Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Am A Violent Man

I'm forty-five years old, and I've never punched another human being in anger.  Not once.  Oh, I've come close.  There was that time in middle school where I snapped of a series of lightning jabs, "landing" them a fraction of an inch from the face of the kid who was unsuccessfully attempting to bully me.  I didn't intend to land them, and because he did not choose to walk into them, I didn't.  They had the desired effect, and he took off.

There have been other times, but they have been few and far between.

That was before my commitment to following Jesus had become my vocation.  I honor nonviolence as the noblest path.  It is the response of God to evil.  Violence is not necessary to destroy evil, because evil bears the seeds of its own annihilation within itself.

But as I read through Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You, as he lays out a relentless assault on the legitimacy of violence, I find myself both drawn to it and struggling with it.

I am drawn to it because his view is uncompromising and absolutely real.  This is what Jesus and Paul and the early church lived out.  It is the reality of the Reign of God, with the obfuscation and the rationalizations stripped away.

But as I examine myself in the light of that clarity, I do not know with certainty whether I am completely nonviolent.  In the abstract, yes.  In the pursuit of a goal, yes.  And even in organizational life, I have found that if given the opportunity to destroy or attack a vulnerable opponent, I will not take it.  I will and have shown grace, even at personal and vocational cost.

I do not know, however, if crisis would change that.

If presented with a real existential threat, to myself or--more pointedly--to my loved ones, I do not know if I would respond nonviolently.  Or if I could.

I have felt that primal surge of hormones, focusing me, shutting down both fear and inhibition.  Closing me off to the reality of another.  So far, it has proven manageable.

I cannot say, though, that if loved ones or neighbors were threatened, that I would be able to stand nonviolently and allow both their harm and my own.  I do not know.

Honestly, I don't wish to find out.