What Do You Think?
It’s been a violent year or so, hasn’t it? It seems like everywhere we turn there is more news of more horror and more violence. Why? Where does it come from?
If you ask 100 different people, you’ll probably get 100 different answers as to why there is so much violence in our society. To be sure, it is a complex issue and there are many factors involved in every act of violence that appears on our newsfeed.
In looking for root causes, we must always be wary of over-simplification and sweeping statements. Nevertheless, some factors are more important than others — even if they are not immediately obvious.
Mother Teresa’s Take
In 1994, Mother Teresa gave an historic speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. In it she sought to answer, ‘What is the great destroyer of peace and bringer of violence?’
To Test Us
It still amazes me how little the church of Christ can sometimes actually look like Christ. And I say that as a leader of the church, myself bearing the brunt of the blame.
The hypocritical media and self-appointed moral police of our city have brought a man before us who has been caught (on video) in sin. Death threats, drunken stupors, and binges of crack-cocaine — all from a man who should be an example and a leader. They have set this man in our midst. They are testing us, as a society now. It’s clear how the majority of our city feel. As a church, how will we respond to Mayor Rob Ford?
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford speaks from the podium at the cenotaph during a Remembrance Day service in Toronto on Monday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)
The world knows that the righteous law of God condemns these things. They remind us of that and ask, ‘So what do you say?’ They say this to test us, that they might catch us in hypocrisy and discredit us. Are we a people of mercy or judgement? If we don’t draw a hard line now, how can we speak out against other moral issues facing our culture? But what are we to do when the matter is so clear that even the immoral are offended?
Leaked videos have proven it, blog commenters have spoken; can there be any doubt? What will we do with him?
Our Response to Date
Sadly, some Christians have prioritized politics over personal integrity. ‘He has good politics, even if his life is a disaster,’ we say. And we overlook how he has offended a Holy God and betrayed the City that vested trust in him.
Sadly, other Christians don’t look any different than the world. Here is a chance to stand with the world, rather than against it for a change. ‘We can show them that we’re not weird political conservatives with blinders on, we can see this is wrong too!’
But you know what’s missing in both of those responses? Jesus’ response.
My wife, the ever-astute-observer-of-everything, made a very interesting observation the other day while we were watching TV (which, of course, preaches truth unwittingly). Her observation was simple but profound: There is a large dichotomy between the way our culture counsels people in our day-to-day lives and what our culture values in the heroes of our stories.
In this particular instance we were watching the show Jericho. The contrast between the heroes and villains is stark: the heroes sacrifice themselves for others while the villains and creeps only care about themselves. While we witnessed this in Jericho, it’s a pretty safe assumption that this principle holds true in whatever show you happen to be watching.
What’s fascinating about the identification of heroes & villains along these lines in TV shows is that much of the way we’re counselled to live in real life is ‘do what makes you happy’ and ‘look out for number 1.’ To draw out the contrast, think about this: if people actually lived according to those rules and their lives were broadcast, they would actually be making themselves the villains.
We are copycats. In one sense, we can’t help it. We were created to be image bearers, reflecting the likeness of the one who designed us.
But you don’t have to live long before you learn that there are respectable kinds of copying and there are dishonest kinds. If I’m writing out a thought, for example, and cite the authors and sources that inspired me, I honour them. If, however, I use someone else’s work and don’t give them credit then I am an idea-thief and I dishonour the original writer.
Gospel on Prime-Time TV
Hasn’t it ever struck you as funny that the TV shows and movies which make the biggest impact sound somewhat familiar? From Jack Bauer to Batman, hero after hero must sacrifice himself in a noble way, be misunderstood, and ultimately ‘die’ alone. (In the case of Batman, he even ‘rises again’ as we’re about to see in theatres.)
Even the recent conclusion of the TV series House, MD wrapped up with none other than the oft-misunderstood Gregory House ‘laying down his life for his friend.’ And this is supposed to be original? For those who endured the four seasons of the should-have-been-one-season series Prison Break, you saw that in the end the hero (who already had to enter into his brother’s prison to save him) finally had to pay the ultimate price and give his life for his friends.