Thursday, November 09, 2006

Redemptive Violence

What is the purpose of violence?

Theologian Walter Wink has identified what he calls the Myth of Redemptive Violence - the belief that violence can heal and is indeed the natural way to solve problems.

Ekklesia ("a think tank that promotes transformative theological ideas in public life") reprints a recent article by Wink, Facing the Myth of Redemptive Violence. The Myth is evidently one of the "transformative theological ideas" that Ekklesia is promoting - it is used to comment on various things including the UK Remembrance Day (BBC News, Ekklesia) and the 2005 New Year Peace Message from Pope John Paul II (Vatican, Ekklesia). The Ekklesia commentary seems to imply that the late Pope uses the term redemptive violence, although I couldn't find the term in his text.

Redemption implies some kind of temporal ordering - after the violence comes something good (peace, the Second Coming). The violence is finite, but what comes after the violence might be infinite. The UK Remembrance Day celebrates the Armistice at the end of the First World War, a war that was once designated "the war to end all wars".

The trouble with the myth is not only that it seems to be untrue (violence doesn't seem to have the promised long-term effects) but that it is popular and persuasive (the myth seems to justify and even encourage violence).

See earlier post: Glory Glory Knockdown Argument.

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Wikipedia: The Myth of Redemptive Violence, Armistice, War To End All Wars.

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