The Myth That Redemptive Violence is a Myth: Part 1
August 9, 2012 41 Comments
The Huffington Post recently published an article by Lee Camp (professor at David Lipscomb University) entitled Batman, Neo-Nazis and the Good News of Jesus Christ. In what is a masterfully titled article Camp says the following,
“But what those conversations fail to do — what supposedly conservative Christians fail to do — is question what hardly anyone questions: namely, the myth of redemptive violence.
This myth divides the world into the “good guys” and the “bad guys,” and then assumes the legitimacy of employing warring and violence against the “bad guys.” Violence is the mechanism by which the good guys believe that they will win. It is a deep faith — a killing faith — in the saving efficacy of killing.
This myth so deeply pervades our culture it has become the water in which we swim, the air that we breathe, the dirt in which we worm our way through hatred and animosity. It is a conviction so deep that it transcends left and right, liberal and conservative.”
Camp’s point is that if we can brand ourselves the good guy and those we wish ill upon the bad guy then it is easy to justify using violence to bring an end to those we disagree with. It is a good point. It is a valid point. Honestly, I think he is on to something that is pervasive in our society and problematic among Christians. But that information does not lead to the conclusion that violence is always used in such a way as described in his article. What I am hearing Camp and others say underlying all of this is that since they believe violence is never redemptive there is never a place for violence no matter what the motive. Maybe I am just reading that into it, someone correct me if I am hearing that wrong.
Before I say anything else I want to say I have a great respect for Dr. Camp and the counter-cultural voice he is in our society. I appreciate that. If you haven’t read his piece or this piece by Rex you really should. We have grown such a sensitivity to disagreement in our culture that somehow people think if you disagree with someone you must hate them or think they are crazy. For the record, what I am about to write is not personal…it is just a disagreement of ideas and I am completely open to listen to anyone who thinks I am wrong.
Violence is not always selfish. Violence is not always making some guy you already hate out to be the phony bad guy so you can squash him or smash him or shoot him. There are situations in life when innocent people are harmed and something has to be done about it. The loving response is to protect the innocent. We aren’t talking about cowboys and indians, batman and joker…we are talking real life here. Let me give you an example from my life. Ten years ago I was home from college for the summer and my family went into a gas station. Some men came in and began yelling at the cashier. She looked scared. Honestly, we were scared too. These guys were harsh, angry and up to no good. The majority of my family has had conceal carry permits over the years and several of us had firearms with us. We weren’t going to brandish any weapons unless things got crazy but we also weren’t just going to leave her there to get killed either. So we waited in the store to at least let our presence be known. Finally the three men decided they didn’t want any witnesses to what they were about to do so they left. We spoke with the cashier and she told us that several years prior these men had robbed her store and she had turned them in. They had just gotten out of jail and decided to come back for her. She believed we saved her life. I cannot tell you how thankful she was. No shots were fired but I can tell you we would have felt justified, even before God, to protect this innocent lady if it had come to that.
If we want to theorize about all of this we could analyze this assuming redemptive violence is a myth, therefore, no violence is ever justified under any condition. We could say God wants the innocent protected but not if it takes violence because violence is never redemptive. If that was our view and those guys had started shooting I might not be typing this post today. You see, this is all good in theory but the reality is there are innocent people out there…we don’t wish for it but there are times someone has to stand in the gap. This is self-sacrificial love because it is easier to leave someone to die than it is to stand up for them.
In the real world it is not all cowboys and indians labels that we use to frame all the evil things we want to do out of selfish ambition. Now that is the difference here. The kind of violence Camp and others are railing against is the use of self proclaimed labels of good and bad that then justify our doing whatever we wanted to do in the first place. I believe it is entirely possible to use violence out of love: a love for the innocent, a love for one’s family, and even a love for strangers.
There is so much more I could say on this but are you tracking with me or am I way off base on this one?