When Violence Kills Itself

I've always heard the adage "violence is a weapon of the weak." But after events like the Virginia Tech massacre, it's easy to think that violence has ultimate power. After all, we've learned history through the lens of war. And we read the news through acts of violence rather than the hidden acts of love that keep hope alive.

But there is often a common thread in many of the most horrific perpetrators of violence that begs our attention—they kill themselves. Violence kills the image of God in us. It is a cry of desperation, a weak and cowardly cry of a person suffocated of hope. Violence goes against everything that we are created for—to love and to be loved—so it inevitably ends in misery and suicide (either literal or metaphorical).

When people succumb to violence, it ultimately infects them like a disease or a poison that leads to their own death. Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus with a violent kiss, ends his life by hanging himself with a noose. After his notorious persecutions, the Emperor Nero's story ends as he stabs himself. Hitler passed out suicide pills to all his heads of staff, and he ended his life as one of the most pitifully lonely people to walk the earth. We see the same in the case of Columbine, the 2006 Amish school shootings, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the recent Virginia Tech massacre—each ends in suicide.

VIOLENCE IS SUICIDAL. Suicide rates of folks in the military and those working the chambers of death row execution are astronomical; they kill themselves as they feel the image of God dying in them.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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