Contributed by The Rev. Susan Bantz
Chaplain, Lutheran Living Senior Campus
On behalf of Muscatine Ministerial Association
Violence. Just the word brings with it a shiver of fear. For most people, violence is not something they desire to have in their lives. Violence is not something they seek, but something that happens to them that is beyond their—and our—control.
But that does not mean that all violence is accidental. The sad reality is that some people DO choose violence as a way of life. They DO choose to perpetrate violence on others. They DO seek out opportunities to harm others. Some people are so driven to violence that they do not care who sees it; in fact, some actively seek the attention that comes with a public violent act. Others are most insidious; they perpetrate their violence in the dark, in secret, where none but their victims can see. Especially in these cases, it may be hard to know the truth of the violence: the reasons behind it, the ways in which people are harmed by it, the deep and serious consequences for individuals and society as a whole. And that is why we, the witnesses to violence and its evils, must speak.
It is difficult to speak the truth, especially when to do so may make the speaker vulnerable to violence. But not to speak out, not to act against the violence, not to provide protection for the victims of violence, and, most especially, not to address the root causes of violence, goes against everything that is human. An anonymous quotation puts it this way: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” When we turn away from violence, when we do nothing to stop it, when we do nothing to help those affected by it, and when we ignore the causes of it, we make the choice to perpetuate it.
Better is to hold to this statement by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran theologian, murdered by the Nazis: “There is no way to peace along the way to safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture.” So take the risk. Choose to stand up to violence. Choose to speak out against it. Choose to help its victims. Choose to pray for its perpetrators. And above all, choose to dare peace.