Contributed by W. Michael Biklen,
Retired United Methodist Pastor, member of Musserville and San Pablo United Methodist Churches
Violence is pervasive in our culture. We are surrounded by it in television, movies, games, news, Legos®.
We associate violence with evil and evildoers who perpetuate violence. All that is needed is eliminating evil or the evildoers, and violence will be no longer.
We do all that we can do to defend ourselves from violence and/or evil.
We have self-defense courses designed to help better prepare to protect ourselves should we ever be confronted by evil and violence: Kickboxing for Self Defense; Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for Self Defense; Muay Thai for Self Defense; Krav Maga for Self Defense; Taekwondo for Self Defense; Karate for Self Defense; Boxing for Self Defense. Hardly an exhaustive list of self-defense courses designed to protect a person from evil and violence.
There are the various self-defense courses that use weapons for protection: pepper sprays; key-chains; stun-guns; umbrellas; knives; canes. Each has variations and disguises.
And then there are the various self-defense courses that teach participants how to protect themselves from evil violence with the use of various kinds of guns. The use and presence of guns is what is behind various laws that are being created, including Stand Your Ground, open carry, and concealed weapons. All with the alleged purpose of self-protection.
All of these use some form of violence as a form of self-defense or overcoming evil violence.
Video games perpetuate the use of violence to overcome evil. Comic books and cartoons (Popeye, Road Runner, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, et al.), novels, and plays all do the same.
Virtually all crime shows (TV or movies) use violence, most often guns, to eliminate the evil, usually with lethal consequences. Star Wars; Magnificent Seven; Dirty Harry; Blind Spot; SVU; NCIS; Blue Bloods; Hawaii Five-0; Game of Thrones; The Man in High Castle. All of these and more operate more often than not on the assumption that the way to confront evil-created violence is with violence that functions as a way to eliminate the evil, whether it is evil perpetrated by individuals, gangs, or governments.
The estimates about the number of hours we are exposed to violence are astronomical.
All of this continues to give credence to the assumption that the only effective way to confront evil is with violence.
Redemptive violence—the belief that violence saves, that war brings peace, that might makes right—is a term coined by Walter Wink (1935-2012), professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, in his paper The Myth of Redemptive Violence. He wrote:
“Redemptive violence gives way to violence as an end in itself. It is no longer a religion that uses violence in the pursuit of order and salvation, but one in which violence has become an aphrodisiac, sheer titillation, an addictive high, a substitute for relationships. Violence is no longer the means to a higher good, namely order; violence becomes the end.”
Wink, correctly, observes that violence is, in and of itself, evil. As our pastor observed, “Violence begets violence.” Ultimately, violence does not overcome evil; it only serves to perpetuate it, albeit, often, in a different form.
How is evil confronted/eliminated, if not by violence? There are better ways.
That will be addressed in a future column.