Friday, April 19, 2013

Violence and Virtue


As I watch developing news about the likely perpetrators of our nation's most recent tragedy in Boston, my mind is flooded with unsettling questions. How does 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, described by an employee of his high school as "a lovely kid" and by a neighbor as having a "heart of gold," decide to kill and injure innocent people at random? His Facebook page proclaims that "Allah loves those who do good," and it's more than disturbing to consider that young Mr. Tsarnaev may have believed he was "doing good" by indiscriminately destroying other human beings.

CNN interviewed one employee of his former high school, a man who took extensive photos of the young wrestler and had come to know him well. The photographer was clearly astonished by these allegations and deeply saddened to think that the athlete he had liked and respected so much could intentionally hurt anyone. In his view, expressed in a voice trembling with emotion, such a thing was not compatible with the exemplary person he had befriended.

Peers admired and respected this classmate, fellow wrestlers praised his work ethic, teachers described him as a good student and a good example. He was never in trouble himself and never made trouble for others. In every way, he appeared to be no different from any other nice kid in any other friendly community.

The questions haunting me today are these: (1) How does the degree of violence allegedly manifested by Dzhokhar at the Boston Marathon co-exist with the degree of virtue others perceived in him? (2) How prevalent is this dichotomy of character in our society? and (3) What, if anything, can we do about it?

I don't pretend to have the answers, but a thread keeps running through my thoughts as I begin to search for some. Our culture is one that increasingly condones violence by the very act of not eschewing it, and every child born today is exposed to culture and media that permeate the consciousness with sights and sounds that previously would not have been countenanced in this country. Desensitization does occur, and it should come as no surprise that aggression is on the rise. Couple that growing aggression with an increasing lack of respect for the religious and political beliefs of others and a decreasing tolerance for their right to differ from our own, and you have a powder keg waiting to explode.

At this point, it is unclear whether this act of terror was inspired by Islamic extremism or not. Time will tell, but one thing is certain. Religion that parts ways with a love for all men ceases to be religion and becomes fanaticism. I repudiate the notion that religion can ever be righteously wielded as a club or brandished as a sword in behalf of God, Allah, or any other entity. My personal example is Christ, who taught what He knew to be truth yet allowed and still allows each person to accept or reject it. His exercise of religion was and is based on service and sacrifice, freedom and forgiveness, respect and redemption.

These are my strongly held beliefs: We are all children of God, no matter what religion we espouse or choose not to espouse. Each and every life matters...to Him and to us. We are brothers and sisters, taking this journey together according to His plan. We will not walk in lock step, nor were we meant to. All are granted the ability and agency to find our way back to the loving Father who created us, and ours is to love and support each other as best we can along the way.

What can we do to brighten the world while we are here? We can endure in faith, believing that goodness is stronger than evil, holding up whatever light we have against the darkness and asking for more. If we are willing, Christ's words in His Sermon on the Mount can be revealed in us, as individuals and as a nation:

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).

Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Jew or "other," you don't have to be a follower of Christ to live like one. Goodness is goodness. Light is light. Darkness is darkness. Which will we choose for ourselves, and how are we willing to live to support that choice?

Shining a light is not and never can be a passive thing. It requires energy, effort and no small amount of valor, especially when shadows loom large and threaten. But there are more light-bearers out there than we might think. And they are far easier to recognize when we are standing among them.


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27 comments:

Pam Beers. said...

Great post, Sue. If everyone followed the greatest commandment of all.."Love one another as I have loved you." ...this would be a peaceful world.

It's such a simple concept. Why violence, when we are all surrounded by so much natural beauty? It makes sad.

Grandma Honey said...

I have not been following the news this week except for what I see on as the top lead ins on the internet....so I did not know the background on this guy. All I can come up with is he must have been on some sort of mood alternating drugs? Because what else could explain the total turn around in character.

I so agree what you said Sue about the desensitizing of violence that is so prevalent in our culture now. Will the day ever come when we as a society will begin to do something about that??

Gail said...

Thank you.

Dixie Mom said...

I wholeheartedly agree!

Jo said...


goodness IS goodness .... well said and such an easy ideal .... wonderful post Sue ...

RobinfromCA said...

Well said. Violence is condoned and Virtue is condemned. The more we learn the more we can never underestimate the power of suggestive thought to overcome a virtuous mind.

yaya said...

A few of the young women I work with expressed this out loud: "I'm not sure I want to bring children into this world". I said, "We can't let the violent, evil acts of a few make us fear or hate this world"..and perhaps their child will be the one to find solutions for problems or bring more goodness into the world. There is much goodness around us. Just look at the many who helped at that tragedy. The heroes who bravely searched for these 2 young men. The health care workers who take care of the victims and the families and friends who have sent an outpouring of love and financial support to victims. We just need to take a stand to always show kindness and forgiveness and let God judge the rest.

Eva Gallant said...

What a beautiful, insightful post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Eva Gallant said...

What a beautiful, insightful post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Tracy Cook said...

A wonderful post thank you. As the story breaks ver here , I wonder how somebodies adorable baby turns into a bomber with not a care in he world except mass destruction.

Karen S. said...

Indeed a most inspiring post, and I have those very same questions. But also perhaps as I sit here being a mother and a grandmother, I deeply feel the pain that must surely be within their parent's heart and soul at this time. Yet, they themselves bring even a greater question for me, and possibly what may or may not have been a factor for those brothers. Why were they living outside of the guidence, caring, love of a family unit for most of their lives? Sadly, we, and their family may never know the real truths behind their horrific actions. But just maybe this will be a lesson or a warning in the future.

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

Sue this is such a wonderful beautiful post and I am so glad you wrote it.
I needed it today because of how heavy my heart has been over all of this violence and then the explosion here in Texas.
Love ya
Maggie

Connie said...

Beautifully said!

Lola said...

Well said -totally agree!

Have a good weekend,

Visiting from Alphabe-Thursday

Gattina said...

Very good post ! I agree with you to 100 % ! I think these young kids watch TV too much and that is always full of violence, gives bad ideas just to live something thrilling. That people die, they probably don't even think about it. We have a group of young Belgians, muslimes, who tried to go to Syria to fight there in the name of Allah which means God in arabic. The government has stopped them and they are not allowed to leave the country no young muslime with a passport can take a plane anymore. Only 3 still managed to take an airplane. The Belgian Imam now tries to explain them that violence and religious wars are not dictated by Allah ! I only hope it helps !

acreativeharbor.com said...

Absolutely excellent pensive post ~ it will never make sense ~ Peace needs to come or we will all be gone to another world ~ Wishing you the best in each day despite the world's chaos. ^_^

Stacy Crawford said...

I love what you said!

Leovi said...

Violence is totally unjustifiable!

JDaniel4's Mom said...

You ask wonderful questions. Great post!

Robert Brault said...

Sue, I think you have made the only rational assumption one can make -- that religious intolerance was the impulse behind this act. And I agree that the answer lies not in the rejection of religion but in a recommitment to the moral values that we in the Western world find best exemplified in Christ. Such values are central to all the world's major religions, including Islam, but they are always in danger of corruption when religious belief becomes divorced from morality and centers on personal salvation achievable by faith alone. This breeds intolerance of any other faith, because the mere existence of another faith draws into question one's hold on the keys to the kingdom. Your appeal for tolerance, drawing from the life of Christ the model for human interaction, is precisely on target, in my view, and exactly what I'd expect from one both eloquent and wise. Thank you. rb

Annmarie Pipa said...

a wonderful thoughtful reflection...everything about this is too unbelievable to me. i got a book today about islam to see if I can start to understand.

LeAnn said...

Sue, this was a powerful post. I think it would be a great one for an newspaper editorial page. You asked some good questions and stated some get thoughts on this tragedy.
We are in a wicked generation. It is one more sign of the times. I remember hearing that one day we would pray for the Savior to come and I think we are in that day. j
Blessings for this insightful post. Hugs!

Dina Lettre said...

So true, Sue.

Brian Miller said...

they are far easier to recognize when you stand among them...so true...it has been a heavy week...but the light has the opportunity to shine in the darkest night...

EG CameraGirl said...

Well written, Sue.

I certainly do NOT condone the Boston bombers' behavior, but I do think we need to learn to understand why so many humans these days seem driven to hurt innocent people.

I do agree that it's NOT religion that is causing this extreme behavior. No religion condones violence.

Thank you for your wise words.

Jenny said...

These are Very Valuable words...

Thank you for sharing this for the letter V...

Victorious job!

A+


Amy said...

That was such a sad day. I was driving in my car and listening to the news when I heard it. It broke my heart when my son started asking questions. He is 5. I had to explain about choices others make may affect us. It was a beautiful teaching moment, but sad nonetheless.

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