Some people see violence as an absolute wrong. Others see it as a sometimes necessary evil, with considerable variation as to just how often these times come up. I’m at the dovish end of the latter group: I believe that there are times—not many, not remotely as many as American foreign policy consensus or law enforcement norms would have it, but some times—when a violent action might be the least-bad available option. But a necessary evil isn’t a virtue; “least bad” doesn’t mean “good.”
At the vigil for Ferguson, I stumbled over singing "We Shall Overcome." I have remarkably little, personally, to overcome in my life.
We are endlessly being misdirected in search of the crude “hate crime.” After centuries of racial oppression and violence, our society eventually became uncomfortable with the overtness of the racism of the past. Slavery is taken for granted as a horrific thing, something that couldn’t be assumed a few generations ago. For mainstream America, to be accused of being racist is to have been labeled something despicable. Few would willingly accept this charge upon themselves, defending themselves adamantly against such accusations. However, even worse than the racist label for those within the dominant culture, is for a person to be accused of a hate crime. Hate crimes have been created to isolate the most heinous of offenses that have been committed because of prejudice.
As church leaders, we have our ears, hearts, and words. We pray that God will use them. But we also have limitations--time, energy, and ability. And even though we feel helpless, like we can never do enough, sometimes being the person who takes the picture, who tells the story is our most important job.
As I read the headline yesterday, my heart began to pound and my throat closed up: “School Clerk In Georgia Persuaded Gunman To Lay Down Weapons.” This was a good story—ultimately a hopeful one—but all I could see was “school” and “gunman."
If you haven't read about Ingrid Loyau-Kennett's heroism in London the other day, you should. Immediately after the brutal murder of British miltary drummer Lee Rigby, she hopped off a city bus and talked to the killers while they stood there holding their blood-drenched weapons.
We had a week of frightening headlines as each day greeted us with a new horror. Yet, the chorus soothes my troubled soul as I inhale and imagine God filling me with peace in the midst of all those dreadful dispatches.
On July 11, 1804, in Weehawken, New Jersey—just across the Hudson River from Manhattan—two longtime political adversaries faced off in a duel. The result: Vice President Aaron Burr shot and mortally wounded the former secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton. (No, Dick Cheney was not the first vice president to shoot someone!) Dueling, which Benjamin Franklin characterized as a “murderous practice,” was technically illegal in most states.
Filmmakers often defend cinematic violence by drawing a line between entertainment and the real world. But this devalues their work.