Reality Can Chip Away At Hope
Published: Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 12:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 10, 2009 at 2:12 p.m.
Like many in the past month, I have become increasingly troubled over the violence infecting our cities, towns and homes. I believe the count is seven mass murders in the last month alone, and that does not include the domestic murder-suicides that make the local news but don't warrant a mention on CNN.
It's clear that some immature and self-centered men - and it's almost exclusively men - are living in a climate of rage, with no inner sense of law or fear of God's justice to restrain them.
And so this Easter lies under not only a cloud of economic troubles but the uneasy prospect that there is a deeper morass just at the border of civilization. I can't shake the feeling that a sea of chaos - of greed and violence and desperation and fear might be lapping at our doors, threatening at the next high tide to wash over the castle of sand that is our sane, stable life.
It's irrational, I know, but that is the effect of such acts of mass murder. Although they are isolated, and I have a much better chance of being wiped out by a wayward truck, this kind of violence frays the fabric of common life. It adds to the permissiveness already generated by movies and TV and corrodes our sense that we can trust the routines and people we rely upon in order to live in peace.
Naturally, one turns to faith to make sense of the situation. But in the Christian tradition, there is a complicated relationship between peace and violence. Although Christianity is essentially a religion of love and peace with God and neighbor, that love and peace was realized only through violence.
Beyond all the controversy over Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" a few years ago, the movie forcefully made one thing clear: At the heart of Christianity lies an act of horrific violence. The cross, after all, was designed to be an instrument of torturous death. This is something that is not easy to explain.
Of course, there is all the difference in the world between the selfless act of sacrifice the cross represents and the utter inability of the mass murderer to think of anyone but himself. As C.S. Lewis remarked, a fixation upon one's own anger and grievances is a real mark of hell, of separation from God.
So, we who rejoice at Easter and cling to the hope it represents would do well to remember that it is a hope that lives under a threat. Because we live in a violent world, we are always under the threat of harm. Easter does not and cannot remove that threat in any way. Rather, it is the basis for a hope that stands in the midst of the threat of destruction.
That is not to say we should do nothing about murder, greed and chaos. In fact, any message of peace is meaningless unless it includes the establishment of peace on earth.
For my part, I would like to see the pastors, priests, rabbis and imams of this country pledge that they are going to start telling the men in their congregations that no act of violence can escape the scrutiny of God. Or, what would happen if denominations and religions pooled their resources to buy advertisements during the Super Bowl, designed by the best ad agency in the country, that would show a mass murderer what he might face the instant after he takes his own life? If earthly justice is not deterring these acts, maybe contemplation of the eternal justice of God might give someone pause and save a few lives.
If the hope present at Easter is tempered with the troubles of the world this year, well, so be it. Hope is not a fantasy. It is a realistic virtue that takes account of the real situation in which people live, otherwise it is not really hope but just naivety. An empty tomb, after all, is a pretty dark place, until you go inside and see that it's empty.
[ Cary McMullen is religion editor for The Ledger. Read his blog, Scriptorium: A Religion Panorama, at religion.theledger.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7509. ]
my response, if they actually let it be shown
Posted 12 April 2009 03:18 AM Hide Post
I like how honest to goodness his idea is. I mean, to tell people about eternal damnation, despite their own selfish wants and desires could help someone. In honesty it's moot. The fact that these mass murderers off'd themselves has left us with large questions such as why? For all we know, they believe that your god told them to behave in such a manner. To test the faiths of the families of the fallen. Or maybe it was just economical and social stressors that led to such a way of thinking. The honest truth is that we will not know. Throughout history, larger mass murders have occured, I need not even conjure memories of the Jonestown massacre. The fact of the matter is, that faith based initiatives at circumventing immoral behavior, are but trivial at best. Religion has told for centuries that "Thou shalt not kill" but most have merely interpreted it as "thou shalt not kill, unless god says its okay." To use scare tactics to the masses about hellfire and brimstone, is akin to saying, "Do this and god will surely spank you." Because in the end, even if these mass murderers had not committed suicide, prison chaplains wouldve had simply had to listen to their confessions, and by the laws of god, as told to us by the bible, they wouldve been forgiven. Thus removing all fear of being morally responsible for ruining countless lives. When people say we need more churches, what they should say is that we need more police.
Rooting out these problems starts by identifying it early on, and helping to heal the mental wounds these sick people have. Not waiting till theyve done theyre deeds and telling society, see, godless people do that,give yourselves away to faith without evidence. Become (brain) washed in the blood of jesus.