Has violence always been part of human existence?
There are stories in the Old Testament where the violence would give auteur filmmaker Quentin Tarantino a run for his money. And that’s why we need the loving and life-affirming messages of the New Testament.
I was reflecting on this recently when reading about a Melbourne anti-racism rally that turned ugly when protesters with opposing views turned up, spoiling for a fight. And that’s what happened, much to the dismay of regular Saturday visitors and locals whose shops and cafes closed due to the real possibility of violence erupting.
In an ideal world, of course, the anti-racism group should be able to hold their rally in peace and express their views. But when one group of protesters becomes aware that another group with totally opposite and aggressive views is coming to spoil their day, should the idea of a peaceful rally be postponed, thereby avoiding the violent confrontation that often follows? It’s a tricky question, because it impinges on our right to protest peacefully.
Disagreement is a given in the human condition—we are different, have varying ideas and look for people who think like us. All well and good; this is solidarity. But trouble comes when the next step (and it’s a short one) is deciding that anyone who doesn’t think like us is wrong, or worse, dangerous and must be stopped.
Therein lies the conflict that has driven recent protests between right and left groups—the far right Neo-Nazis taking refuge behind the Australian flag, and the liberal-thinking left departing from their original message of tolerance for diversity—meaning refugees—and taking on the opposition in a violent manner at what was supposed to be a peaceful protest.
Did the liberal side think through staging this rally? Did they really think that other more militant groups would allow them to have their protest in peace? And when the challenge of violence occurred, did the peace-loving liberals turn the other cheek, as Jesus commands in the Bible?
Whatever we believe, we all think we are right. It is a challenge to delve into our innermost thoughts and motivations and ask ourselves what the Prince of Peace would have had us do. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have encouraged either side to take on the opposing view. Is it really achieving the goal of acceptance and tolerance if you end up fighting someone for your righteous cause? Food for thought…
Christ was well aware of our human frailties when he cautioned us about judging each other and acting impulsively on that judgment.
‘How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye’ (Luke chapter 6, verse 42).