Violence, School

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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Tears of Sorrow and Joy

Just over 18 months ago, my mother was dancing at my wedding. Only a month later, my mom discovered that she had cancer of the abdominal lining. Thus began a long battle, fighting the disease with a combination of conventional surgery and chemotherapy, and alternative treatments of vitamins, serums, and an extremely healthy diet. At one point she was drinking so much organic carrot juice that she turned orange!

Learning that my wife, Joy, was pregnant (with our first child), seemed to give my mom added incentive to survive and even to get better. After Luke arrived, my mother was absolutely thrilled to get to know our new son, her 13th grandchild. I never saw her happier as she held Luke in her lap, and he gave her all those smiles of his. Then, she got very excited to learn that her youngest daughter, Marcie, was expecting a baby the day before her 75th birthday in May. On she battled, looking more and more healthy after each setback.

But on April 30, I got a call from my brother, Bill, in Detroit. My mom had collapsed at home. She had an infection in her bloodstream. Four out of five cancer patients die from something other than cancer, due to how much the body has been weakened. The doctors and my dad seemed optimistic at first; she had always pulled through before. But three days later we got another call. My dad’s voice sounded emotional and scared, "You’d better come." We did and were there in just hours. The doctors feared she might not live through the night. When my sister and I arrived at our mother’s bedside that evening, the first thing she said was to ask my dad if he had got fresh milk for us back at the house, and whether everyone had a bed with clean sheets. Some things never change.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1999
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