmity.  

We don’t like to think about all this, so we sanitize violence. Television is filled with violent images that seem normal. Characters on the TV shoes encounter it without flinching. However, if we encountered the death and carnage that we see on TV in our real world we would need years of therapy just to cope.

News coverage of wars fought by our military show valiant soldiers firing their guns at unseen “targets.” Cameras record images of bombs and missiles decimating buildings. What we don’t consider are the “targets” (who are people) those bullets hit and kill. We don’t think about the death from an exploding missile that destroyed a building populated by human beings.  

If any of this becomes to much to bear in our thinking, we reassure ourselves by saying that we are the “good guys” fighting an “evil foe.” We convince ourselves that our use of violence is justified, and our enemy’s use of violence is evil. But we never can seem to remember that everyone who fights does so because they think they are the “good guys.”

And so our violence, as good as we think it is, is believed to be evil by the other. Their desire to stop our evil is just as strong as ours, and violence only increases. It will never bring peace. Violence is itself a great evil. This is why Scripture always speaks of violent people and violence as something undesirable. It will always lead to a path of destruction, for both the victim and the perpetrator of violence.

This can be seen most clearly in the recent events in Afghanistan. On Sunday, an unnamed U.S. Soldier murdered sixteen Afghan civilians — including children (read the story here). On the American side questions are rising due to the fact that this is not the first soldier from his base to commit atrocities. Congress wants an investigation, rightfully so, and the world is outraged.

This is what violence does. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live, like this soldier, each day ready to kill or be killed in a world of violence. Stationed in a foreign land in a war that began in retaliation for crimes committed against us when evil men flew planes into buildings in our country.

So we invaded their country, and have killed many of their people. This one particular soldier, seemingly unable to handle it all, snapped and did some killing of his own. Now, the Taliban has vowed revenge, and why wouldn’t they? Violence begets violence.

As I read these articles there was one picture that summed it up for me. It is a picture of a man pointing to the bodies of those murdered by this American soldier. His eyes are filled with tears that speak of fear, outrage, suffering, and pain. This is the only thing that violence can bring.

Which causes me to ask another question, “If someone were to come into your neighborhood and murder sixteen of your friends and family, what would you want to do?” 

While some will no doubt condemn the Taliban for the revenge they will exact, my hope is that they will only be able to see their reflection. For one thing that violence can teach us is: When we participate in violence and revenge we become more like our enemy than we’d ever like to admit.

My hope is that the people of God will find common ground, not in violence, but in weeping with the troubled man in this photograph. For violence never produces winners, but makes us all losers.

Michael Hidalgo is the Lead Pastor of Denver Community Church, and lives with his wife and children in downtown Denver, CO. He blogs regularly at  A View From a Point . Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelhidalgo.

Photo Credit: A mourner cries over the bodies of Afghan civilians, allegedly shot by a rogue US soldier, via JANGIR/AFP/Getty Images.

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