The Myth of Redemptive Violence

Riot Control Training from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 The National Guard, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio[/caption]

Last night and today we saw countless news stories of the rioting in Baltimore. The first thought that comes to mind is how horrible it is that I am barely surprised any more. This has been a season of darkness and violence in American history unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime. Clearly something is going on, but exactly what or how to respond to it appropriately still seem like they're up for grabs. 

I don't know what it's like to be an African American in this country. Neither do I know what it is like to be a police officer. So really anything I would speak into either of those groups would ring hollow, another white guy trying to make sense of someone else's problem. What I do know is this: the rioting and the violence, no matter what reason sparks it, will solve nothing. The myth of redemptive violence, the idea that we can solve problems by beating up the people who have wronged us, is just myth. I promise you if you rioted in Baltimore last night, you will feel no better this morning. The injustices will not be corrected. The wrongs will not be righted. All that has happened is millions of dollars in damage, most of which directed at shop owners and individuals who had nothing to do with the original injustice. 

What did Jesus say about all this? Plenty. "Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6) It is VERY good for us to look at unjust situations and hunger for righteousness to rain down. It is a part of our calling to look at racial discrimination in our nation, whether at the hands of a police force or a company hiring or plain old dumb talk from folks who don't know better and say "STOP!" That's part of our call as Christians. But in almost the same breath, Jesus reminds us that "if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39) Violence never solves anything. Violence is incapable of bringing about justice. It's the wrong tool, not unlike using a hammer to saw a piece of wood. 

So my encouragement this morning is two-fold. To those who would participate in riots, looting, or violence in the name of justice, please think twice. Violence has no place in the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom which our world needs desperately. Lay your weapons down, and pick up the cause of justice. To those of us who are on the outside looking in, remember that our hunger and thirst for righteousness is not disqualified because a select few have chosen violence. I have seen Facebook post after Facebook post this morning, most of which read "See! They were just looking for an excuse to riot!" I don't think this situation is that simple, and neither do you. When we think about race and the relationships we have between African Americans, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, and all of our brothers and sisters from around the globe who call the American melting pot home, we can quickly see that the righteousness we hunger for is far form here. Do not lose your stomach for justice. We have a long way to go.