Wednesday, January 14, 2009

...about violence

This is something I wrote 2 weeks ago and just got into our local newspaper today. And it's not even old.

I like to play. Most of the time I try to be a mature and responsible 42-year-old but once in a while the real me shows through and in many ways I'm still a 10-year-old kid. I have fun playing. Some of my favourite things to play are video games. Last year I gathered together with some of the youth from our church and one of them made a video recording of me playing Dance Dance Revolution. Thankfully he hasn't made that video widely available. It could be quite embarrassing.

Other video games I like to play are Guitar Hero and now Rock Band. I always did want to be a rock star but my life took a different turn. Anyway, knowing how much I like to play video games someone gave me one for Christmas thinking I might like it as well. But this game is one of the type of which I'm not a fan. I haven't even opened the package. I think I'm going to trade it for a different title (the gift giver is okay with that).

There are many video games available out there that are very violent in nature. This was one of those, rated ‘M' for "Mature" because of the simulated violence. I'm not a violent person. I don't think I would enjoy playing at something that is violent. I don't even want to try it and find out that something in me might enjoy it.

There's too much violence in our world. This past week in the news we heard of more Canadian soldiers being killed in Afghanistan. In the Gaza Strip along the Mediterranean Sea between Israel and Egypt people are dying, bombs and rockets are flying. By the time this appears in print I don't know if things will have escalated there or if some kind of cease-fire or calming of tensions will have occurred.

This kind of news deeply saddens me. Just over a year ago I took part in a tour of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. While we were nowhere near any fighting the evidence of the tensions in the middle east were evident. In all three countries armed soldiers were in evidence all over the place. Traveling in the Golan Heights near the border of Israel with Syria there were signs on the fences along the road warning not to cross the fences since there were land mines in the fields. At one border crossing, while waiting for our tour bus to pick us up, a member of our tour was writing in his journal and a soldier came to see what he was writing.

One of the most disturbing sights was what Israel calls a "Security Fence" and the Palestinians call an "Apartheid Wall" between Israel and the West Bank. We had to pass through this barrier as we traveled from Jerusalem into Bethlehem. I understand the desire for safety and security but am saddened by the failure of people in that region to find a way to live in peace. The barrier is a symbol of our inability to live at peace.

This past Christmas we heard scripture readings in church about the song of the angels to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem on the night of the birth of Jesus our Lord. They sang, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among people" (Luke 2:14). Another reading speaks of Israel's hope for a king who will redeem them from enemy oppression and Christians have seen in Jesus a fulfilment of that hope. One of the titles given to this hoped for king is "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

As followers of this "Prince of Peace" I believe that Christians should do all they can for the cause of peace. Violence is not the answer to ending violence, it only perpetuates a cycle that begets more violence. Our goals should be the healing of society and a commitment to justice and to the well-being of every person. I'm not talking about wearing wreaths of flowers in our hair and standing in a circle holding hands and singing Kum ba yah. Jesus did command us to love our enemies and return good for evil (Luke 6:27).

The moment we undertake to fight violence with violence, we compromise our commitment to the good news of peace and have lowered ourselves to the level of the adversary. I will endeavour, in this new year, to live peacefully in my own life and in my interactions with others. I'll start by trading in a violent video game for something peaceful and maybe even silly to play with my kids. I want to have a part, even a small part, in building a world of peace for them to grow up in.

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