Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Violence--What to Do?

I’ll be guest speaker at the First Existentialist Congregation at 11 a.m. this Sunday, June 16, 2013, reflecting on “Spiritual Fathers and Mothers,” 470 Candler Park Dr. NE, Atlanta, GA 30307-2113.

I would think regular readers might have hoped for a little “bucking up” in this blog after one or more of the recent acts of violence we’ve experienced either firsthand or through the media. I did write about Newtown, but not about the Boston Marathon bombing. You see, West, Texas had their devastating explosion and Syria and Iraq were  experiencing deadly attacks about the same time, and I couldn’t ignore their suffering. Then the collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh. And more recently we have the killer tornado of Moore, Oklahoma.

And these examples are simply set against the daily violence throughout the world among and between peoples, nations, and religions, not to mention the violence visited hourly upon the environment and animals and habitats.

I’d guess that in a single evening of watching television, from news to ubiquitous crime dramas, the average viewer witnesses more violence than many once experienced in a lifetime, save those in war zones or crime-ridden neighborhoods. What to do?

Can we adopt the position of a Buddha-like character in my (unpublished) mystery novel Angus Dei simply that “Violence is”? Philosophically that’s safer, until violence happens to us or those we care about.

Can we rise above violence? Given that violence may come with any vote, purchase, tax, commodity, meal, etc., rising above violence hardly seems possible. An average citizen and consumer may be as guilty of violence as any army of Genghis Khan!

And for Jesus, the mere thought was equivalent to the deed. I feel the most violent after watching the news: I know exactly what to do with or what should be done to opponents and oppressors, Congress and criminals. That’s why I try not to wield my sword—my pen or my computer—in the evening!

And, after reading the morning paper, that’s why I need morning prayer time to recover my equilibrium and recoup my energy and generosity.  Presently I am once again using the Psalms to do that, but I am jumping over the parts calling for vengeance or vindication or the destruction of enemies. My training suggests that this is politically or spiritually incorrect, as I should be praying the psalms on behalf of those who are crying out for justice at the expense of their oppressors. Though I do lift those enduring violence in prayer, after morning prayer I don’t want to feel like I do after the evening news or an episode of Criminal Minds or The Newsroom.

During a retreat I led, the most significant thing that got said came from a woman who had the “ah-hah” realization that she was spending so much time listing justice concerns in her prayers that she had no room for “resting in God.”

“When I awake I shall be filled with the vision of you,” Psalm 17:15b (NJB) greets God. This could be our mantra in preparation for facing the world.

Alongside the psalms I am using the contemporary “psalms” of J. Barrie Shepherd from his recent book Between Mirage and Miracle. In the aptly-titled “Catch of the Day—Chebeague Island, Maine,” he compares his morning prayer to lobster boats going out to sea at dawn: 
Their dream, as mine—
afloat upon a steep and surging mystery—
to lure and catch a portion of life’s bounty,
a momentary savoring, at least,
of an elusive sweetness that lies hidden
in the old, encircling deep.
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Copyright © 2013 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. Check out past posts in the right rail on the blogsite.


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