Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Jesus says God’s children are peacemakers.
Peacemaking starts with truth.
Without truth, any peace is a superficial brittle thing.
The consolations I hear about our tragedy
            remind me of Jeremiah who said,
            “They have healed my peoples’ wounds lightly,
            saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”

We were relieved to hear Stephen Paddock was not part
            of any ideological group.
He was just a random nut.
But, friends, random nuts grow on a tree.
You take a bunch of nuts and put them together
            into a cluster – call it ISIS or the Alt Right –
            and it’s still nuts.
They grow on a tree.

Now here’s the kicker.
It’s the same tree.
The violence of the fanatic, the nihilist, or the psycho
            all grows on the same tree.
It’s a religious tree.
It’s a bad old religion.

It’s a bad old religion that can wear different masks
            and go by different names.
It may call itself Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist,
            or it may deny being religious at all.
But it’s a 12,000-year-old religion
            that Biblical scholar Walter Wink
called “The Myth of Redemptive Violence.”

It first showed up in a Sumerian text called The Enuma Elish.
Its sacred narrative gets retold endlessly, with different names,
but always the same plot line and theme.
It goes like this:
The innocent victim is oppressed by the villain.
Along comes a hero strong enough to kill the villain.
We watch the hero’s violence and get a huge vicarious rush.
Then everyone lives happily ever after.

Movies, t v programs, video games, comic books, and popular music
 are the catechesis of this false religion.
Remember how great it was in High Noon
            when the pacifist Grace Kelly finally repented,
            shot an unarmed villain in the back,
                        and we all cheered.

History teaches us how false that myth is.
Violence never solves anything.
Remember the war to end all wars.
That was 1918.
Talk about a faith at odds with the facts!

Walter Wink said the whole Bible starting with the creation story in Genesis
culminating in the teachings of Jesus
repudiates The Myth of Redemptive Violence.
Yet, that myth is the our de facto established religion.
If there is danger from Korea, chaos in Venezuela, bullying in a school,
or discord in a home, violence is the answer for the world today.
We respect people for their ability to kill,
make heroes of them.
Our capacity for violence is the measure of our worth.
It’s what makes us matter.
I can kill. Therefore I am.

There is no separation of the State from that religion.
We have no Constitutional right to food.
We have no Constitutional right to medical care.
But we are fanatically jealous of our capacity to kill,
            because that’s what make us heroes.
Violence is where we place our faith,
            our hope for deliverance.

The Myth of Redemptive Violence shapes our public policy.
I am not talking about hunting rifles.
I am not talking about our frightened people
who feel a need to carry hand guns to be safe.

But what is the purpose of 100 round magazine clips,
semi-automatic weapons, and
bump stocks that make a rifle shoot like a machine gun?
We saw the that purpose Saturday night.

There are other things we didn’t see this time.
What is the purpose of dum dum bullets?
Hint: they are called cop killers, and they’re legal.
Some armor piercing bullets are legal.

Why? We enact into law our veneration of violence.
Until our recent tragedy, Congress was considering
legalizing silencers on semi-automatic weapons.
Silencers would have increase our casualties unimaginably.
I don’t mean we can eliminate gun violence
with legislation alone.
Jesus said it is from our hearts that evil comes,
including murder.
Hate will find a way.

So, we start with the heart of society.
The first thing is to get our religion right.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told Peter
to put away his sword because
“whoever lives by the sword dies by the sword.”

The non-violent faith of Jesus is going head to head today
with The Myth of Redemptive Violence
--the myth that breeds war, terrorism, crime,
 and mass murder with or without an ideological costume.

If we want to change our death-dealing landscape,
it’s up to us to embrace and share with the world
some religion we can live with.
All the name brand religions
have that alternative at their hearts.
We just use different languages.

Here’s how Christians say it.
In the 14th Century, as Julian of Norwich lay dying of the Plague,
a priest held a crucifix before her eyes.
She had 16 visions, then recovered, and recorded her visions
as the first book ever written in English by a woman.

In one vision, she saw a hazelnut.
She asked God what it stood for.
God said it was the whole world.
Julian then asked, “it is so small, so fragile,
what keeps it from falling into nothingness?”
God answered, “It exists because I love it.”
The universe is born from God’s overflowing
procreative love.
We are sustained each moment by God’s love.
Jesus shows us what God’s love looks like.
God is willing to suffer for us, even die for us.

Jesus shows us a God who will submit to violence
rather than use violence.
Peter and Paul didn’t agree on much,
but they both said, “Do not repay evil with evil.”
They agreed because Jesus said,
            “Do not resist evil with evil. . ..
            Turn the other cheek . . ..
            Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.”
Jesus lived, died, and rose again in the faith
            that the world floats in the ocean of God’s love.
We swim in that ocean when we love as God loves.

Friends, God still loves this old world.
God invites us to love it too.
But that’s not just going around smiling sweetly.
St. John said, “Dear children, let us love not with words or speech,
            but in action and in truth.”
To love this world means to stand up for life
            against the forces of death whether they are in the government
                        or the entertainment industry.

It means to live compassionately.
The ones who we might want to destroy
            are the very ones we strive to understand.
 We follow the Prince of Peace.
We conclude each Eucharist with the words “Go in peace.”
We follow the cross and not a sword.

There are two great contenders for our faith,
            two numbers on which we night place our existential chips.
There’s our capacity to dominate the world with our own violence
            or there’s trusting in God’s love.
Love is the way of life. Violence is the way of death.

God said to Israel, “I set before you life and death. Choose life.”