Tag Archives: violence

Every Man That Hath This Hope

Does hope purify?

1 John 3:3

And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Dozens of people have been murdered in the United States, in the last 18 months, by young men on killing rampages. When teenage boys killed their fellow students at a high school in Colorado in 1999, our country was shocked and appalled. But, this wasn’t the first mass killing in a school. And it wouldn’t be the last. About a year and a half ago, the murders of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary terrified and enraged us again. Just this week, a killer shot and murdered a student and shot a teacher at a school in Oregon, and then ended up dead himself. There seems to be an epidemic. It’s even worse than you might remember – take a look at this timeline starting from 1984: http://timelines.latimes.com/deadliest-shooting-rampages/ Men from the ages of 55 to 11, most of them under 30, have made the decision to seek out human beings and kill them, arming themselves for the rampage, wanting to destroy their lives. Sometimes they commit suicide directly. Sometimes it’s almost a matter of suicide by police. None of them get away. Why do they want to do this?

Why?

Why???

The President of the United States has said, in light of the most recent killing, “this is not normal.” But isn’t “normal” a relative word? Certainly we would agree with the president’s assessment, I mean, it’s kind of a no-brainer to call this “not normal” – but isn’t it becoming normal? For some people in our country, perhaps for some young men who live just down the street, these killing sprees look like the exact right thing to do – they look perfectly and brilliantly normal to them. For me, the most chilling murder by young men is one that hits close to home, literally. And, I think, it points to a reason why the abnormal is becoming normal.

In 2009, in the small town of Mont Vernon, four seemingly normal young men, ages 17-20, took a drive, armed with knives and a machete, looking specifically for someone to kill. Anyone. They broke into a home in the woods and found a woman and her 11-year-old daughter sleeping there. They brutally and viciously stabbed, slashed, and hacked the woman to death, hacking away at the little girl as well, so violently that they not only smashed bones but also hacked bones into pieces. The little girl only survived by playing dead. Why did these four boys do such a thing?

No, they were not mentally ill. They wanted to know what it was like to kill people. One of these boys, even after the fact, thought that this was cool. The four of them had called themselves the “Disciples of Destruction” and enjoyed violent music and images. In an article on CrimeLibrary.com, Michael A. Washburn writes, “Like many suburban kids with too much time on their hands, the “Disciples of Destruction” were drawn together by a shared fascination with the cultures of death and mayhem.” When Judge Abramson sentenced one of the killers to life in prison with no parole (the harshest penalty allowable) +76 consecutive years, she said to him that she wanted “to ensure that you stay in that cage for the rest of your pointless life.”

His pointless life. Indeed. I think that’s exactly the point.

Many of these serial killers who do all their murdering in one rampage were, I’m quite sure, mentally ill. But, people who think that other people are not worth anything, people who want to feel the thrill of killing, are not necessarily mentally ill. We, as a nation of people, absolutely have to get together and truly help people among us who are suffering from mental illness. We need effective ways to find them and treat their illnesses. But this won’t be enough. Just as banning or regulating guns won’t be enough (as the Mont Vernon attack shows). As these killings more and more become the new normal, we have to be aware that there are young men among us whose lives are pointless, who have no positive direction, who are drawn to darkness and destruction – who have no hope.

What are we, as a society, offering them? Meeting beautiful women in bars, drinking alcohol, getting laid, playing video games, and putting up with a crappy job with a jerk for a boss so that they can afford the beer, the games, and maybe a hot set of wheels? Isn’t this the ideal life of a twentysomething? And, no, the answer isn’t to provide better jobs – Please! Is no one listening? Is no one watching what young men are watching, hearing what young men are hearing? Frankly, I can see why some are rejecting “normal” behavior. I can see why young men might want to neither become couch-sitting gamers with five kids from three nagging baby mamas nor workaholics with professional prestige and empty, materialistic lives. I also see why some would not want to be neatly dressed, mild-mannered fathers-of-two, whose biggest excitement is an enthusiastic “Amen!” on a Sunday or the thrill of an amusement park ride once a year. Is this really all we’ve got? Have we nothing of real value to offer?

Meaningful relationships. Yes, that’s a start. But… what do relationships mean? Working with their hands to create something solid that actually helps real people. Yes, that’s good, too. Are you making your sons do that? If you are, are you making them do it so that they can be “nice”? If so, it’s not going to work. Nice ain’t gonna cut it. Real love is the only thing that makes a relationship meaningful. Real love is the only reason to build improvements for other people’s lives. And real love is the only thing, the only thing, that keeps our lives from being pointless.

No, I’m not going to blame the parents. Unless, that is, we, as a society, are the parents. It does take a village to raise a child, because often the parents can’t do it by themselves, either because they are too busy, too ignorant, or too wounded themselves to know what real love is. So… What is real love?

Let’s take the qualities that the young killers at Mont Vernon were attracted to: courage, bravery, honor in brotherhood, something different than ho-hum-get-through-the-day, the newness of discovery, the experience of something hands-on, pushing themselves beyond where they had ever been before. Yes, I know, even I’m feeling kind of disgusting writing down those words in light of what they did with their desires. But, now, take those qualities to the classroom. Now they don’t seem so chilling, but, rather, exhilarating and exactly right. Take those natural desires of young people to the home and give them a direction in which to go. A path to take that is beyond ordinary. Help them to love something, really love something. I don’t mean a particular someone – how many murders have been committed because a young boy put all of his energies into one girl? I mean a love of nature, a love of construction, a love of science, a love of arts – poetry, music, performance arts, literature, painting, sculpture, photography, film, etc. – a love of travel, a love of commerce, a love of sports (maybe, at least they won’t have “time on their hands”) a love of community. Teach them not to look down on other people. Teach them that we are all interconnected. Teach them that every human being has – that they have – inherent value that no one and nothing can take away. Teach them about the human soul! Every human longs for something more! Don’t misinterpret, and therefore stifle, that longing to mean more money, more clothes, more accolades, more excitement, more thrills. The something more for which we all long is Something More. Something more infinite than the outer reaches of space-time… Something more intimate than the inner depths of feelings. Infinite and intimate love that calls for courage in making new discoveries and bravery in giving of ourselves completely; infinite and intimate love that doesn’t merely help us get through the day but pushes us beyond ourselves to the sharing of that infinite and intimate love – real love.

I know that I can’t change the world. And I certainly know that these words are too abstract to be translated into any concrete action. But, we seriously need to take a look at hope in our country. (Not the kind of hope that’s marketed and branded by politicians, who are too narrow-minded in their understanding of hope, and who invariably disappoint anyway by getting bogged down in politics, selfishness, or even just the practical, and lose sight of the big picture – lose sight of Something More.) Every person is unique and has unique gifts for the building up and the giving of life. Every person is loved into being – hope in that. There’s the point. No person is worthless. No matter how bored, how small, or how voiceless. A culture of life would understand this. A culture of life would make decisions out of real love and not out of fear or hopelessness. But… ours isn’t a culture of life, is it.

Christina Chase ©2014

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Them That Hate Me

Cycles of violence … Who hates God?

Exodus 20:5

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Who hates God? The easy answer that comes to mind might be atheists. But, of course, a true atheist doesn’t believe in the existence of God – how can someone hate something that doesn’t exist? Satanists are another group of people that we could point to and say that they hate God. Certainly with their creed, their words and their rituals, they seek to align themselves with the mystical enemy of God and eschew all things upright and wholesome. But… I would wager that most Satanists in action, in the world and in their families, are no less destructive and unwholesome than some who profess to believe in God. Oh, there are certainly Satanists who choose evil deeds, who hate and curse and torture and kill. But, are there not God believing people who do the same, calling on a different name?

How many Muslims, how many Christians, how many peoples throughout history around the world have preached and practiced acts of violence and cruelty in the name of their gods? Enough to make a person think about wanting to be an atheist – indeed, some want-to-be influential people, like Bill Maher, for one example, blame all the wars that humans have fought on religion. However, in all truth and reason, we can clearly see that wars arise from ideologies – which often claim no god. Stalin’s communist regime was one of the most brutal in history and he did not systematically kill for the honor of any god, for he was an atheist. He was vicious and destructive for himself, for power and greed (maybe even for his own amusement) for the sake of his way of looking at things, his ideology. And is that not the true cause of every war? Is not the real reason humans are bent on cruelty and domination that they want to be? Wars are fought by individual soldiers in trenches and on front lines who may very well have loving reasons for being there – but wars are instigated and created by people who want what they want and will gladly have killed or destroyed anyone who they think gets in the way. Even smaller-scale acts of violence – the cold-blooded murder of a girlfriend, the rape of a stranger, the lethal shooting of a dozen kids in a school – are not caused by religion. Man’s cruelty to man has nothing to do with the love and worship of God.

The people who hate God are the people who hate other people. For every person is created in God’s image. If you hate anyone in the world – even if you hate the most horrible and vilest of persons – you hate God. We often think that it is right and good to hate evil doers. We laud all talk of destroying the enemies of freedom and justice. Although it is true that anyone who is an enemy of true freedom and true justice is choosing to go against the ways of God, if we choose to hate that hate-filled person, then we, too, are choosing to go against God’s ways. Christ said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God does not close off divine mercy from anyone – and neither should we. For, if we are to live as we were created to live, we must strive to do as God does and struggle to walk in the ways of mercy and selflessness – of real love.

Yes, people do horrendous things and claim to do them for the love of God – but that’s not really love. Or, perhaps more accurately, that’s not really God. It’s very easy to think of God as meting out pain and vicious punishment on those who would seek to go against Him. The Bible has many, many verses that tell of God’s wrath and vengeance and the hurt He puts upon His enemies. In the verse from Exodus 20, about the Commandment against worshiping false idols God says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.” What we often think of as God’s willfully wrathful punishment, however, is, I believe, simply the natural consequences of our own willfully wrathful choices. Do we not know that violence begets violence and those who live by the sword die by the sword? Do we not see the rational truth of this in the world, even in our everyday lives? It doesn’t mean that the One and Almighty God will smite anyone who seeks to worship through a religion other than the one and only one prescribed by Him. If it did, God might welcome arguments that escalate into violence about which religion is the true religion – but, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God gives us freewill and allows us to freely choose, pouring His love and mercy upon each and every one of us, relentlessly. That loving mercy can feel like eternal pain to those who never want to receive it, not even in the last moments of their lives; or it can feel like eternal sunshine and grace to those who long for the forgiveness and love of God.

If a child is taught to hate by his parents, he will usually become a hater. If his child, then, is taught to destroy the hated ones, then he will usually become destructive. The person in the family who first chose, in freewill, to hate a human being or human beings, who first saw cruel domination as a good, set up a cycle of hate, a cycle of violence, that is, as we know, very difficult to break. But, then, there are those people who willfully choose to have mercy. Though, sometimes, they are punished by the hating people, their acts of kindness and selflessness do not go unseen. Their true love, that choice to walk in divine ways, inspires others for generations upon generations upon generations… as are the saints of old, and new, ever inspiring, ever celebrated even after 2000, 5000 years. And their individual lives do not end with the death of their limited bodies, their self-centered thinking, as do the lives of those who hate God by hating human beings – the lives of those who love God by selflessly loving human beings are as eternally beautiful as the Beautiful One, Who Is Eternal Love.

 

Christina Chase

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