Of violence and Advent

Violence happens whenever someone tries to make others how they want them to be and uses force, manipulation and terror to make sure their will is done.

We've seen it recently in the Paris attacks, but it happens everywhere. In schoolyards, in dictatorships, in drug cartels and in homes. Some violence is infamous like the Inquisition or Holocaust, but we know through experience that the scale varies.

It has been happening for all of recorded history. Yet with improved communication tools, we witness the suffering everywhere.

In December, we have this Christmas card version of the baby Jesus and three wise men. (We don't send cards about King Herod killing all the toddlers when the wise men came through because he feared being usurped.)

As Jesus grew and started walking from town to town and teaching and healing, there is a subplot running through the story of disappointment. There was a hope that the Messiah (translation=savior) was going to come with might and power to overthrow the Roman oppression. People were expecting swords, chariots and military might, but instead got a carpenter in sandals.

Sometimes religiously, we get lost in the words of scripture and miss the picture.

Jesus was unarmed. (He scolded Peter who leaped to His defense with a sword.)
Jesus said things like "Blessed are the meek;" "Bless those who persecute you;" and "Turn the other cheek."
Even those who were supposed to "get it" didn't understand that this was the plan. (Reference Thomas and John the Baptist.)

And while we love to recall the Jesus who got angry and turned over tables when people were being cheated in the temple, in the big finale, Jesus lets violent men hang him on a cross. It is the ultimate example of "turning the other cheek."

People trying to enforce their will always results in violence. We can never get all the things to be the way we want them to be unless other people play along. We have this idea that if we are using force to create the "right" way, then it is okay.  Except that everyone is using violence for that same purpose.

It is difficult to release our need to have that power. To trust that there is a bigger story at play. To walk around unarmed in a dangerous world and teach, heal and bless. That kind of life often winds up in crucifixion (both real and metaphorical).

The wonder of the story of Jesus is that this isn't all there is. There is resurrection. We see it in the outpouring of love in response to violence. We feel the power in it. Something deep inside us knows at a core level that God is on the side of the oppressed. If we want to work with God instead of against him, we need to be part of the rescuers. We need to fearlessly walk in "peace on Earth and goodwill toward men."

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall