As our nation beats the drum of military conquest ever more loudly, we are fearful of possible outcomes. Already lives have been lost, and the escalating tensions and bellicose language only serves to inflame further. We have not learned the most basic teaching of Jesus: “turn the other cheek.”
In 1994 Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki wrote a profound book entitled The Fall to Violence: Original Sin in Relational Theology. She argues that violence itself is root as well as effect of sin. She proposes a new definition of sin: “Sin as the violence of rebellion against creation.” Revising the Augustinian concept of original sin, she contends that neither the traditional definition of sin as a rebellion against God nor its corollary concept of original sin as rooted solely in human freedom is adequate to account for the enormity and variety of ways by which we manage to inflict ill-being upon ourselves, one another, and our environing earth.
Suckocki’s study leads her to think deeply about the practice of forgiveness as the only– yet hardest–constructive response. It is the only way to break the cycle of violence. By wishing the well-being of victims and violators “in the context of the fullest possible knowledge of the nature of the violation,” healing may occur.
We know that violence breeds violence. A drone here, a bomb there, and soon parties find it nearly impossible to draw back from the brink of full-scale weaponized conflagration. We are at such a point in these days.
All of us fall to violence in some area of our life. God’s Spirit calls us to repentance if we will but listen. While it may make us feel self-righteous to decry certain national actions, we know the many ways in which we hold others in contempt, withhold our full presence to their pain, and justify ourselves in the process. We are inescapably sinful and need saving.
Preachers who excoriate their congregants about their “fallenness” are not popular. Prophetic jeremiads rarely comfort, which is what most worshippers desire in our time. While we may applaud folk with perceptive insight into the sinful condition of humanity, we prefer that they keep their knowledge in a more theoretical vein so as not to disturb our complacency.
The story many Americans tell about our nation places us on the side of the righteous cause. Looking at our violent actions from other parts of the world offers a different perspective. These observers rightly call out our disproportionate use of power through our military might.
My heart’s cry this day is: Kyrie Eleison, Christ have mercy. God’s heart’s cry, no doubt, is “when will they ever learn?” Forgive us, we pray.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares leaders for seeking God, shaping Church, and serving humanity and all creation.