Posted by: dswerling | May 2, 2008

Christianity and Violence

A few months ago I was at a party at my beloved girlfriend’s house and we were all watching the movie “Gladiator.” Her parents happened to be there at the time, and her mother made a comment about how she couldn’t believe that people thought such real, despicable violence was entertaining. My response in my head was about how unbelievable it is that people still enjoy watching such extreme violence, only that the medium has changed. This is such an obvious pleasure that is considered sinful by Christianity (and for good reason) but we very often ignore this very obvious sin and focus more on other things, like sex. Why is this? Why does man have this unquenchable thirst for violence and bloodshed? This is always what makes me think of Christianity as truly divine, because the idea of “turn the other cheek” is such an unnatural idea for us humble humans. That being said, I will concede to the Atheists that “turn the other cheek” has been remarkably ignored in both Christian and world history.

In terms of people having once “thought” that terrible violence was entertaining, we very clearly still do. We love gory, violent movies like Rambo and Apocalypse Now. We love to watch auto races where cars crash and explode while desperately trying to beat other people to a finish line. We love to watch boxing and ultimate fighting, where athletes, for the lack of a better expression, beat the crap out of each other for our entertainment. And we’re always creating new videogames, like Grand Theft Auto, or Counter Strike, or Call of Duty, to answer our call for violence and bloodshed (we devote a tremendous amount of resources to making these games ever more graphic and real as well.) We are completely obsessed with violence; we love to hear about it and be entertained by it. We are also very good at justifying our reasons for violence. Gory movies are often validated as “historical” or “classic” movies that are part of our culture. We continue to insist that there isn’t part of us that is fascinated by a terrible crash during an auto race. We tell ourselves that boxers and ultimate fighters are “athletes” who have made their own decisions. And we always insist that videogames have no effect on us, even though shooters like Harris and Klebold were big fans of violent video games. The big difference in our relationship with violence now seems to be that we validate it by somehow maintaining that it’s not real. Violence doesn’t matter if it’s in a fictional movie or video game setting. It doesn’t count if it’s in an official-looking ring or a car with seatbelts. This is our justification for violence, something that I mentioned long ago in my “False Idols” post. We ignore the very real effect that violence has on us by focusing instead of the fact that harm is not intended.

Stepping back to a post from awhile ago, I will also briefly mention that I’m tired of hearing about “just wars.” How can a war ever be “just?” What even is “justice?” We all have different conceptions of justice of course, but to me, when I hear the term, I think of the United States justice system, which at least tries to impartially convict a wrongdoer, then separate the wrongdoer for practical purposes, not only for revenge. But who is this impartial authority on the global scale? God? I believe in God, but many people don’t, and many people that do have very different ideas of God than I do. Do international organizations like the United Nations justify wars? Hardly, because the entire makeup of the United Nations is manipulated by five large countries, all with our own needs and desperate desires for survival. When it comes down to it, there is no impartial authority that determines whether wars are “just” or not, so I don’t think we can really say any war ever fought was “just.” I believe there have only ever been wars that were “necessary,” the lesser of two evils. The Civil War was terrible, but slavery was an evil that had to be eradicated. World War Two was terrible, but the Holocaust had to be stopped. These wars were “necessary” and the lesser of two evils, but I do not believe they were “just,” unless we assume a very limited, hypocritical view of “justice.”

Our animal, natural urge to be violent and to focus on our own survival is a terrible part of our “original sin” that Christianity first sought to eliminate. Whether we validate this or not, our continued focus on violence and the glorification of violence only continues to seperate us from God and cause misfortune. I remember a few years ago watching a boxing match and seeing blood streaming down one of the “athlete’s” faces. I suddenly wondered why I wanted to watch this. Why did I want to watch people hurting one another for sport? People hurt one another enough in real life for greed or pride or hatred, so why would I want to see people doing it for no reason at all? I will concede that the stain of this original sin is hard to wash out. It takes a long time to seperate ourselves from our very human desires for conflict and fighting, and fill ourselves with the eternal love and forgiveness of God (and I will also state here that I am by no means done with the “washing.”) However, we should always remain conscious of this desire, this obsession we have with fighting. We are quick to justify it, to say that we need it, but the cold hard fact is that we don’t. Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses, but I would say that violence is the opiate of the masses. Like a drug addict or alcoholic, we have convinced ourselves that we need something that we really don’t need, and now will go to any lengths to justify it. I pray that the ever-saving love of Jesus Christ will overcome our very natural, human need to fight and hate one another, because if it doesn’t, we won’t need any hell to go to, because we will create our own.

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”-Gandhi

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man produces not the righteousness of God.” -James 1:19


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