I’m not sure what Jesus would think of modern sports, but I know the Prince of Peace doesn’t dig on violence.
And considering his critiques of Rome, I’m guessing mixed martial arts isn’t his bag. Any fights in cages where people come to watch people pummel each other would probably be too Roman and not enough Kin-dom of God.
Let’s be honest. We know deep down that Jesus hates this stuff, right? The one who vociferously argued for a third way between fight and flight, teaching us to stand up to violence without returning it has gone on the record about fighting.
It’s our justifications which get in the way.
For some, its sport. Like boxing and MMA. Or football and rugby, where the violence is controlled and indirect. They’re hitting each other, not so much fighting. But no less brutal or violent.
Others are concerned with self-defense or the protection of innocents.
Or war. In service for the country or in defending its people.
We have all manner of justifications. But we have to recognize we’re arguing against Jesus and our faith. How inconsistent those defenses are against a culture of life and trust in God. And for many, hypocritical given their other views, such as those of sex and sex education.
Around violence our literalism disappears and we suddenly find the most nuanced of beliefs.
Do we dare be consistent?
I’m usually one who argues for a more consistent response to our faith than a pragmatic one. Especially when it comes to our Sacraments.
But I struggle like everyone around a consistent view of life. That being Pro-Life isn’t merely about abortion, but about capital punishment, policing, and war. That our casual justification for violence and war is far more damaging to our social fabric than anything else.
And this sense that self-defense is justified creeps into other justifications. Defense, then, can be murder. For two decades, we’ve argued that self-defense can mean preemptive murder. We call it defense when carrying weapons and acting aggressively, and even in inciting violence.
And perhaps our greatest sin as a nation: our killing people to prove that killing people is wrong. Something our great court had to twist itself into knots to defend this year, only to make the results even less just.
How much we have to dance and tumble around our tradition and scripture to justify such horrible acts! We tie ourselves in knots of hypocrisy to defend ourselves, not only from acts of violence, but from our faith!
A faith which has an opposition to murder in its charter.
Scapegoats and Fear
Our justifications are as old as our faith and those first commandments. And it comes from the great source of distrust: fear.
Fear of the other; of violence; of the rage inside ourselves. Fear of what could be and what we are likely to do to one another. So we take it out on a goat, that we trot out into the desert.
Only it isn’t a goat. It’s a person. And we strap him to a bed, shoot him through with chemicals and kill him. So that no more violence will ever happen again. Or because we are full of sin. One or the other.
And that sin will justify the most inhumane of actions.
But it isn’t only terrorists and the guy out there coming for you.
It’s our children. How we teach them and discourage their empathy. How we tell them to trust us as parents but distrust other parents. How we are a people of love, but killing is good sometimes, not usually, but sometimes. Sometimes it is actually the best thing we can do. Sometimes it makes you a hero. Not really a murderer. They’re different.
We’re always teaching them. And sometimes we teach them what we never intended.
The problem with all these justifications is not their hypocrisy. It’s that they rarely make sense. They can be awfully arbitrary and change the stakes based on the culture’s mood. Justified when we say so.
And you know what is absent from all these tangled knots of justification? Faith. Hope. Love.
When it comes to justifying violence, Christians tend to show a great zeal in not following Christ.
Who faced the machinery of death, like a man carrying his own noose. A noose we eagerly slung around the necks of others. And keep slinging.
No act of violence is justified. It is sin.
But thankfully we have a response to sin. We can confess to a God of Love whose way is mercy.
Dare we show that faith and hope and share that mercy?
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This is from a series on Choices. We have plenty more choices to make!