The Myth of Redemptive Violence

Saturday 19 April 2008

The cross, as we see again and again, is the "coincidence of opposites": One movement going vertical, another going horizontal, clearly at cross-purposes.

When the opposing energies of any type collide within you, you suffer. If you agree to hold them creatively until they transform you, it becomes redemptive suffering.

This stands in clear and total opposition to the myth of redemptive violence, which has controlled most of human history, even though it has never redeemed anything. Expelling the contradictions instead of "forgiving" them only perpetuates the problem.

Richard Rohr, from Hope Against Darkness

Go read Mike, who is waxing lyrical at the moment, about the reality we live in and the reality created by the cross. Wonderful stuff. Stuff you can swim in. Love your work, bro. Especially the Rohrmeister inclusions.

Me, I'm off to work, on a sunny Saturday. But that's okay. The buffer zone is expanded a bit this morning. Feels like I can go to work and be busy and still have space to sit inside myself at the same time. Nice.

So happy Saturday, bloggers :)


  1. okay, I just read the title and I already love this I will go read the post.

  2. Sue, I loved Mike's thought on this myth of redemptive violence. It made me think of Ellul's book VIOLENCE where he includes much more than most would typically think of when they think of violence. The way we speak often is anther act of violence....and it goes on and on.

    "It's not the spark that caused the fire, it was the air you breathed that fanned the flames."

  3. Thank you, Sue, and Kent, for those encouraging words! Sometimes this stuff feels a bit raw, and it truly does help for folks to say they comprehend what one's struggling after!

  4. Ok Ive read and re-read the Richard Rohr quote, and I have to admit I have no idea what it's saying.
    Ive come to the conclusion that I must be as thick as two short planks

  5. andrea maybe this will help with some of what I think Richard is saying and expands on it some. Maybe it will help...maybe not?

    Here are some excerpts from Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf, a Croatian Theologian that found himself in a tough spot with his country men/women when he began to speak of the need to embrace their enemy.

    "Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion - without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person's humanity and imitate God's love for him. And when one knows that God's love is greater than all sin, one is free to see onself in the light of God's justice and so rediscover one's own sinfulness." (p.124)

    "When God sets out to embrace the enemy, the result is the cross. On the cross the dancing circle of self-giving and mutually indwelling divine persons opens up for the enemy; in the agony of the passion the movement stops for a brief moment and a fissure appears so that sinful humanity can join in (see John 17:21). We, the others - we, the enemies - are embraced by the divine persons who love us with the same love with which they love each other and therefore make space for us within their own eternal embrace." (p.129)

    "Without entrusting oneself to the God who judges justly, it will hardly be possible to follow the crucified Messiah and refuse to retaliate when abused. The certainty of God's just judgment at the end of history is the presupposition for the renunciation of violence in the middle of it. The divine system of judgment is not the flip side of the human reign of terror, but a necessary correlate of human nonviolence."(p.302)

  6. My darling Andrea, the last thing you are is as thick as two short planks.

    What this is saying to me is that just as God embraces the enemy through the cross, so do we embrace our enemies, whatever they may be. And this is where the suffering comes - our natures duelling against each other, our fear duelling with our love. But I think Love wins and so love wins, in the end.

    Whereas the idea that violence could actually redeem anything is a human construct that we put onto God, and onto the cross.

    There's heaps more in there, too, I think, but my brain needs to go do some centreing prayer :)


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