Woe to us, for we are the most violent “civilized” society on the planet
We are without question the most violent developed nation on the planet. That’s not a statistic we want to top! While the trends are decreasing, it’s alarming how violent we are!
The FBI reports that we have the US rate at 408 per one million people. Compare that to 5 for New Zealand. As violent as Central America is, it’s rate of 260 is overshadowed by the USA. A person stands a higher chance of being murdered on the streets of Detroit, Miami or Washington DC than he/she does in Afghanistan! It’s not limited to murder either – but armed crimes, domestic violence, abuse of children, sexual violence of all varieties…. we are a cruel people. It makes me sad.
I’m not the first to bemoan our violent culture. It’s alarming. Yes, we can identify the most violent influences on people, but there is something different. It’s sociological and defines our culture… From the earliest colonialists who “defended themselves” against the people they colonized (conquered), to the Wild West & greed of the “American Manifest Destiny and Gold Rush, to the frustration and exasperation of poverty. Yet there is more, in my life time, the US has become more and more empire.
Reluctantly the US embraced global leadership through the 1st half of the 20th century.. but after Korea, we pushed into global empire, not just the continental empire of the 19th century. We are not accustomed to that terminology in referring to the continental colonialism, expansion, conquering, war with Mexico, Spain, Civil War, Britain, etc. BUT it was… The reframing of “taking it for ourselves” was politicized and redefined to be not just patriotic, but Godly.
Now, today, we justify having more fire arms in homes than any army on the planet, react with violence, from churches suing each other, to personal lawsuits, to war. Most Americans do not think of us as the global empire as we understand past empires, Britain, France, Spain, Russia, China – but stop and think how we view every global situation… we automatically own the responsibility for every situation, we automatically expect every nation to own our perspective and treat them like enemies when they don’t.
In our own politics, it is no longer differing solutions for common problems, but all out war where we refuse to cooperate with the “other party” so we can win the next election. the business of Washington and state capitols is to fight and posture for the next election and the people suffer for it.
In America, conflict at the personal level is worked out through lawyers, therapists, substance abuse or violence.
Even in the church, from lawsuits to denominational splits – we cannot solve conflict, but defame the other, and divorce… we break up denominations, churches, friendships, associations, etc… I admire the British Commonwealth denominations who have “the big umbrella” posture, as they call it. It’s the denomination/movement posture to all work out the differences, give grace for non-essential differences and stay together.
It leaves me to a conclusion – every parent of a present or past toddler(s) gets it! We do play well with others, and we need to grow up. We’re immature as a culture. We fight over everything. It’s ungodly and we, the church, are no different. Rather than be like Jesus, we embrace our culture’s value system, immature and failed methods of dealing with conflict, which usually is retaliation, not negotiation or resolution.
May we do what my community (an intentional, incarnational, communally housed apostolic missionary team) does:
1. Stay in the room – resolution is the key
2. Humility – own your s***. There is always mutual culpability
3. Work towards understanding what happened, why, what was misunderstood
4. Look for the best, expect the best – few people are out to wrong others…we simply respond wrong in knee jerk reaction
5. Seek to understand a) the big picture, b) their perspective(s), c) their motives, d) their intent
6. When you’ve accomplished 1-6, examine how we can do better in the future and not repeat this (too often!)
7. Reconcile – no, really, actually reconcile… you live together and leaving isn’t an option, so get over yourself
8. Accept that others are different, see it different, value different and that’s not wrong. Often, it’s personal wiring of how God made a person.
9. Get over yourself… you may be the one offended this time… you give it some time, and you’ll be the one who royally stuffed it up!
Woe to us… we’re known by the lost non-Christianized cultures as the center of Christianity. …any wonder why the Muslims hate us? We’re actually far more violent than they are, more immoral, more carnal, more consumed with stuff and consumption and shallow. This is Christianity to them. Our reputation as Christ’s ambassadors is consumed by violence. Accurate or not, right or not – it is. The rest of the world has no frame work for a compartmentalized faith from public life. That is solely an American/Western concept. We think we’re right. They know that’s a self deception.
It’s time, we the church stand up and become the peacemakers Jesus favors. We need to separate from the nationalistic religion of the church married to the culture. We must become subversives who change our own culture, that we might have a Christlike impact on the rest of the world. Right now, we’ve got huge planks in our eyes!
May we become people who seek resolution, even when it hurts (Psalm 15).