Violence. It is everywhere.
The cumulative violence of the civil war in Syria, the conflicts in CAR and Sudan, troops mobilizing in Ukraine, ongoing tension in Israel and Palestine, bomb attacks in Iraq, war in Afghanistan and the DRC alone is enough to overwhelm and cause us to wonder just what the hell is going on in this world. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Criminal Justice systems from the U.S. to Bolivia to Kenya are exploited by the rich and powerful to do violence to the poor; women are enslaved in red light areas the world over, they are killed before birth because of their sex, they’re molested at home and on college campuses, they are second class citizens in their countries and at work and in places of worship and at home; whole families toil in bonded labor in brick kilns and clothing factories; boys and girls, young men and women are committing suicide because the violence becomes too much to bear or the pressure to succeed or be someone they are not overwhelms.
And let’s not forget that in the places of conflict and war – and elsewhere – we create holes in the ground to fuel our economies, digging deeper and deeper for oil and gold and diamonds and the coltan and tin that is used in my iPhone. We carve up the land and cut down trees and put dynamite to our hillsides and consume and consume and consume, a voracious, unending consumption that does its own work of violence against our world and our neighbors, and indeed to our own souls.
Then there is the violence of our words – cutting, slicing, digging into each other, tearing one another down for our beliefs or ideologies or looks or failure to measure up, brutalizing our identities. We do violence to ourselves – believing and repeating lies inside our heads that tell us we are not good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, doing enough, and mostly, that we are not worthy of love.
This is our world. And it is in this world of violence that the Cross of Christ stands on Golgotha – on the one hand as a typical victim of the injustice and systemic violence that plagues this world – and on the other hand as an unthinkable, foolish, dangerous, revolutionary, this-changes-everything act. In the death of Jesus we find an unmasking and prophetic critiquing of the systems of violence and a participation in solidarity and compassion with victims of violence. In the resurrection is a victory of non-violence, a vindication of victims of violence as those loved by God, an interruption of the perpetuation of violence through forgiveness, and a call for followers of Jesus to emulate non-violent love that condemns and breaks these systems, takes victims off the cross, and provides a place of enemy-love around the table of belonging. Do we see how revolutionary this is? What a different way this is from what the world offers and dictates.
This Lent, as we move toward the violence of the cross and the resurrection of the slaughtered lamb, we will face the realities of violence in this world, claim the revolutionary way of the cross, and imagine and embrace the alternative community of the resurrection. We will hear from friends who are resisting violence and bravely embracing love and fostering beauty in their contexts – in a desert school in rural Kenya, the red light area of Kolkata, amidst the culture wars in Minneapolis, on an organic farm in Wisconsin, and others who are overcoming evil with good. We look forward to introducing you to some of our friends as we delve into this way of non-violent love this Lent. You can follow this Lenten series over at Adding to the Beauty.