The violent story of Cain and Abel introduces us to a world rooted in conflict and rivalry, a world in need of reconciliation and renewal.
At Next Reformation Len shares this quote from Parker Palmer in his post The Violence of our Knowledge.
“It is important to recognize that to do violence to each other we need not drop a bomb or hit someone with a stick. We do violence in much more subtle ways. My operating definition of violence is that violence always involves violating the integrity of the other. We do violence whenever we violate the integrity or the nature of the other.”
Larry Chouinard makes the following points in regard to male/female relationships. I would like to extend the context beyond marriage relationships and consider these concepts in relation to people in general.
Anger creates an atmosphere where another is dehumanized and devalued. Divorce is the ultimate statement that another has little value and can easily be discarded.
Adultery is fundamentally the “breaking of covenant” that shatters relationships and undermines community identity.
Many who leave church have experienced this kind of violence in their church community. The occurances are too common and widespread to be written off as isolated incidents. Whether we call them revolutionaries or exiles, there are multitudes who have experienced violence at the hands of insecure leaders and political church systems.
That is one of the reasons there is such a resounding call to examine the structures that allow and perpetuate systemic violence. Political manipulation in church relationships has no place in true kingdom life.
Violence seeks to isolate and separate people from community. It treats people as less than human. Violence is a sin that attempts to suppress and negate inclusion. It occurs not only within churches, but also in relationships with those outside of church.
Jesus embodied God’s way of reconciliation. His incarnational ministry of reconciliation involved radical love, healing, forgiveness, the subversion of systemic evil and dominating hierarchies, inclusivity, welcoming the disenfranchised and marginalized, and the Spirit of peace to dwell within a new community, the church.
Do we recognize this kind of love in legalistic fundamental Christianity, agenda-driven evangelical Christianity, or head-in-the-clouds charismatic Christianity? Likely, the reason Christianity is perceived as offensive is because the lost have experienced the violence of our attitudes and actions. Rather than proclaiming a message of redemption, often the message has been one of rejection.
The church is called to identify and reject this violence. As Christ’s reconciling community, the church is to be a counter culture, an alternative society. As a Jesus-shaped community the church is to be the people who embrace the poor, oppressed, and marginalized, the community of resistance against systems of domination.
The church has often failed to be a sign of God’s redemption.
Someday, the church will move from its focus on power, domination, and control to forgiveness, compassion and equality. Not so much leadership-centered as Jesus-centered, it will empower everyone to participate in God’s reign of peace and justice, and it will resist the forces of injustice.