Saturday, September 23, 2006

Salvation through Violence?

As many of you know, Rosie O'Donnell is now on The View, that morning talk show hosted by funny and bright women who talk about various topics of interest, some of which can be a bit controversial. Last week, the ladies of the View were responding to the Pope's latest rant (speech) against Islamic violence and Rosie equated extremist Muslim fanaticism with militant right wing Christian folks. You can watch the portion of the show below (it's only about a minute long).

Interestingly enough, last week I ran across a comment on a blog asking if violence is ever a sin, and if it were, how would Christians be divided in various positions very much akin to how Christians are divided over their view of sex.

And then yesterday, I was commenting on a post over on a friend's blog comparing Islam extremists to the religion of Islam to Christian understandings of violence. One of the comments on that blog was at odds with the Islam understanding of violence as compared to the Christian view that violence plays no part in the Christian's salvific experience. Unfortunately though, as I pointed out in my response, is that Christianity does have a violent streak when we explain that Jesus' death and crucifixion paid the price for our sins. In his violent death, their is redemption, right?

Christianity and Judeo-Christianity has a violent streak that runs from Genesis through Revelation. Beginning with the nation of Israel invading a land that did not belong to them and killing its inhabitants to disobedient Israelites being slaughtered at Joshua's hand. We find examples of obedience through violence in the proclamations of Moses and the prophets who demand death as a payment for sinful behavior. Enter into the New Testament, and Jesus' death at the hands of his enemies provided a salvation for anyone who confesses Jesus as Lord.

I wonder if violence were not a part of the salvific experience and Jesus instead held a prayer meeting in the Garden of Gethsemane and invited anyone to come forward to take Jesus into their hearts, if that would have been a softer approach than first being beaten and then being hung on a cross bleeding to death at the hands of the Romans. Or, in the mindset that Jesus' death had to pay for sins (again the violent act of redemption), if Jesus could simply have laid down on an altar (think of Isaac willingly laying down on the alter for his father Abraham) and, instead of a knife being used, his Spirit could simply have been released from his body by the same voice of God that declared, "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased." That voice could also have said, "Well done, my faithful child. Now come home Son, I've missed you." Would this be a way out of the violence of Jesus' atoning sacrifice?

My point in all this is to help us see that violence plays a huge part in our own salvific history. We need to be mindful of others who employ violence in order that they too, may find salvation. While not justifying a militant's fanaticism, we might explore other methods of gaining the world's sympathy and finding another solution to ending terrorism than by violence, scapegoating, and alienation alone.

Discussing such discussions begs us to also talk and engage those who question and challenge violence as a means to salvation. For this reason, many liberation theologies speak out against violence as a means of salvation because it has so often justified other kinds of violence (e.g., spouse abuse and war). If violence does not lead to salvation, as Mary Daly and Rosemary Ruether (two liberation feminists) suggest, then what does lead to salvation? Could Christianity have missed the real message of salvation and redemption of Jesus by focusing on the wrong way in which salvation occurs?

I believe these are good questions to ask; otherwise, we might think we're better than someone else while we go about killing others in the name of terrorism, war, or white hetero-European-Christian-centristic moral cleansing. And, while we're at it, maybe we will find a solution to ending this war on terrorism that is killing so many innocent people along the way.

I am even tempted to ask, can their ever be redemption when collatoral damage occurs? But I won't ask, that'd be another post for another day.

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