Saturday, January 12, 2013

January Thaw: can the violence of our win-lose society be transformed?

Just to set the record straight: I do like winter, snow, cold. The light is beautiful, the landscapes new and clean.

BUT I am relieved today for the respite of a January thaw. Despite the grubby-looking ground, driveways and sidewalks without the danger of ice and cold are a blessing.

In such an unsettled world, I find myself searching the sky and the weather for signs: is aberrant weather now the new normal, or only a wider swing?

I woke up to read Charles Blow telling us, once again, that since the election of Barack Obama as President, the number of newly armed “Patriot” groups have multiplied ten-fold.

To the right of Blow’s startling graph, Joe Nocera wrote, “The combination of President Obama’s re-election and the Newtown massacre has caused gun proponents to stock up, fearing, against all available evidence, that the federal government was about to crack down on gun ownership.”

David Rubin, of the Newhouse school, praised SU coach Jim Boeheim’s comments after the deaths in Connecticut, urging more social leaders to echo Boeheim: ‘‘If we in this country, as Americans, can’t get the people who represent us to do something about firearms, we are a sad, sad society.’’

Certainly these reports seem to indicate a polarized, alienated society, desperately without hope, without any imagination that anything could ever be different in the future.

I found a hopeful reading of Matthew’s story about the visit of the wise men “from the East.” (see Community Parson.) Amazing, really, that Matthew would use the example of Israel’s enemies to proclaim the universal power of God. These Babylonians or Persians were Israel’s conquerors and captors, and here they are: marching across deserts, bringing exotic gifts. They are so attuned to the signs of these times that they recognize the enemies of God right in the midst of the Jewish people: Herod the conniver, Herod the violent, Herod the amasser of weapons of mass destruction and the soldiers who wield them.

Even more hopefully, I was moved this morning to read of the work of Rita Nakashima Brock, the theologian who was challenged to moderate her hard-line, take-no-prisoners pacifism. Not until long after her soldier-father’s death was she able to envision a future without the hard lines of polarizing opinions, of win and lose. Brock now works with military chaplains and veterans in the “Soul Repair Center,” a “vision of spiritual therapy” that resists “both finger-pointing at veterans and ‘premature forgiveness’ for the blood they have shed.”

“Everything is connected,” the eco-feminists used to say. Desperation and violence connect all too frequently in our world. Let’s connect the other dots, the points of true light. Let’s take risks to admit the wrong-headedness of our formerly hard-line positions, whatever they may have been. The signs of the times are all around us that this is the journey we must take.


  1. Oh, Jackie, yes, yes and yes.

    Joan Lefkow

  2. Amen, Jackie. No doubt about that sad connection of desperation and violence, fear. Sad how it is also connected to the election of Obama. Seriously, we have not really grown much as a society....

  3. Fear of the other brings violence.

    Embrace of the other leads to hope