Every time I write a post about my (mostly sadly ineffectual) stabs at being a peace-maker, I hear from at least one person who says, "Oh okay so if you saw a defenseless creature being harmed you'd just stand there. You'd just let someone be killed without having the cojones to use lethal force yourself."
I've thought about this a lot, trying to imagine the scenario such people have in mind. I don't and wouldn't own a gun so I wouldn't be in a position to use lethal force in any case (my bare-hands, brute-force strength for sure wouldn't do the trick). But if I did own a gun, what are the chances that at the exact moment someone stands to be, say shot at, beaten to death, or raped, there I would be, alert, unencumbered, sidearm at the ready? I'm no statistician, but I imagine pretty slim. In fact for all the zillions of guns out there, how often do we hear of a bystander being at the right place at the right time, shooting down a would-be assailant, and riding off into the sunset? We hear about chaos. We hear about wanton carnage. We hear about kids getting hold of guns and accidentally shooting each other, themselves, their parents. We hear about the massacres at Columbine, Newtown, and the Amish country.
No, to make the scenario work you would have to have a cold-blooded, meticulously-planned, timed murder, so you'd know when to be there to intercept the murder by murdering the would-be murderer and so that you, too, could plan. An execution, for example--for with meticulous planning and in cold blood is just how we kill our (often wrongly-) condemned criminals.
So say after much maneuvering and planning and sneaking about you somehow found your way into the death chamber and, just as the executioner was about to pull the lever, shot him dead. And then just behind you was a guy who felt the same way you do and wanted to rescue the executioner and so as you're shooting the executioner, shoots you dead, and so on down the line, each would-be murderer being killed in the act of murdering by another person who is also willing to murder. In the end, there would be only one person left in the world, all the others having been murdered. At which point he would have to murder him (or her-) self--if nothing else, out of loneliness.
This is the insanity of violence, and part of the insanity--the chill factor--is the predictability. Violence is a formula: violence begets more violence. We don't know how or where the violence is going to break out, but as sure as e=mc2 it is going to break out somewhere.
The beauty of following Christ is that we are freed from the formula. The follower of Christ cedes control, outcomes, results. The follower of Christ doesn't play God by dropping an atom bomb on 130,000 Japanese civilians with the rationale that killing those people will save a bunch of other people. How do we know that if we refrained from dropping the bomb and looked for another solution, no-one else would have had to die?
Children don't control; they explore. Children don't count the cost; they're open to delight. The follower of Christ is open, with a child-like heart, to wild-card reality: not the happy ending, but the surprise ending.
Violence gives us temporary relief/release and then we need more. It's like porn: in order to satisfy, the violence needs to become more corrupt, more perverse, more intense. The astonishment of Christ is that he puts himself in mortal peril without exercising violence toward anyone else. He puts himself in the line of fire unarmed. This is wild-card. We don't know what will happen. They might kill us and they might not. But even if they do--this is the glory, mystery and wonder of the Resurrection--our deaths will bear unimaginable fruit.
We seem to have lost sight of the staggering significance of the Crucifixion--that it happened, how it happened. We go about with a breezy "Christ had to die to save the world and now we're free to continue to commit ever more mindless, ever more sophisticated violence."
No-one saved Christ from the unimaginably brutal violence he suffered by committing more violence--and he wouldn't have wanted them to. He ordered Peter--the rock upon whom he built his Church--not to. In effect, he was saying, If you live out the Ten Commandments, underlain by the kind of love I am about to show you, you, too, will be nailed to the Cross. And you, too, will be reborn into something you could never have imagined...
He wasn't just showing us how he had to die, in other words; he was showing us how we should be prepared to die. Either Christ is in our bowels, our hearts, or he is a cartoon figure. Either the Gospels pulsate with the truth of existence, in every direction, on every level, or they are dead.
So no, we don't just stand there. We commit our entire strength, heart, mind and soul to living a life of inner peace. We commit ourselves to a life of unceasing prayer, knowing that prayer is dangerous, risking ourselves to what prayer might call us to.
For most of us, the danger is played out on the battleground of our families, co-workers and friends--but that is its own kind of martyrdom. We, too, will be nailed to the Cross. But "Be not afraid," says Christ. Store up your treasure in heaven. Regard the lilies of the field. My kingdom is not of this world.
When we enter his Kingdom, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. In the midst of our suffering, we will begin to experience the wild-card genius of love.
|I HAVE CALLED YOU BY NAME--YOU ARE MINE...|