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Theological Thursdays: The Myth of Redemptive Violence

A woman was stabbed outside of Roxy’s as 2009 was ending, and it appears that her sexual orientation was a motive in the attack.

This, like all of the violence in our city, is a moral issue.

Walter Wink, a Christian Theologian is best known for coining the phrase, “The myth of redemptive violence.”

Although the phrase is recent, the concept of redemptive violence is ancient.  In short, good must confront evil, and defeat it.  “If god is what you turn to when all else fails,” Wink writes, “violence certainly functions as a god.”  Wink argues that the myth of redemptive violence is the real defining myth of the modern world.  Many who claim to practice faith with other names, show, by their action, that they are more devoted by this myth.

And on New Year’s Eve, this myth was repeated, and a person was attacked–apparently because she was a lesbian.

The idea that violence can solve problems is bigger than any religion.  It has infected many–including my own.  We learn it as soon as we can watch cartoons, but it is not only a myth in the sense the mythological power we give it, it is a myth in the sense that it is simply not true.

Because violence against gays is too often perpetrated by Christians (though we have no idea in this case), I–unfortunately–have to make this clear.  We are called to be passionate about rooting out sin in our own lives, and to leave judgment of others to God.  We have no business examining anybody’s sex life except our own, and a violent attack on a perceived enemy is completely foreign to the way that Jesus practiced and proclaimed.

Justice comes not through violent defeat, but grace, healing, and restoration.

Our city has too much violence.  As long as we think additional violence will curb it–a myth that hold sway on a personal, local, national and international level–violence will remain with us.

The myth of redemptive violence tells us that violence is the natural response to difference, and that more violence is needed to restrain that violence.  Creative theology can and will allow us to find other ways of living together.


(Photo is in public domain, and is chosen as an illustration of violence, not an endorsement.
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