This week President Barack Obama called the shooting in Colorado “evil.” And he is right.
But perhaps it is also time that we declare that violence is evil, everywhere—period. It’s obvious that killing folks in a movie theater is sick and deranged, but the question arises: is violence ever okay?
Our kids keep getting mixed messages. A few years ago there was a national news story about a second grader in Rhode Island who wore a baseball cap to school with soldiers carrying guns on the front. The school authorities ruled that his hat violated dress code, which did not allow for weapons on clothing, a code established with the kids best interest in mind for their safety and protection. But then school authorities pushed for an exception, working to allow for clothing that had soldiers with guns in the interest of promoting “patriotism and democracy.” No wonder our kids are confused by our double-speak. Even for those who believe violence is a necessary evil in our world, maybe there can be a renewed commitment to still call it evil.
Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of those prophetic voices that insisted we must challenge the violence of the ghettoes—or those who massacre people in theaters— and we must challenge the violence of our government.
We must not forget that Timothy McVeigh, who committed the worst act of domestic terror in U.S. history, said he learned to kill in the first Gulf war. It was there that he said he turned into an “animal.” He came back from war, mentally deranged, and continued to kill. And then the government that trained him to kill killed him to show the rest of us that it is wrong to kill. There is something deeply troubling about our logic of redemptive violence.
- Shane Claibourne, “The Myth of Redemptive Violence,” Sojourners