What exactly is violence?
I am copying below a piece I have worked on for over 10 years based in my educational, therapeutic and spiritual experience. I will be using it tomorrow in introducing Soulforce to a religious group in Atlanta. I covet your comments, critiques, questions. revtj
"Violence is defined as any thought, word, action, economic or
political structure that predisposes or exposes an individual or group to
danger, ill-health or suffering, in opposition to the dictates of conscience
and free will. Hence, violence opposes the designs of the Creator, who has
created us for blessedness. Biblically speaking, violence is extreme un-neighborliness." ~JoAnne M. Terrell, professor of Theology, Ethics and Culture, Chicago Theological Seminary.
10 Beliefs that have transformed me & my understanding of violence
1. I freely admit I was affected by abusive (i.e. violent) behavior. I resist denial wherever it may arise.
2. I resist and eventually choose to renounce victim-hood. I was a victim but I am not a victim now.
3. I have learned from my past that neither abuse nor complicity with abuse is ever acceptable.
4. I refuse to advance any view which says I deserved abuse or that God willed it.
5. I live in a world where abuse is routinely tolerated, ignored, and justified.
6. It is actually easier to live in a world that rejects violence but this cannot happen until we understand its destructive effects on human living as it manifests physically, mentally, spiritually, economically and institutionally, and discover how it is to be transformed.
7. I do not have to pay anyone money to heal. All I have to pay to heal is attention.
8. I know that if I speak up it may be costly.
9. This is about evolution: physical, mental, spiritual, economic and institutional; therefore, it is a process: the first element of which is conversation.
10. I resolve to speak peacefully and persuasively in opposing violence wherever I see it.
© Rev. T. J. McGiffert, 2006
Well I didn't wanna comment and throw something new at you too soon before your talk tomorrow, since you obviously have a good plan. But I will be interested to hear how it goes, and to read more about how you came to those points you have listed. If you are open to sharing? Like how you are relating these topics that seem to be about abuse (in one's personal life?) to the work of Soulforce. Let us know how it goes.
I didn't use the 10 points in the presentation today. You're correct in that they were more about a personal experience of violence. I realized that at the 10th hour. :cool:
However, I did use the definition of violence by Rev. Dr. Terrell. I pointed out that we seem to be living in a time where we have lost our notion of what violence is, and I offered this definition as a springboard into talking about satyagraha, non-violence, Gandhi, King, & Mel White. My logic was that until we are sure for ourselves what violence is, we cannot fully or realistically commit to non-violence.
I ended the presentation with the story Jesse Jackson told about King feeling utterly defeated the night before his death and his depressed notion that non-violence wasn't going to work. Then I asked them, "Why bother?" That was very provocative and got them talking enthusiastically about the need for education & action. We had 3 new sign-ups so that is a success.
So, I am still interested to hear reactions to the definition of violence in the previous post.
Take The 'What is violence?' Quiz
What is Violence?
Given the following real-life scenarios, which of these circumstances represents violence to you? This exercise is not meant to produce right or wrong answers but to stimulate a deeper consideration of how violence is enscribed into cultural norms.
1. A senator addresses the governing body of the nation and proclaims that having six months salary in a savings account is a basic rule of personal finance. He therefore concludes that victims of a hurricane who could not afford to relocate deserved what happened to them.
2. A parent is walking on the sidewalks of a busy city street with a 3 year old child when they come to an intersection where they will cross the street. The child jumps off the curb and is about to proceed in front of traffic when the parent seizes the child, yanks him back beside her, and slaps the child, frantically explaining how to safely cross the street.
3. Homer Simpson chokes his son Bart while the boys’ tongue protrudes and wiggles comically.
4. A surviving family member addresses a convicted killer and says, “I hope your rot in hell. I hope you are raped in prison.”
5. A speeding car passes you at more than twice the speed limit on the highway. You honk and curse.
6. A preacher tells the kindergarten Sunday School class, “There is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.”
7. A world leader announces in a major speech during a time of war, “You are either for us or against us.”
8. A surgeon splits open the chest of a patient with a saw and, using a scalpel and other instruments, performs a successful heart transplant adding 20 years to the patient’s life.
9. An infant is born with serious defects to a poor couple. Although there are extraordinary surgeries and other treatments which have saved the lives of infants born with similar conditions, this family has no insurance. The hospital wraps the baby in a blanket, calls the chaplain, and allows the mother to hold the baby while it slowly passes away.
10. A dementia patient is admitted to a psych ward. The patient is unruly and uncooperative with staff. The patient is heavily medicated and strapped to a chair.
I believe that all ten could be considered violence!
You know, I came back to this thread because I just finished looking at some of the media coverage for the upcoming Soulforce Freedom Ride, and I was reading the exerpts from the Lynchburg, VA, paper, and the responses by readers of the article/event. I came back to this thread, because some of the comments posted by those that read the article would definitely be considered violence in my mind. I am wondering as I remember what was on your list, that violence can be a physical or verbal act in and of itself (like a parent that pulls a child from the street or a surgeon cutting open a person) without consideration of the intent of the violence. If the intent is ill-willed (?) then does that then increase the intensity of the violence? I am not sure what I think about that, because the surgery you listed in and of itself is a violent act, but yet with the best of intentions. I am thinking of the violence of the act of Christ's whipping, dragging a cross and then being nailed to it for hours- if God made that to be that way for Jesus out of the best of intentions, does that make the violence of it justified? I have always thought especially since seeing the visual depiction in the Passion of the Christ, that the violence of it is so hard to think about and bear, but God's intent was for Christ to then rise from the dead to be there for us all- it happened for us. The verbal violence in the Lynchburg paper- although not limited to Lynchburg I know- is so disheartening to me, because the words hurt, and it goes beyond someone believing different from you and me- these persons want to hurt others with their words of violence. These people could just express their frustration without making derogatory comments and disrespect. Rev. Fred Phelps is committing violence every time he visits a funeral, now he and his followers are visiting soldiers funerals, rejoicing every time a soldier is "blown to bits" he said on CNN. Because his country condones homosexuality. Again, that feels like violence with malicious, vicious intent. Does any of this make sense? Let me know your thoughts or anyone else out there. Peace, Vanessa :pray:
I would love to print some of this out and bring it to my TOT class on non-violence. WOuld you let me do that?
You could email the stuff and I could print it out for discussions. We have already had a bunch of discussions on what is violence but this would good stuff for us to talk about in class. Let me know.
I don't mind anyone using the material...the only reason I copywrighted the one piece is because it took years to write and is deeply personal...and unfortunately, I know that there are str8 christians who visit this website in an effort to study us and 'save' us. I just don't want my life to be co-opted by someone who is not really being honest.
All of the scenarios are likewise true experiences. I agree that all of them represent violence. The heart transplant and the wandering child are examples of redemptive violence for me, but we have to be careful because many people see dropping bombs as redemptive violence. The idea of redemptive violence puts Christians on a slippery slope.
For me, I have worked it out somewhat theologically based in Christ's words on the cross, "It is finished." I take that to mean that no longer should we have to kill or do violence toward the innocent (or toward anyone) if we accept the fullness and completeness of God's redemption. But, are we as humans ever capable of accepting it fully & completely? There is plenty of room for conversation!
More comments, I am very interested in other opinions!
:tdown: Interesting perspective. I initially think; Violence- unwelcome, damaging physical force. Talk can be cruel, abusive, invoke violence and, depending on the respect you give to the speaker, almost physically hurtful. But not Violent. Nature I see can be horrendously destructive, but violent to me implies intent (for good or bad) and motive. But intent is subjective (no one ever intends Evil). And defensive violence (to protect oneself, or the weak) would seem to be justified, though a last resort (lesser evil to defeat a greater one) Perhaps it is persuasions desperate last stand... One thing seems too 'true' though, Violence is what is done to us; Justice is what we do to them... Too bad its an issue that remains in existance to confuse
revtj closing quote
revtj, Posted a few thoughts on violence, and just now read the pink quote on bottom of yours. Can you. or have you elaborated on it elsewhere? A bit provocative, and triggered my curiousity... Thanks
Like the definition you posted, only not as encompassing:
"Violence occurs when one person harms, or threatens to harm, another person's body, feelings, or property."
This definition was up in a school where I volunteered, followed by: "Violence in any form will not be tolerated here." I like MLK's point that violence can also be in our hearts as well as in our words and deeds.
I disagree with awediot's statement that words can never be violent. I find it much more violent to attack a person's dignity and worth than to punch them in the face. Too many lives are ended by suicide resulting from verbal assaults.
In your "quiz," I can't see the surgery as violent. The patient (presumably) consented to it with full knowledge of the procedure and risks. She didn't just "lay down and take it," but was in a position where she was offered a true choice, one where she simply had to express her will one way or the other, and chose the surgery.
Michael, I appreciate your point of view. I definitely agree that words can be violent. I think that Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center have set a grand legal precedent in connecting hatespeech to violence in prosecuting the KKK. I believe this will eventually help LGBT people in prosecuting hate crimes.
You opened up the question of the exercise of the human will which is a crucial part of the conversation. What if it's an emergency tracheotomy to save an unconscious patient? If they do not/can not give consent would you say it is violence or not violence?
I see the heart transplant as violence, but it is redemptive violence, like the crucifixion of Christ.
As a chaplain in healthcare we ask these kind of ethical questions often, so it is an interesting discussion to me. Also, as a christian, I find that notions of redemptive violence can be so sublimated, expanded and distorted in a person's theology that they will often tell me things like God gave them cancer to "test" them. Or that their loved one died in an accident because God is punishing them. This is why I say the theological notion of redemptive violence is a slippery slope.
I am always willing to expand my point of view, and question definitions and the impact they can have. My first post on violence was off the cuff and shifting as I wrote. But thinking further on it, and reading the follow ups, it seems the definition is becoming to broad, and instead of pulling lesser cruelties in to a more serious meaning, (hopefully making them less acceptable) the horror and pain of violence is being spread too thin. If physically hurting you is given the same name and weight as threatening to break that stupid CD if you play it again! (as in ochast's school sign) it may not be that the threat to hurt your stuff is made less desirable, but that ripping your hair out to get at it, is equivocated to no worse than breaking a coffee cup... And as an adult, by all means insult my worth and dignity, but punching me in the face is a whole different game. The defining element of violence indeed seems to rests with the subjects willingness... I can't see words as violent in and of themselves (except maybe for the extremely vulnerable). They can be incredibly cruel, cause long term damage, and even incite, what? more violence? worse violence? what will we call REAL bone breaking violence now?.. Surgery to me is (ideally) selective, necessary, minimized destruction with a clear cut (ok, pun intended), positive goal (sounds like the war on terror). I think alot of valuable, potent words are being supplanted needlessly... The good that can result from pain I'll leave for the future.
Someone sticks a knife into you. Good or bad?
Good, if it was a surgeon trying to save your life.
That is another way to look at compassion... for me. Correction, guidance, etc., aren't a lot of fun to experience... but if it's coming from someone who cares about you, what may be intially "painful" may create amazing good for you.
Joseph's brothers did violence to him, throwing him into a pit, selling him into slavery. At the end of the story he saves their lives by being able to feed them during a famine because he's become an official with a very interesting relationship to the Pharaoh (that's another issue entirely).
But Joseph says, "What man meant for evil, God meant for good."
So, the experience of suffering & violence can be transformed by God. No doubt about that.
Question: are his brother's any less guilty of violence & abuse? Doesn't God allow them to skip accountability for their actions a bit too easily?
Please forgive me, but I just can't stand not pointing this out:
many Biblical scholars and theologians have repeatedly pointed out that
"Extreme un-neighborliness" was and is the true sin of Sodom. - B.C.
Don't know why you hesitated. Most scholars do explain the Sodom & Gammorah story in light of the hospitality ethic which was an essential part of a morality of a wandering peoples.
Did you have another insight into those 2 biblical stories?
I re-read your first definition of violence from Joanne Terell, and the abstract ..."in opposition to the dictates of conscience and freewill.", insists on interpretation and opens the ends to meaninglessness. But that aside, with ANY thought that exposes anyone to danger considered violent, my mental list of offenders flip-flops, and I can't think of a way to NOT merely expose to danger.Every thought lead to Every toy, utencil, buliding, marshmallow, mountain, grain of sand and fingernail has an inherent risk to cause danger... No offense, but it so broadens the definition as to not only include itself, the sharp paper its written on and the God that made the material for both...
I understand your point but can't anything be stretched to absudity? In the rules of logic, the fallacy is called Reductio ad absurdum (Latin for "reduction to the absurd")
I see Terrell's expansive definition in the same way I see Jesus' definition of adultery as being equal to lust in your heart. This is different from reducing it to absurdity in that Jesus is exposing the heart's motives, the secret agenda that only God sees.
Consistent with Jesus & Buddha, we are called to love our enemies & pray for those who abuse us. An expanded definition of violence is meant to transform our own consciousness of our propensity to be violent when we feel attacked or angry. In the face of our own human-ness, a biblical understanding of violence challenges not just our physical reactions but also our thoughts, and our secret world so that we may truly follow Jesus' way.
Unfortunately these days I see too much being stretched to (a meaningless) absurdity. Some words will never spring back and where we go from UltraMegaSupratacular Miracle vacuum bags with New Babe Attractor inserts is anyones guess.
I can appreciate the effort to deter people from allowing destructive and lustful thoughts to flourish. They desensitize, take root and tempt, sometimes better than reality. "Thought control" can have different meanings as well I suppose.
As a young man, I had heard Christians claim that the ACT of homosexuality, not the thoughts which you can't control, was the Real sin and celibacy became an option. A brief option, as I could not stop the thoughts, God didn't help, and, as per the 'guilty is as guilty thinks' admonition, I acted.... And have wondered of those tormented with uncontrolable thoughts of worse things. Much worse things and can't help but believe angry, vengeful 'serve my boss right' fantasys (ideally cut off at the root) are better (easier to forgive/less sinful/could be worse) than actually doing it. If they are Truley equal, I wouldn't tell any boarderline, holding back, pseudo believers that. It can work the other way and not inspire inner discipline, but a what the *$&/@!` I'm guilty anyway justification... Do you believe all sin is equal?
The inner world indeed must be healed for any real change to take hold in the shared one. My hesitation with your definitions stem from the possible double edge swing in the other direction once all not nice thoughts or actions are lumped together. It is not me you need to lead to passivity but the clouded mind who wouldn't fathom any of this and may just see it as green light.
sin and violence
awe, once again, I see your point. But I hasten to point out that young people (as well as adults) are exposed to graphic, excessive violence daily on tv, in movies and video games.
Talk about desensitizing & taking root! 99% of the violence depicted shows no consequences, and it is no surprise that we now have gangs of children who drive by McDonalds & kill someone for the thrill, or for initiation into a gang.
I honestly don't think most of us really recognize violence when we see it any more. The effort to expand our view of violence is in reaction to Jesus' nonviolence. (see Wink's book, Jesus and Nonviolence, p.27f)
I think sin is contextual. I think that's what the Bible shows. Many people are taught, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." meant one monagamous opposite-gender spouse for a lifetime. In context it meant, don't have sex with any women with whom you haven't negotiated a deal with her father.
As for gay sin, I think what emerges from the few texts that address it, or seem to be addressing it, is simply that it is not OK to exploit a same-gender partner for sexual gratification. It is especially interesting that it seems to be saying if you have power over someone such that they would be expected to obey you, you may not use that power to gratify your sexual desire. Ah, the conversation returns to violence. Using, exploiting, raping are all violent in nature.
So, again, I defend the expanded definition of violence.
Sheesh, I was expecting someone to stump me with "Is it wrong to stomp on a cockroach?" :rolleyes:
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