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Jesus & the Myth of Redemptive Violence

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

A few thoughts.

Jesus, in contrast to much implicit within contemporary Christianity, opposed what we may call the myth of redemptive violence.

This blog post will delve into this concept.

Human beings are inherently myth-making creatures. Our unique ability to craft narratives distinguishes us from other creatures. While whales, elephants, ants, and eagles can communicate, they do not possess the capacity to narrate stories about their histories, identities and aspirations.

These narratives serve as a social adhesive, binding us together, aiding in our understanding of the past, fueling our imaginations, facilitating the construction of civilizations, and propelling us into a shared future. These stories, mythic constructs divorced from biophysical reality, wield profound influence, for better or worse. Our world, our thoughts, desires, and actions revolve around them. Myths function as the operating system (comprising mindsets and worldviews) intimately intertwined with our hardware (our biophysical reality).

Myths underpin the concepts of nation-states, economic systems, the lives of corporations, and act as the driving forces behind religion and politics. They also shape our ethical considerations and provoke questions.

In our contemporary era, the 'myth of redemptive violence' exerts immense power. This myth, often unnoticed as such, posits that violence can be harnessed to achieve positive outcomes.

‘The myth of redemptive violence inundates us on every side. We are awash in it yet seldom perceive it.’ - Walter Wink

It forms the foundation of our entertainment industry, with themes of redemptive violence and revenge recurring in movies, dramas, and computer games.

‘From the earliest age children are awash in depictions of violence as the ultimate solution in human conflicts.’- Walter Wink

Moreover, it molds our interpretations of both history and conflict, the defeat of the Nazis, the war on terrorism and the provision of lethal weaponry to Ukraine.

Reinforced through cultural and religious rituals, memorials, flags, and parades, both nation-states and the religious institutions aligned with them explicitly endorse the legitimacy of the armed forces and the idea that, at times, the use of lethal force against combatants and civilians can be justified- that is the pervasive myth of receptive violence.

Walter Wink describes the connection between redemptive violence, the nation state and the spirituality of militarism.

‘The myth of redemptive violence is thus the spirituality of militarism.- By divine right the state has the power to order its citizens to sacrifice their lives to maintain the privileges enjoyed by the few. By divine decree it utilizes violence to cleanse the world of evil opponents who resist the nation's sway.’

The bombing of Dresden and the existence of UK Trident submarines are mythically upheld by the notion that, in certain circumstances, the death or the threat of death to civilians becomes a perceived necessity.

As followers of Jesus, following his lead, we are called to renounce the path of violence and the ‘myth of redemptive violence.’


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