Lesson 7: Violence

Soldiers in prayer One of the gifts that Francis brings is his proclamation of nonviolent love. There are two versions of Christian action out there presently. One regards it as redemptive compassion and the other as aggressive warfare. The former sees the history of salvation as God and his people working to overcome the damage humans do to themselves and creation; the latter, as a cosmic battle of good against evil.

Francis, in his thoughts, speech, and actions advocates a gentle love that seeks to heal the wounds of humanity and society, often describing the church as a field hospital. He enhances his assertion that truth, justice, and mercy remain the basic values of society (#227) with a lengthy analysis of forgiveness, returning good for evil.

His critics fault him for underestimating the conflict taking place in society. They feel we should be engaging in the battle rather than binding up the wounds of those who do. In their opinion, the Church is an army committed to fight to the death for God’s causes that they usually define as ethical teachings making for a healthy family and society.

I am seldom comfortable reading or conversing with members of this group. There is no real discussion, as it is assumed anyone holding my positions must be ignorant or malevolent. Although the tone of their arguments places me among the damned, they inevitably end up with words to the effect that God still loves me so they must as well. I feel like a heretic who is assured by the inquisitor that this is good for my soul and the community as he lights the fire.

Francis offers me some advice when he suggests I think in terms of family (#230). In family disputes, we usually try to avoid open fighting by changing the subject without really leaving the issue. The Pope appears to do that when he prefers discussing opposition to war and capital punishment as pro-life positions. If the abortion debate is going nowhere as all attempts to regulate physical violence against the most innocent end up using violent language against the well-meaning, then it might be time to change the subject.

Perhaps we can find our way back to creative moral conversation by listening to each other’s views on other challenging pro-life concerns. Along these lines, the Pope maintains discussing modern warfare must involve remembering the evil of American nuclear bombing as well as the German holocaust, opposing not only military conflict but also the selling of weapons so others can battle, and spending more money on providing food to the hungry than weapons to defend our nation. (#262). Obviously, changing the subject does not diminish facing difficult issues. It simply enables us to get back to remembering how to do that with respect.

I believe Pope Francis supports the most basic biblical tradition. The opening charters of Genesis blame violence for the corruption of God’s creation. In the Gospels, Jesus settles humanity’s struggle to overcome it by teaching nonviolent, sacrificial love. He maintains the murder we see in warfare will end when we control all anger for our brothers and sisters. Violence of any kind begets more violence. Violent words lead to violent actions.

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  1. Kerry says:

    Beautifully said, Fritz. Thank you!

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