Recent events have provided a lamentable and frightening display of the use of violence to settle things, politically or personally.
The war in Ukraine is a clear example of the stupidity and the erroneous use of violence to settle the national fears of individuals in power in Russia.
This has been recently followed by the mass shooting in Texas, one of many in this calendar year. While we don’t know the motive for the killing at the writing of this essay, it was clearly meant to provide an answer to a problem in the mind of the killer.
The killer must have seen in his action some sort of justice. To us this was an insane and evil act but the killer must have seen it as necessary in some sick, deluded way: violence as a solution.
While gun control may seem to be a good first step in addressing the problem of this kind of violence, it is inadequate in itself. We must look at our culture and see how pervasive violence is and how it is often seen as a solution.
If we look at our culture objectively, we see it is a common fallacy to see violence as a solution. Watch TV and objectively enumerate the many instances where you see someone wounded or killed. Murder mysteries, war movies, courtroom dramas dealing with murders and rapes. Add to this the computer games that simulate killing of different kinds. Further, as you read newspapers or news feeds, notice how often acts of violence are reported. In this culture, we consider superhero films, in which hundreds or even thousands of people are eliminated, a form of family entertainment! And the list goes on and on.
We have to expose the falsity of this equation that posits violence as a solution. We are making an objectively incorrect cognitive equation. Violence never equals solution.
Look at what is happening in Ukraine. War is so stupid. All that killing and destruction. All those lives lost. All the terror and hatred that is unleashed that will endure for generations.
On a completely different front, we can examine the very real problems that come with pregnancy. If anyone ever witnessed an abortion or were told how the unborn child is killed, the majority of Americans would rightly see this as violence against innocent life. Once again, it is a false solution that absolves our nation from finding ways to both care for the mother and the child. It is harder to do that (and more expensive!), but it does not involve violence.
One might, therefore, rightly ask: why are Americans so violent? There may be falsity in this question as well. Violence is everywhere: the worst wars imaginable occurred in Europe. It took millions of dead people to get the lust for violence out of the heart of the historical center of Christianity. Not to mention the Holocaust!
Other places have seen horrendous violence as well: the partition of India and Pakistan, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Cultural Revolution in China, the bloodbath in Rwanda. And the list can go on and on.
America clearly is not the only culprit in this vision of violence as solution. But, since I am an American and mass shooting have become commonplace, I would love to see my beloved country freed from this scourge.
The best example of the other way of dealing with conflicts is the actions of Jesus. After His unjust arrest and His show trial, and even at the very time of His torturous agony on the Cross, He never called down the wrath of God on the perpetrators of these horrible deeds. He chose to absorb the evil and to give back goodness: pardon for His executioners and redemption for humanity.
We too can refuse to give back hate when we are surrounded by hate. It is not easy. It is very hard. But not as hard as the destruction of violent behavior of all kinds.
With gun violence, let’s not rely solely on gun laws. Let’s try to change hearts from hatred to kindness. Instead of destroying the human life in the womb, let us find ways to help women in real ways to bring children to birth without the economic uncertainty of future struggles for survival.
Let us love all our opponents and try through reason and kindness to persuade rather than defeat them.
Violence is really a statement of futility before real problems. Peace is the building of agreements that on common ground might yield new ways, possibilities unthought-of and therefore unrealized.
This should be our stance as Catholic Christians. Even when the world hates us.