Saturday, December 15, 2012

The American Addiction to Violence and Yesterday's Tragedy: A Theological Reflection

Wise analysis of the American soul (and its sickness) by Quaker educational philosopher Parker Palmer:

And I think what's most important about what I'm trying to say here is not simply that we are a society that practices violence in all kinds of forms from war to racism to all the rest, but that we are addicted to violence.  What that means is that, like the addict, we don't really care that the violence doesn't work.  We don't really care that it doesn't solve anything.  . . . Like the addict, we need the fix.  We need the fix of using violence even though we know that the day after tomorrow, we're going to wake up feeling worse than we do today.

In the wake of yesterday's tragedy, National Catholic Reporter joins Catholics United in calling on President Obama (who has been silent about the critical issue of gun control) to convene a national discussion about preventing gun violence.  Catholics United writes, 

We need an immediate national dialogue on preventing yet another American family from having to go through Christmas without the loved ones they lost to gun violence. When will we stop setting the price of our freedoms at the blood of innocent children? We pray our elected leaders have the courage to face up to intransigent special interests and engage in a serious discussion of how to end--permanently--the cycle of gun violence in America.

At his blog Faith in the Twentiy-First Century, Thom Curnutte writes,

Damn any version of "Christianity" that embraces the resurrection but doesn't denounce the violence that required it. Call it whatever you want, but don't call it the gospel.

And in his Facebook feed, my friend and fellow theologian Michael Iafrate writes,

Holy Gun, we praise thy name. Lord of all, we bow before thee. 
Are you finally ready to send this idolatry to hell where it belongs, America?

And I fear that the answer to Michael's good question is that, sadly, no, we Americans aren't in the least prepared to do anything now to deal with our idolatrous addiction to guns and violence.  Not after Gabrielle Giffords's shooting.  Not after the mass shooting in Aurora this past summer.  Not after the blood-drenched summer of violence Chicago experienced in 2012, either.

If anything, we're more intent than ever, many of us--and notably the "Christians" among us--on clinging to our guns with renewed ferocity, after the election and re-election of the nation's first African-American president, which has resulted in wild and crazy rumors about a Muslim anti-Christ who is determined to pry our guns from our hands and take over our minds and hearts as he ushers in the apocalyptic era of the Beast.

It's the "Christians" among us who are precisely the problem when it comes to violence and gun control, in fact.  It's the "Christians" who have sparked the precipitous rise in gun sales following the election and re-election of the nation's first African-American president.  It's the "Christians" who are logging into the blog discussions of yesterday's tragedy at National Catholic Reporter right now to scream about how people kill people and guns don't kill people, and about how the choice of many Catholics to re-elect the president caused yesterday's shootings in Connecticut, because the president murders babies and wants gays to marry.

It's the American "Christians" who are now plastering blogs all over the internet with statements about how "liberals" are politicizing yesterday's tragedy and they, the Christians, absolutely will not permit the tragedy to be politicized with talk about gun control and America's addiction to violence.  They, the "Christians," who are anything but political, as they address issues of gun control and violence!

We won't move forward, because we can't move forward, until we confront the bogus, twisted, blood-drenched theology at the heart of many Americans' addiction to violence.  And we won't move forward until we deal with the way in which the right-wing media have distorted the thinking of too many Americans, have filled our minds and hearts with savage myths that have nothing at all to do with either reality or the principles of the Christian gospel or any other world religion centered on peacemaking and enacting compassion.

We Americans have too much invested in the self-serving myths, in the lies of the political and religious right, in the nonsense spewed out by the right-wing noise machine, in our phony belief in a phony Christ who never existed outside the warped form in which we've cast him in our memories, to move forward.  We have too much invested in the unquestionable supremacy of white heterosexual males to move forward.

We Americans would rather, in the memorable words of James Baldwin in his Fire Next Time, remain lost and unable to say what oppresses us.  Because naming our addiction, the source of our oppression, requires of us a level of truth-telling we're not prepared to reach.

Remaining addicted to lies and to guns is simply easier, all things considered.  

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