October 31, 2020

The Intruder and His World

By Chaplain Mike

This world is ruled by violence,
But I guess that’s better left unsaid. (Bob Dylan)

• • •

One day recently, a dreaded Intruder came uninvited into our life. His coming was sudden and shocking, as though a blast of wind exploded out of nowhere, shattering our living room picture window, sending shards of glass hurtling mercilessly toward the unsuspecting, unprotected family sitting there together.

In a moment, it was as though we had walked innocently through a door, only to find ourselves under deadly attack behind enemy lines, bullets zinging ’round our ears, shrapnel flying haphazardly everywhere, manic foreign voices screaming for our destruction. We had entered a new world, an inhospitable world, a deeply disturbing and frightening world.

The Intruder’s name who rules that world, who shook our world, is named Violence.

In a short span of time, our family learned about and had to deal with a tragic suicide, a frightening armed robbery, and a disturbing domestic violence incident. Over the years, we have been blessedly immune from these kinds of life-altering events. Now, in the course of twenty-four hours, three separate violent episodes hit hard and hurt. Only time will reveal all the consequences.

The Intruder’s World
I know we’ve been fortunate. People all over the world face potential violence each day of their lives. Think of someone who lives in Israel or any number of Middle Eastern countries, who has to board a bus every morning not knowing if this is the day the suicide bomber will set off his vest. Imagine being an inner city teen harassed by gang members, afraid to inadvertently disrespect one of them and become the latest drive-by victim. Imagine being a poor young village girl sold by her own family into the sex slave trade, now used and abused daily and having to answer to brutal keepers. Criminal conglomerates hold power and sway in dark places around the world, controlling their interests through intimidation and brutality. Drug lords and cartels rule by the assault rifle, intolerant of disloyalty or competition. Secret death squads keep dictators in power.

Envision yourself living in or near a war zone where the sound of bombs and bullets is the lullaby by which you fall asleep each night. Remember all the victims of child abuse, spousal abuse, elder abuse, racism and other hate crimes, and bullying. Hear the silenced cries of political prisoners around the world who are subjected to regular mistreatment, humiliation, and torture. Stop and think about all the needless skirmishes, battles, conflicts, and wars throughout history that robbed us of our young men and women, and impoverished our world in ways we’ll never know.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). Their web page on Violence Prevention states:

Violence is a serious public health problem in the United States. From infants to the elderly, it affects people in all stages of life. In 2006, more than 18,000 people were victims of homicide and more than 33,000 took their own life.

The number of violent deaths tells only part of the story. Many more survive violence and are left with permanent physical and emotional scars. Violence also erodes communities by reducing productivity, decreasing property values, and disrupting social services.

They list the following topics of concern:

  • Child Maltreatment
  • Elder Maltreatment
  • Global Violence
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • School Violence
  • Sexual Violence
  • Suicide
  • Youth Violence

The page on Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. states:

  • Each year, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner related physical assaults and rapes. Men are assaulted about 2.9 million times annually.
  • In 2005, there were over 1500 deaths resulting from intimate partner violence.
  • It is likely that the numbers vastly underestimate the problem, because IPV is under-reported.

Statistics and observations in other situations where violence occurs are equally shocking and concerning.

A Roman Catholic Response
In a 1994 Pastoral Message of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, they proclaim:

Our families are torn by violence. Our communities are destroyed by violence. Our faith is tested by violence. We have an obligation to respond.

Violence — in our homes, our schools and streets, our nation and world — is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of millions of our sisters and brothers. Fear of violence is paralyzing and polarizing our communities. The celebration of violence in much of our media, music and even video games is poisoning our children.

Beyond the violence in our streets is the violence in our hearts. Hostility, hatred, despair and indifference are at the heart of a growing culture of violence. Verbal violence in our families, communications and talk shows contribute to this culture of violence. Pornography assaults the dignity of women and contributes to violence against them. Our social fabric is being torn apart by a culture of violence that leaves children dead on our streets and families afraid in our homes.

Our society seems to be growing numb to human loss and suffering. A nation born in a commitment to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is haunted by death, imprisoned by fear and caught up in the elusive pursuit of protection rather than happiness. A world moving beyond the Cold War is caught up in bloody ethnic, tribal and political conflict.

They also list aspects of the pervasive problem of violence in the U.S. —

  • While crime statistics vary year to year, we face far higher rates of murder, assault, rape and other violent crimes than other societies. One estimate is that crime costs us $674 billion a year. Violent crime quadrupled from 161 reported crimes per 100,000 in 1960 to 758 in 1992.
  • The most violent place in America is not in our streets, but in our homes. More than 50 percent of the women murdered in the United States are killed by their partner or ex-partner. Millions of children are victims of family violence.
  • The number of guns has also quadrupled from 54 million in 1950 to 201 million in 1990. Between 1979 and 1991, nearly 50,000 American children and teenagers were killed by guns, matching the number of Americans who died in battle in Vietnam. It is now estimated 13 American children die every day from guns. Gunshots cause one out of four deaths among American teenagers.
  • Our entertainment media too often exaggerate and even celebrate violence. Children see 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence on television before they leave elementary school.
  • We must never forget that the violence of abortion has destroyed more than 30 million unborn children since 1972.

To their credit, the Bishops go beyond setting forth the problem, drawing upon their theology and historic tradition to offer a framework for action and a call to all Catholic Christians and churches to respond in positive, redemptive ways to make our world a safer, healthier, more peaceful place.

An Evangelical Response?
With the notable exception of those in Anabaptist traditions and those who are known as more “progressive” Christians with a commitment to “social action and justice,” I have to say that, in my experience, the issue of violence has been rarely discussed or taught about in the church. Where is the evangelical church’s voice?

When I was in seminary in the late 1980’s Hollywood was just beginning to consider the idea of marketing their movies through churches and pastors. I took part in viewing a Clint Eastwood film in order to give feedback from the Christian community. It supposedly told a tale that had a redemptive message.

From my perspective, the film desensitized the viewer to violence by gradually increasing the level of severity until the climactic scene, when the hero put a bullet in the villain’s forehead from point blank range. The scene was graphically portrayed. At that moment the audience, filled with Christian pastors and church staff members, erupted with loud cheers of approval. I cringed. A room full of Christ-followers had just applauded a man made in God’s image getting his brains blown out. A few days later, when I recounted this experience in my evangelical seminary classroom and expressed my concern, my classmates dismissed me. What’s wrong with that? they argued.

What is wrong with that? Is it “entertainment” to see someone brutally dispatched with a firearm? Was that the “redemption” the film was pointing us to? What part of being a Christian includes cheering and applauding bloodlust vengeance? Now, I understand that some movie violence is cartoonish, so ridiculously overblown that we can easily separate fact from fiction in our minds and not be affected by it much. But firing a gun directly into a man’s forehead is no cartoon. It does not deserve an ovation.

Evangelicals of all stripes should be unafraid to say that.

However, if we do, we’re also going to have to be able to deal with criticism of the Bible itself. From Cain to the apocalypse, it portrays a world of violence and a God who sometime intervenes violently and commands his people to practice violence. Can we face that criticism? Do we have adequate answers for those who cannot fathom a God who commands “the ban” in books like Joshua, requiring his people to completely exterminate their enemies — women, children, animals, and all? And what about Biblical heroes like David (the Clint Eastwood of the OT?), who hurls a stone into the enemy’s forehead, crushing Goliath’s skull and leading to the first of a great many bloody routs led by the Shepherd-King?

How do we tell our children these Bible stories without serious editing and/or cringing? How do we read them in church? Study them in our Sunday School classrooms? Read them in our daily devotions?

Of course, at the story’s climax, it is the God-Man himself who becomes the ultimate Victim of violence. The Intruder appears to have triumphed through cruelty and death. Unwittingly, however, this is how God’s peace is won.

And now, Jesus says to us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” How shall we live in his victory so as to promote his shalom and make visible the ultimate vanquishment of the Intruder?

Perhaps God’s future should set the agenda for our mission today:

Violence will disappear from your land;
the desolation and destruction of war will end.
Salvation will surround you like city walls,
and praise will be on the lips of all who enter there. (Isa 60:18, NLT)

I know one thing. The Intruder is a monster. What I have seen in recent days, and what people everywhere experience far too often as a brutal fact of life in this sin-sick world, turns my stomach and gives me nightmares. Stop the violence. Please.

More to come in days ahead…


  1. your article isn’t about violence, it is about avoidance. You avoided the depths of your own feelings and slipped into that cerebral chamber where somehow, if the right quotes coming from the correct pov will smooth over the rocks that scrape and hurt and leave one bleeding and somehow kneeling before a just God in an unjust and evil world, just somehow, the distance between being here in the present where someone is hurting, and the place where analytics stumble over each other, that distance will stay as far as from the east is from the west. But thinking cannot save, nor heal, nor does a patchwork of ideas cover the stain of sin.
    You cannot avoid the truth that we are desperate. Intellect cannot save, o greek. art thou ashamed of the gospel, then? or afraid to be real?
    sorry. for your losses. and your pain.

    • Still somewhat numb and in shock at this point, friend. More to come…

    • Wow, that comes across as needlessly harsh. This is a theological blog, not a psycholigist’s couch. There is no reason to expect the baring of soul-struggles, especially when the wounds are raw. Mike has enough pastoral sensibility to know what and when to share of his personal feelings on a public site. Back off.

    • His post sounds and looks plenty desperate to me. I think “Ya THink’s” post tells us more about his/her interests than Chap Mike’s condition. And on that, who make you an expert on Chap Mike’s condition after reading one article ?? Go back to your day job, and work.


    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And the “You’re The One With The Problem” Award for Pop Psych Ad Hominem Attacks goes to Ya Think!

  2. Chaplain Mike, when I’ve been a chaplain to soldiers suffering symptoms of PTSD, the psalms have been invaluable. Some clearly describe those symptoms and the prayers of those witnessing or having experience of violent acts – to sleep in peace without fear, not to be haunted with memories, to have goodness & mercy follow us rather than death and darkness. May grace & peace be to you in Christ, and may the Lord minister to you and your family through the Word, and through others with whom you & the family may counsel, as you need it. Our minds are not the only part of “us” which is shocked & stressed. You will all be in my prayers for wholeness & healing.

  3. In Genesis it says God sent the flood because the Earth was filled with violence.

  4. Chaplain Mike-

    I agree, violence is one of those topics not taught nor discussed. I’ve actually known people who have come back from Iraq or Afghanistan. Likewise one night years ago I showed up at church for a young adult meeting and leanred that it was canceled due to a military funeral for a solider killed in Iraq. I sat in the back and watched it play out. War is ugly, violence scars, I have no qualm with a nation defending itself or going to war in response to an event such as 9-11. However, I have often wondered if those evangelical Christians who marry the flag and faith together actually saw up close and personal the real cost of war, and how war is waged…I’d wonder if they would still be gung ho. I’ve also wondered if their view of violence or war is tainted by Hollywood. Cold the “let’s go to war in Iraq” bandwagon which many evangelicals jumped on or embraced have been influenced indirectly in a way by watching some of the Schwarnegger, Eastfood flicks, etc.. ? Kind of like in a similar fashion ot how some guys can develop a false view of sexuality based on adult pornography?

    Also I do believe there are some movies where violence actually makes a solid point on not only about how war can be hell, but also about the sacrifices of our military and what they have endured. I think movies such as Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers and Blackhawk Down are not pointless but not only show the horror of war but can also show the professionalism and charachter of those who have served in the military.

    Just the .02 of an agnositc…:)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      However, I have often wondered if those evangelical Christians who marry the flag and faith together actually saw up close and personal the real cost of war, and how war is waged…I’d wonder if they would still be gung ho.

      Mark Twain also wondered…

      I’ve also wondered if their view of violence or war is tainted by Hollywood. Cold the “let’s go to war in Iraq” bandwagon which many evangelicals jumped on or embraced have been influenced indirectly in a way by watching some of the Schwarnegger, Eastfood flicks, etc.. ?

      Not that recent, Eagle. I grew up in the 1960s, and before Schwarzenegger and Eastwood there were all these pre-Vietnam-era World War Two movies. And before the “Schwarznegger/Eastwood flicks”, there were John Wayne movies, whose style was dominant in war movies (WW2 being the prime subject) from the Forties through about 1968. (The last John Wayne war movie in this period was The Green Berets, which approached early Vietnam in the WW2 movie manner of that previous period. The style-to-subject contrast is jarring from our POV.)

  5. I find it interesting that the same industry that resolutely refuses to accept that individuals can be induced into violence or other behavior by movies, TV or video games turn right around and sell billions in advertising under the premise that it is able to move consumers to action.

    I see no way of putting the Genie back in the bottle, but I don’t think we help the situation with our acceptance of some violence as justifiable, even God-ordained. My guess is that the parents of children shredded by “collateral damage” don’t just see it as an unfortunate mistake.

    We’ve come a long way from mutely accepting death in the arena to pounding our chests as citizens of a superpower bent on using whatever means necessary to secure our way of life.

    • To Eagle as well as Ed,

      About video games and movies leading to violence: Here is an article that showed up in Christianity Today shortly after the Jonesboro school shootings. It gained more attention after the Columbine shootings. Written by David Grossman, a retired military psychologist who took part in training soldiers to kill. Grossman claims that the techniques used by the military are also prevalent in many movies and video games, and that children pick up on that and may emulate the behavior or become desensitized to it.

      Not to belabor last week’s episode in Arizona, but this is in part why Sarah Palin has been taking some heat for the “crosshairs” in a campaign ad. People are saying “Enough already! Stop the violence before it starts!”.


      • Thanks for the link Ted. I personally think the influence is significant, but we as a society tend to defend our vices as “non habit-forming”.

  6. I am so sorry your family is going through these tough times, Chaplain Mike. Suicide is so difficult for the loved ones left behind. I wish you all peace, strength and love. 🙁

  7. We are praying for you very much.

  8. It always amazes me how readily my brothers and sisters in Christ will watch, enjoy and heartily recommend violent films (if the “good” guys prevail, at least). Meanwhile, if physical love is protrayed, the film is immediately viewed as immoral. This shows up in stunning contrast when I recieve recommendations from others about the appropriateness of a movie for my kids. Mindless, bland shoot-em-ups are fine, but if a nipple shows up, the film can therefore have no redeeming characteristics whatsoever.

    • For me, this is a temptation issue. I can watch violence and feel no desire whatsoever to enact said violence. I like the movie Braveheart, but have never felt like painting my face blue and bashing some heads in after watching it. But, I can’t see ‘physical love’ in a movie without lusting… it just won’t work. Even if said physical love is between a properly married man and woman in a movie with great redemptive messages.

      • Which, by the way, is why I try not to watch ‘Braveheart’!

      • I agree.

      • Agreed

      • I disagree. Perhaps you’re the exception, but I think that people, perhaps men in particular, are driven to temptation just as much with glorified violence as they are with sexual images. It’s just not seen as naughty so the guilt isn’t felt.

        Sure sex is tempting, but so is the thought of taking out the “enemy” with violence, being a kick-ass hero, being all-powerful, being invincible, and getting revenge rather than forgiveness. Why do you avoid sexually explicit movies? I’m guessing not because you fear you will immediately go out and have sex with someone you shouldn’t, It’s probably because you’re afraid you’ll fantasize about it. Perhaps Christian men won’t necessarily go out and paint their face and stab others around them after watching Braveheart, but I’ve watched that movie and talked about that movie with many men, and believe me, there is plenty of fantisizing about being violent going on. It’s just that that kind of fantasy is not seen as a sin in evangelical culture, in fact, it’s seen as a good. It’s seen as justice and bravery.

        I don’t buy for a second that men are more tempted by sex than they are with anger and violence.

        • Marie, while there is truth to what you say, I am with Calebite here. I find sexual images much more alluring and tempting than violent images, and looking at how many men end up as adultrrers compared with how many end up as murderers I would say that is true pretty generally.

          Also, Scripture seems to me more explicit in its prohibition of sexual fantasizing; probably for that very reason.

          But I am also with the Chaplain here: we need a better explicitly Biblical response from Evangelicals on that topic, and that might well discourage gratuitous, explicit and graphical violence in movies, books, etc.


    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I have observed that when it comes to movie/media content, a given Activist will get in a snit about violence but let sex slide with “anything goes” OR get in a snit at even the hint of sex while letting hyperviolence slide, “anything goes”. You almost NEVER see someone in a snit about both, only one. And it breaks down pretty cleanly along political party lines (to the left or to the right).

      And Evangelical Christians are definitely in the latter group — in a snit about anything hinting about s-e-x yet at the very least indifferent to hyperviolence (and at most cheering it on). And the hate-sex-but-indifferent-to-violence goes deep — after all, isn’t Armageddon portrayed in Pop Christian Culture not as “That Great and TERRIBLE Day” but as the Ultimate Hyperviolent spectator sport, cheered on by the Raptured from their catered box seats?

      • David Cornwell says

        I always thought it strange that those who are so loud in their advocacy of “right to life” issues were so silent on the violence that produced about 100,000 documented civilian deaths in the Iraq war. Does a right to life only exist for those who have not left their mother’s womb and found their way into our violent world?

        These were human beings who died, not just stats that someone keeps track of. Yet many evangelicals cheered for this war like they were at a ball game. War should never be celebrated. It’s a symbol of fallen and lost world and human failure. We as Christians are the ones who should be praying “Your kingdom come, you will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

  9. Sorry to hear of your trials, you will be in my prayers.
    I think the Clint Eastwood model has become enjoyed not just for the violence (though we as broken humans do love violence) but he is enjoyed because he becomes ‘the judge’. In our lives violence is the way we judge. If someone has done us wrong, if someone scares us, or if someone is unacceptable we seem fine to judge them with violence. But violence is never the answer, & it is never the end, it just keeps going on & on.
    God is the judge. He is only righteous Judge we will ever know. Jesus called us to put our lives & the lives of others in the Judge’s hands. When we engage in violence we ignore Jesus’ call in our lives. We must trust the prince of peace.
    An Evangelical Response? not sure, but I think it should flow from the Sermon on the Mount, & the life of Jesus.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I think the Clint Eastwood model has become enjoyed not just for the violence (though we as broken humans do love violence) but he is enjoyed because he becomes ‘the judge’.

      In a way, Dirty Harry et al is a cry for Justice in a world of Injustice. That someone will come in to stop the Injustice, tear out the corruption, punish the evil, and make things right. A LOT cruder than the Psalms, but a similar cry of the heart.

  10. Appalling violence has always been common. The proof that domestic violence was there even in simpler, by-gone days lies in the list of 20th century pop songs, 19th century folk songs and 18th century ballads that tell of murdered sweethearts or relatives: Tom Dooley, Mack the Knife, Miss Otis Regrets, Banks of the Ohio, Pretty Polly, Cruel Sister, etc. only begin what is a very long list. Cain and Abel is just about the first thing the Bible tells of outside the garden of Eden; and the fratricidic ‘Edward, Edward’ is one of the first poems in many literature anthologies.

    The cause of violence lies in human wickedness. TV, movies and first-person shooter video games make it easier, but the ’cause’ of violence lies within.

    I wish I knew something to say that would be consoling to Mike.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Tom Lehrer did an “Irish Ballad” that racked up a body count like a Pulp-era Spider novel.

      And I’ve listened to actual Irish ballads — Lehrer’s was NOT much of an exaggeration. They get BLOODY!

  11. Part of the problem of an “evangelical response” is that we have no leader, or even spokesman (for good and for bad).

  12. Mike, so sorry to hear about all this. Sometimes this life just sucks. Come quickly, Lord.

  13. CM,

    Sorry to hear of the very difficult times encountered by your family. I pray that God brings you the peace that only he can provide, and that he can impart in your hearts the grace and mercy towards all those involved (victims and perpetrators) that no human can create, but which flows from the heart of God himself.

    Regarding the violence of the OT, it is difficult to contrast with the “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemy” teachings of Jesus. But I do have a couple points that help.

    First, the power given to the Israelites to destroy their enemies was more to show others the power of God than to destroy others. This show of power was meant to both protect the Israelites and to encourage others to recognize the one true God.

    Secondly, Jesus came not to continue the past, but to lay out a new future. The Jews had not practiced mercy or grace, even though God had shown it to them many times over. Jesus came to dismantle the Jewish Law and set in place a new way of living. We are in a different world now, the world that is to be the seed that grows into the Kingdom. New world, new rules.

    May Christ’s peace be with you this day and forever.

    In His Love,

    • “First, the power given to the Israelites to destroy their enemies was more to show others the power of God than to destroy others.”

      That explanation doesn’t work at all for me. If the power of God was the point, God didn’t need to use humans to carry out the violence. He could have done it by Himself.

    • JAy,

      It would seem to me that Jesus’ own words contradict and refute the notion that he came to dismantle or abolish the Jewish law … good try but try again 🙂


  14. The issue of violence in entertainment is a difficult one. in the narnia books, ed, peter and susan all kill their enemies, and in the recent films this is exagerated. yet these are books which are supposedly great for the morals they promote

    if violence as entertainment is wrong, then surely all violence in films or books is wrong?

    • Lewis believed that violence has a place. The character Ransom is thrilled in the novel Perelandra when he realizes that his feelings of rage are (for the first and only time in his life) perfectly appropriate for the moment. And he wrote much in defense of both world wars.

      But Lewis insisted that situations where violence is justified are very rare. He would have been appalled by the “First Blood” culture we live in today, and if asked for a solution to what we today call domestic violence I imagine he would have pointed to Old Testament stoning.

      • I too think violence has its place in literature, media, etc., for we cannot talk about the human condition without including it. We can only understand the depths of human sin and brokenness by looking at it realistically. Great literature and plays and film help us understand our violent selves and world. Unless these works are glorifying or making light of evil, they do not glorify or delight in the violence.

    • Ben,

      I think it is imortant to note that neither Lewis, or for that matter Tolkien, engaged in the sorts of detailed graphical descriptions of killing, torture, etc. so common in today’s books and movies, eve as they recount these things as an undeniable aspect of the fallen world they describe. For this reason I think both of these men would be appaled by the movies made of their books and would disown them.

      Perhaps it is significant that Christians applaud them …


  15. Thanks for the link Ted. I personally think the influence is significant, but we as a society tend to defend our vices and “non habit-forming”.

  16. To me, the inclusion of violence alone would not make a book or movie evil (else we need to get the white-out when we read the Holy writ). I tend to ask two questions.

    First, is the violence glorified? That is, does the film pervert our God-given desire for justice by making that justice more visual than it needs to be, and does it neglect to show the humanity of even the worst of humans (and what a terrible thing their death is)?

    Secondly, is the violence glamorized? Is it made to appear cool, attractive, or even fun? Perhaps the first movie I saw where this aspect shocked me was the Matrix, but Quentin Tarantino has mastered this. In fact, without this, that seems to be the only point to his films.

    That is why a film like “Enemy at the Gates” leaves me feeling melancholy, while “Kill Bill” just makes me want to vomit.

  17. I have heard a lot of reverends in the traditional black evangelical Protestant churches speak out against violence. I suspect the reason there is silence in some quarters because people address what is relevant to them. A church in far flung suburbia is probably not going to experience as much violence and therefore talk about violence as a church on the west side of Chicago.

    And I’m truly sorry for your experiences. I hope your faith provides you healing.

    • Yes, the black urban community in particular has been forced to speak and act with regard to this. I wish suburban churches would stand with them more often.

  18. How does Clint Eastwood’s Grand Torino fit into the conversation? The man who has stood behind a gun longer than just about anyone else (going back to Rowdy Yates in Rawhide) winds up that career playing Walt Kowalski, a role in which he chooses to lay down the gun. That role DOES have some Christian symbolism in it, though Walt is far from a perfect sacrifice.

    We go on hoping these events won’t affect us . . . until they do. But intervention and prevention are so difficult to manage in a society that prizes liberty over order. Jared Lee Loughner was known by the military, the community college and the local police to be dangerous yet nothing was done to restrain him.

    It is hard to say what the role of the church ought to be, beyond not perpetrating atrocities ourselves. Pastors and priests ought to refuse to marry many of the couples who come before them, whenever they sense a less than perfect commitment of love and devotion. But that would make many people angry and it might not do any good at all in stopping those couples from living together and eventually hurting each other.

  19. CM,

    My thoughts and prayers are with your family at this very difficult time of much loss and pain.

    Regarding the question of an the Evangelical church’s voice on violence I think it’s a problematic issue. I’m not an Evangelical, have very little experience with American Evangelicalism, and have few Evangelical friends so my thoughts are given as an outsider looking in.

    I think the reason for a lack of a prophetic witness in Evangelicalism against violence is that Evangelical theology seems to view violence as serving a necessary function. At the center of this is a theological understanding of God, sin, and redemption which calls for sacrifice, an atonement of blood.

    I’d recommend the work of Rene Girard (Theory), Fr. Raymond Schwager (Historical theology), and Fr. James Alison (Religious practice) for a reading of the scriptures which takes the notion of a God of mercy and not sacrifice seriously.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    • Oooh, another Raymund Schwager reader! His Jesus of Nazareth: How He Understood His Life is wonderful and unique, or was to me.

      • Eric,

        If you can find it for a good price (It’s out of print currently) Jesus and the Drama of Salvation is worth picking up. It works out the theological claims in Jesus of Nazareth in a more traditional form. Jesus of Nazareth is wonderfully unique!

        • I have that book, too, though it’s packed away in my book overflow room (i.e., attic), as is Jesus of Nazareth. 🙂

    • For understanding the nuts and bolts of violence, Girard is a must-read. Even if you don’t agree with half of his conclusions. Possibly the most underrated Christian thinker of the last 50 years.

  20. Evil, rather than violence is the point. “The days are evil”

    We are to hate evil. We ought fight against evil for the sake of the neighbor.

    Yes, it’s a violent world. Both physically and emotionally. If we were able to take in all the suffering that goes on in the world in any given moment, it probably would drive us insane. (someone once said that)

    “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” – Jesus

    I feel for you and your family, Chaplain Mike. Much more than that, I’ll be praying that the Lord will get you all through it.

  21. Chaplain Mike — I’m so sorry to about what you’ve been subjected to. Even in the midst of shock and confusion, though, your insights are right on target. What a strange world you describe and we see around us every day. Back in the early 80s, I went to a Jeff Bridges movie that I’ve forgotten the name of. I was sitting behind three teenage girls. They sat transfixed, unmoving, throughout most of the movie, not even recoiling when someone got his brains shot out in the shower. However, in one scene the Red Hot Chili Peppers were performing a song and dancing. At one point all the women singers raised an arm, showing that they had unshaven armpits. The teenagers in front to me shrieked, cringed and covered their eyes, calling out, “Tell me when it stops!” Brains all over the shower stall were fine, but underarm hair was intolerable. It wasn’t that they had no sensitivities. Their sensitivities were well trained — but toward what?

  22. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    When I was in seminary in the late 1980′s Hollywood was just beginning to consider the idea of marketing their movies through churches and pastors. I took part in viewing a Clint Eastwood film in order to give feedback from the Christian community. It supposedly told a tale that had a redemptive message.

    Pale Rider?

  23. I am so sorry for the pain you are going through. As far as the initial post….it appears “ya think” is hurting and hurting people hurt other people.

  24. So sorry to hear of your suffering through all this, CM. Praying for you to know the presence and comfort of Jesus in the midst of these troubles.

    I have to agree tha the issue of violence is a huge blind spot in American evangelicalism, as it is in American culture as a whole. My brother taught for a while at the (primarily American) missionary school where I attended years ago. They showed Robocob on movie night to kids as young as 6 or 7 without batting an eye (though any display of nudity or physical intimacy would never have made the cut, but that double-standard is probably a discussion for another day). Similarly, when I taught SS for a couple of years, I remember having to carefully explain to one of the class members, who was also a deacon, that although the just war theory might find a war is necessary and justified, war is at best a lesser of evils choice and never a good per se. And in recent years there has sure not been much said against torture either.

    I’m not sure how to reverse this trend other than to do what I can where I am and within my small sphere of influence, and pray that others will do the same. The OT still poses some real challenges for me and I have to say I’ll have some questions for God on some of those passages when I get to heaven :). But in the now, I filter my interpretation of scripture through the lens of Jesus life, death and resurrection, and find that following the Prince of Peace compels me to try to be a peacemaker in my own small and surely inadequate way.

  25. Grace and peace to you and your family as you deal with the aftermath of these incidents.

    Violence is endemic in our society. Our response seems to be to respond to violence with more violence. For some a good “Christian” response to violence in the world is to send soldiers, tanks and guns and drop bombs, napalm, incendiary devices or whatever. A “scorched earth” policy will rid the world of the troublemakers, along with innocent people.

    God directed His people to do this in the Old Testament, right? Isn’t that how The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and countless other campaigns to exterminate the “infidels” were justified? If it was o.k. with God for Joshua to exterminate the Canaanites, shouldn’t it be fine with God if we eradicate our perceived enemies, and lose countless lives on both sides of these engagements? Shouldn’t we as Christians be proud to send our sons and daughters off to the other side of the planet to die in yet another war on someone else’s soil?

    Did God really tell Joshua and all those other Old Testament people to kill, kill, kill? Or – Is it evenly remotely possible that Joshua and his followers killed to remove the people who were living in the land they decided God had given them? When they were successful, that confirmed that God had told them to do it. When they lost, they must have done something to upset God. And these are the stories they told each other, and eventually wrote down. We find them in what we call the Old Testament: their perceptions, their interpretations of what happened – stories which proved that God was on their side and that they were His people.

    Yes, they passed these stories on to their descendants, people who thought that the best way to deal with anyone who they felt threatened them was to kill those people. It was inevitable that they would kill Jesus. He was trying to turn their understanding of God and God’s relationship with the Jewish nation upside down, and those who understood it decided that He was public enemy number one, and must be eliminated.

    Now this understanding has been bequeathed to our “Christian” nation. We don’t want people crawling in our windows to rob, murder or rape, but somehow it is a good thing for us to inflict violence on not only soldiers, but on the civilian populations of so many parts of the world, supposedly to defend our ideals and make the world a safe place. But violence begets violence. The world is not a safe place. It becomes more and more violent. Our solution: more and better bombs, guns and weapons designed to kill, kill, kill.

    This may look like Joshua, but does it look like Jesus?

  26. I hope I’m not too far out of line in what I’m about to say, but I’d like to offer a mild defense of Ya Think’s post, if it’s not too much trouble.

    I agree that Ya Think’s thoughts were inartfully expressed, and expressed too soon. Words like these can only come from a very close friend or a complete stranger. I’m guessing Think’s the latter, and I hope that mitigates their impact somewhat. However, as a victim of violence and attempted violence myself, I can say that Ya Think is basically correct in the heart of what he’s saying, Chaplain Mike: you have far to go yet, and this exercise in citing statistics and calling for an end to the violence is a superficial attempt to intellectualize an aspect of our sinfulness that continues to defy all reason–yours, and everyone else’s.

    That being said, Chaplain Mike, I pray you will not think too unkindly of Ya Think or me for what we’ve said. I cannot know what effect these events have had, and will have, on you, but if you’ve been deeply traumatized, I hope you will seek the help of experts.

    Forgive me for speaking out of turn.

    • Chris, I appreciate your personal interest. But you have made an error in ministry that I work hard to help people understand all the time. You have given “answers” before listening. You have no idea what I’ve faced and you have no idea what I have been doing to deal with the situation. I am not chiding you personally for this, but your comment gives a good opportunity to show what’s wrong with so much in Christianity these days. We assume we know the problem and so we jump in with the answer. And we do so in such a falsely intimate manner. We know nothing about each other, and yet you speak as though you know the depths of my heart and where I am on my journey. You assume, on the basis of a short essay I’ve written, that I have “far to go,” and that I’m merely dealing as a person with an issue “superficially.” Even if you were right, do you see how presumptuous and careless that is? And yet I’ve seen Christian people do that on any number of occasions in the name of “ministry.”

      Don’t assume anything. You won’t have to brush that foot taste out of your mouth nearly as often.

      • Very, very. very well said.

      • Plus how on earth do we know how Chaplain Mike is handling the situation of which we don’t know the details? Of course he edits his words; he chooses what to say on this blog in order to communicate to a variety of people. His writing would not be as good as it is if he routinely just dumped feelings on the page. A writer has to visit his “cerebral chamber” in order to compose something we want to read. This short blog represents only a few of his thoughts on this topic, not the baring of his soul. Why would he do that here? He has friends and family in the flesh.

      • You will have to redeem what’s happened to you someday. That much I know we have in common.

        • Thanks, Chris. We’re in the process.

          I hope you didn’t take what I said in response to your comment too personally. As a chaplain, I have to deal with how to be with people and encourage them all the time, and I wanted to simply remind all of us that we should make sure we understand before we speak too much.

          • That’s just it, Chaplain Mike: when I read your post, I did understand, at least a little. (I don’t know how, but I did. Even so, “the Lord told me” is the last claim I would make, and I am not making it now.) Something in me connected to what you said, and I sensed in you a kindred spirit, someone else who’s been where I’ve been (except for the suicide; that’s quite beyond my experience and I have no comment on it, except to say I’m sorry). I’m not a professional counselor or caregiver, and I don’t do platitudes. But I will walk with you, if you so desire.

            Actually, I wasn’t offended by your reply; I was offended by your exposition on violence. That being said, I pray your path to healing will be shorter and easier than mine has been. If God is with us, who can be against us?

    • Chris : This doesn’t have to be a “Ya Think” beat down, but I’d ask you to reread his (Ya Think’s) post; he’s rambling and talking to himself more than anything. Why he chose this venue is anyone’s guess. At least he didn’t say “The LORD told me….” so he saved us that.

      I think Chap Mikes’s phrase “falsely intimate manner” pretty much pegs it. And if you or I were ever to admonish someone so personally, can you imagine doing it in a drive-by blog entry ?? Un-be-leeev-able.

      TO Ya Think if you are listening: come back, fess up,, and turn the page. We will.


    • And even if it weren’t for the “falsely intimate manner,” there’s still the issue you raised of “expressed too soon.” When someone is in the throes of a situation, and from the sounds of things still dealing with the immediate implications thereof, is not the time to be telling people they need to look deeper and move on. That discussion is reserved for some timframe (6 months, or a year, or two…) down the line.

      Now is the time for listening, for providing a sympathetic ear, and, if need be, to grieve with the grieving. To do anything else right now would be, as Daniel noted earier, to mark oneself as a graduate of the Bildad School of Spiritual Comfort.

  27. I am not sure if I am evenly remotely close in accuracy in what I am about to say but, after reading Ya Thinks rambling, and knowing the nature of the blog-o-sphere, could we possibly have just read the ramblings of someone with a mental issue who is ranting incoherently? I’m not trying to be insulting to “Ya Think” I just really had no clue what he was talking about other than he was attempting to instigate something. Just my thoughts.

    Also, CM I will be praying for you. Thank you for being so open. That takes courage to open yourself up like that knowing that you may get trampled in the dust by someone that you don’t even know.

  28. David Cornwell says

    Be careful for a while about offering any words to a person who has suffered heinous violence. If you are there with that person, be there, be there to listen, to weep if it might happen, to hold a hand, perhaps. Do not fear silence if it should come. Do not be afraid to let time pass without anything said. Your prayer does not have to be audible, should not be intrusive. Listen, be aware, and you will/may know when to share a psalm or the words of Jesus.

    • A thousand amens.

      Useful in a multitude of other situations as well. Like almost every one I can think of.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Be careful for a while about offering any words to a person who has suffered heinous violence.

      Been on both sides of that one, not so much in the context of heinous violence as in the context of grief.

      Anything you say in such a situation is going to sound really stupid to the one who’s hurting (or been hurt). And duckspeaking Bible proof texts or Five Fast Praise-the-Lords (as Christian Monist has often written about) deserves a Christian Sack Tap from the suffering one they’re being inflicted on. The time for doctrine et al is when the trauma and grief have eased. Because when it’s fresh and raw, you WON’T be thinking straight.

  29. Mike, thanks for sharing from your heart at this hard time. I pray your nightmares will cease and His complete peace will comfort you. Bless your heart of mercy and compassion for all those that suffer needlessly all over the world. The Intruder DOES suck! Sometimes it is hard to “see” His hand in some of these things…but, I believe He is there.

  30. I’m really happy to see internet monk tackle this issue, but I’m sorry that such a difficult time was the catalyst for it.

  31. I’m sorry you have suffered these tragedies. May the God of peace comfort you and your family.

  32. Prayers for you, Chaplain Mike, and family…

  33. Violence is one of those issues that is so broad and so various that it’s hard for a reflective person to hold a single, all-encompassing opinion about it. Some violence originates from sources that are obviously evil, and some comes from sources that appear honorable or justifiable. Violence can arise from fear, hatred, love, lust, greed, ambition, moral convictions, confusion, hurt, racism, anti-racism, intolerance, pride, patriotism, religious beliefs, anti-religious views, political idealism, jealousy, mental illness, self-interest, self-defense, self-loathing, and plain old survival instincts. Sometimes violence breeds more violence, and sometimes a concerted violent effort can bring an end to a cycle of violence. Sometimes violence promotes the idea that might is right, and sometimes violence is expressed as a repudiation of that twisted philosophy. Through violence, one man can take the lives of many, and also through violence, one can save the lives of many by taking the lives of a few.
    However, it’s pretty clear from scripture that Jesus did not call His followers to a life of violence — with, of course, the exception of nailing our fleshly desires and human pride to the cross on a daily basis.

    • I agree that there are many types of violence that could be discussed, but I think we described the types of sinful, harmful violence we are talking about here pretty clearly in the post.

  34. Okay…since evangelcilas copy and mimic “the mainstream” by creating their own movie, music and literature genre…how would they approach the issue of vioelnce in movies? Would the following be possible? 😀

    The Terminator = The Prayernator
    A Time to Kill = A Time to Love
    We Were soldiers = We Were Christians
    From Russia With Love = From Liberty University with Love
    The Spy Who Loved Me = The prodigal Who Loved Me
    The Taking of Phelm 123 = Jabez’s Expansion of Territory (? Not sure about that one!!)
    The Sum of All Fears = The Sum of all Pharises 😛
    Patriot Games = Christian Games
    Unstoppable = Loveable

    Man what could you do with a movie like Spaceballs!!! 😯

    Nuts i can’t think of any more!!! 😀

  35. And, this morning, I am remembering that last night I did not offer my concern for your present struggles and pain, Chaplain.

    Forgive me. I will pray for you and your family.

    You have ministered greatly to me (and I am sure MANY others) for quite a while now – for which I am grateful.

    May the God of all peace comfort your hearts.

    Your Friend.

  36. Hey Mike,

    In many ways I have had such a sheltered life, that it is hard for me to imagine what you are going through. But my prayers are with you, and I pray that God will seem very present to you at this time.

  37. Matthew Peak says

    I remember growing up hearing evangelical fundamentalists and conversative political movements rail against violence in entertainment. Our response was laugh and mock them. Now this sound a lot like them. I for one will never blame violent entertainment for violent people.

    • I wouldn’t say it’s to blame, Matthew, but I would see it as part of the problem.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Speaking as a writer, I think a lot has to do with the PRESENTATION of violence in a book, movie, or TV show. Like so many other things, it comes down to a question of balance. The sanitized violence you get after the anti-violence activists have done their work is out-of-balance in one direction; the Splatter Porn you get in the Dark & Edgy stuff is out-of-balance in the other direction. One goes into deep denial, leaving “The Children, The Children, The Children” totally defenseless when they DO encounter the Dark Side; the other treats it as a spectator sport like the Roman Ampitheater, catered box seats and all. (What’s especially disturbing is the frequent association of Hyperviolence with sex; those are two things you do NOT want to link together.)

      Death and violence exist. Symptoms of a broken Cosmos, they cannot be Sucralose-coated out of existence. But neither are they something to gush over *Sparkling* in the sunlight.

  38. To Dan who commented 1/21/2011 at 11:29AM and also at 1PM

    I want you to know I looked into your recommendations. Although I had know prior intro to this thought-life, it is mind-blowing. I’ve read superficially, Alison’s “From impossibility to responsibility” and ordering from Amazon, Girard’s “Things hidden from the foundation of the world”.

  39. “…it is the God-Man himself who becomes the ultimate Victim of violence.”
    Very profound.

  40. I haveoffered prayers to you, your family, and all touched by these sad incidents that have happened in your family over the last few days. The feelings of vulnerablility, helplessness and the thoughts of trying to make sense of it all must be overwhelming.

  41. “Of course, at the story’s climax, it is the God-Man himself who becomes the ultimate Victim of violence. The Intruder appears to have triumphed through cruelty and death. Unwittingly, however, this is how God’s peace is won.”

    However, notably, this isn’t the end of the story. There’s still a denouement and a conclusion to contend with, and the conclusion muddies the Intruder with the introduction of hell into the equation. If the problem of violence in the Old Testament is troublesome, add in eternal torture explicity allowed by God, and denouncing violence entirely becomes problematic. As with many things in the Bible, there seems to be a disconnect between this world and the afterlife – make peace in this world, love your neighbor in this world, save people in this world … for in the next, the shit will hit the fan if you’re on the wrong side of the fence.

    You’re right that the church needs to come up with a response to that issue, the disconnect between the violence and wrath and hatred of the Lord and the God said to be perfect Love and who offers rest. It is one that deeply disturbs me.