March 12, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 11

Rev. Rich Lang

Finding the way to peaceful interactions in a violent society can challenge anyone, even a pastor

By Rev. Rich Lang

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Just as a fish lives in water, so do we live within a culture of violence. It’s everywhere. It’s in our language, our thoughts, our deeds, our relationships and, most certainly just under the surface, it’s in our fantasies.

Every morning I hear shouts of anger emerging out of the alley of the church I serve. It seems that those we shelter and feed, upon awakening, walk out into a world that is full of violation. 

They rise into a brand new day knowing that there is still no job for them, no housing for them, no practical hope for them. The systemic violence that has chewed up their possibilities has turned inward: Like termites in their own soul, they gnaw away at each other.

The shouts of anger are usually directed at a friend, someone with whom they have just broken bread and shared a roof.

The violence of their life has left them enslaved to an emotional maturity of a 2-year-old prone to tantrums. The slightest slight or disagreement or crankiness quickly escalates into full-volume tirades of rage.

What I’m really hearing are howls of the wounded in relentless pain. The violence of their poverty has atrophied their souls. It’s as if they have had their skin pulled off, yet are forced to stay alive.

Sometimes I rage, too. I suppose my rage might better be expressed as seething. Seething is more sophisticated and allows me to silently brood rather than act out the fantasies of my imagination. And I do have violent fantasies.

There are times I want to lead a poor people’s march not through downtown but through the neighborhoods of all who benefit from this corrupt and decadent economy that is held in place by theft, debt, surveillance and military policing.

I loathe this system that has enslaved us, and I loathe all those who justify it.

I sometimes think we should walk through their neighborhoods buck naked, urinating on their lawns and placing our refuse at their front doors.

The only thing stopping me is the knowledge that it will be their low-paid, abused, immigrant and illegal work force that will be forced to clean up after us.

There are times I wish I could believe in hellfire and damnation because I think that most (maybe all) of the 1 percent richly deserve it, certainly deserve at least a bit of time to weep and wail in darkness.

All of this is to say how far I have fallen from Christ’s path of nonviolence.

And this is my reason to invite all who share similar violent streaks to come hear John Dear, an international voice for peace, who himself has been arrested more than 75 times and nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

I suspect he has something to say about keeping faith and sanity while living nonviolently in such a violent world. 

John Dear will speak at University Temple, 1415 43rd St. NE, Sunday, March 16 at 7 p.m.

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