I find myself trying to process the very real battle that is unfolding every night on our television screens.
Battles used to happen “over there”, now they happen on streets that look very much like our own and involve people who look and sound a lot like us.
It was easier, a few decades ago. We heard of places like Rwanda and Bosnia, and felt momentary sadness as images entered our lounge rooms on the 6:30 news. Now, though, news is not limited to 6:30 and the images are not just captured by journalists in war zones. They are live streamed, instagrammed or facebooked by ordinary people. We get instant updates on our phones, and everyone has an opinion.
Sadly though, the world the Cable Networks show us, becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. We are drawn to a drama like a moth to a flame. In the same way an accident on the local freeway causes chaos because we all slow down to look, an act of terror draws us all in. A moment of insanity sets a national and international agenda because it is amplified through the echo chamber of Cable News and Social media.
There is a huge pay-off for the nutters. So they do it again. And again. And Again. Each incident is tragic, but what it more tragic is the fact that we choose to give them so much more power than they deserve.
The nutters create fear because we let them, and in some cases because we encourage it.
ISIS wants people in the West to feel scared and powerless, but the truth is they are not the only ones with this agenda.
Being scared and powerless is great for CNN. They have developed a standard “crisis mode” programming format, where they flash the term “Breaking News” as often as possible and get one of their panel of paid “experts” to sound knowledgeable while playing grainy, jerky video on endless loop. They know that this kind of television gets ratings.
The N.R.A. want you to be scared and powerless, because they have an answer for you: buy a gun. It doesn’t matter that objective studies prove that “regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.”
Donald Trump wants you to be scared and powerless, because he has an answer for you: make him President. It doesn’t matter that we are actually safer now than we have ever been.
What is strangest for me to observe is that Evangelical Christians seem to be at the forefront of creating a culture of fear, and believe that what is needed is a stronger capacity for violence than the terrorists have.
Leeanne and I were left a bit speechless after watching the recent documentary “The Armor of Light.” The documentary follows Reverend Rob Schenck as he tries to reconcile the pro-gun stance of most evangelicals with the bible. The documentary is currently on Netflix and worth a watch.
At the heart of the documentary, and at the heart of Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention is a belief in a counter-gospel that has been given the label of “The Myth of Redemptive Violence” by Walter Wink who writes:
This Myth of Redemptive Violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today.
The belief that violence ”saves” is so successful because it doesn’t seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It’s what works. It seems inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god.
ISIS believes they will conquer the world through Violence. Donald Trump believes he will conquer ISIS through violence. The N.R.A. believe that making violence accessible to everyone will make everyone safer. Evangelical Christians believe them.
The core problem that Evangelical Christians face in reconciling their position with their stated belief in the ultimate truth of scripture, is that Jesus both demonstrated and taught, that true peace doesn’t come through violence, but through loving sacrifice.
Jesus’s teaching isn’t easy. In fact, as I wrote in December, it is as we reflect on ISIS that we can see just how confronting, and in fact disturbing, Jesus was. The fact is though, that it is not possible to mount a biblical case for violence unless you ignore Jesus and the New Testament and instead, claim that you are actually God’s chosen people instead of Israel… Which is exactly what many evangelicals have done.
Rob Schenck is a very courageous man. Watching the movie reminded me of the story of William Wilberforce, a lone man with the courage of his convictions, standing against a tidal wave of opposition.
I have been left with the uncomfortable sense that many Christians have bought into a counter-gospel that is being peddled by the media and politicians, and too few are actually reading the bible and engaging with the truth of who Jesus is.
Jesus promises that He is the way, the truth and the life. Reaching for a gun and not for Him, is reaching for a myth that has haunted humanity for thousands of years.