Violence begets violence…unless love stands in the way

Nine years ago today, I sat with my fellow graduate students the liberal arts conference room at our university. We were drained, emotionally and mentally, by all that we had seen on the television that long, horrible day.

“Do you want to talk about it?” our professor asked. We stared at the table, at our notes on Henry IV, Part 1, uneasily shifting in our seats.

A student broke the silence. “Do you think we’ll go to war?”

“Violence begets violence.” Our professor, always a serious man, spoke in the somber tone of a reluctant prophet. “It always does.”

I’ve never forgotten his words. I’ve seen this truth affirmed and reaffirmed in the years since that Tuesday morning.

  • In the war, first on Afghanistan, then in Iraq.
  • The demonstrations of flag burning and cheers by the terrorists’ supporters.
  • The murderous rage of Americans desiring revenge.
  • The recent murder of medical doctors in Afghanistan.
  • The plans of a church to burn the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11, which can and undoubtedly will lead to retaliation on the soldiers still stationed overseas. More death . . .

Violence begets violence.

As an American, I grieve for those lost on 9/11, the lives lost in the war, the minds that are forever scarred by the trauma of war, who carry wounds on their bodies and their souls. As an American, I am angered by those who hate freedom enough to resort to violence.

As a Christian, I grieve for those who reject peace and grace, whether it be in the hearts of those sitting on church pews or in the hearts of those who live far across the globe. And as a Christian, I am angered by the demonstrations of hate in the name of Christianity.

If Christ-followers are to be known by our love, we’re failing if we only pray against the political power of a different religion and not for the hearts and souls of those who follow that religion. We’re failing if we think screaming insults at Muslims or burning their holy book is the answer. We’re failing, miserably failing, if we think that fighting evil with evil is effective. 

Hatred begets hatred. There’s no other possible outcome.

Unless—what if someone stopped the hatred?

What if love and forgiveness stood in the way of violence?

What if we put aside our natural desire for revenge and our natural inclination to hate?

What if we fought for justice and freedom out of a true concern for freedom to reign in every country? What if we fought for justice and freedom out of concern for freedom to reign in every life, regardless of nationality or race?

Yes, there would still be bloodshed in the battle for justice. But when even one person is willing to die that another person may live and have freedom, that is love.

And sacrificial, self-denying love bewilders evil. It confounds it because it is counter-intuitive and unnatural. It confuses the hateful and unjust.

It embraces a path to justice that fights out of a love for others, both the oppressed and the oppressors. This love desires justice for the victim. It also desires that the oppressors be brought to justice so that they might see the evil in their ways and turn from it. This is neither vengeful nor apathetic to the needs of others.

When violence and hatred encounter love, evil can be stopped. 

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11 thoughts on “Violence begets violence…unless love stands in the way

  1. Obviously, this issue is difficult and complicated from a political point of view. I have no idea how I would respond as a politician to the rampant hatred in our world. Perhaps my point of view seems simplistic. But I want my readers, many of whom are Christians, to think.

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  2. a lovely post. i want to say, that we need to understand sumthin. we’ve become so dependent on what media teaches us, about different religions, specially islam. i hope burn a quran day, would only help people understand it better, and take it up, read it, and realize it really is the book of God, and teaches only to love.
    The prophet Muhammad pbuh said, to kill one man is to kill whole humanity. To save one life is to save humanity. the media is working to spread hate among people, n i assure you, any man who has a family, children, a wife, only wants peace n justice no mtter which religion he belongs to. with quran burning day, i would say, a true christian wud never think of such a thing, coz people who belive in God belive in Love and peace. =) anyhow i hope we all will see the truth, and learn to love each other. peace out!

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  3. Hey Laura:

    I normally agree with everything that you write. Today is not one of those times. We are dealing with radicals dedicated on killing us. Loving them only makes us appear weak further embolding them. We did nothing to prior terrrorist bombings of the USS Cole, the marine barracks. They only understand one thing, volence putting them out of business.

    They are bullies and bullies only understand one thing, confronting them and standing up to them.

    I have personally confronted bullies and stood up to them. They are basically cowards and need someone strong to stand up to them and they coweer like little girls when confronted with superior strength. You think like a woman and men don’t think that way. This is why God gave men superior strength and testosterone, to protect our women and children. Would you want your husband loving some guys who decided to rape you and or kill you. Do you think that they would stop because he chose to love them instead of beating them half to death. They would laugh at him and have their way with you.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

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    1. John-
      Looking back at what I wrote, I may not have been clear as to what I meant. I think confrontation and standing up to terrorism, bullies, etc., is a great thing. It’s a necessary thing. In some cases, people will die in the battle against evil. Many of our soldiers have paid with their lives in the pursuit of justice and in the name of freedom. I commend those who are willing to do so, just as I would be thankful to have my husband protect me, as a female, from those who would attempt to assault me. (Personally, I’ve decided that if I ever see a child or helpless person being attacked, I will pray for my cell phone to call 911 and for the guts to go beat the crap out of them. It’s wrong to hurt an innocent person, and defending them is the right and just thing to do.) I just want the desire for justice to trump the desire for revenge and the desire to hate those who hate me.

      What I was concerned about was the hatred on the part of those here in America who aren’t willing to sacrifice their lives on the battlefield; I thought that the people who called for burning the Quran, for example, were motivated out of hatred for Muslims. They weren’t really trying to confront them in a productive way. I was also very concerned at the possible ramifications for our soldiers (who are confronting the evil of terrorism on a daily basis). If the burning had happened, even more soldiers would’ve died; moreover, I’m afraid it would have fueled outrage in the Muslim world, increased the number of people willing to join in the cause of terrorism, and provoked more violence against our soldiers and the helpless within their own society (for example, children and women).

      I hope that makes sense. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

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  4. How would that look different from what we’re doing in Iraq now? We’re not there to try to take over, and we’re not there to try to kill people. We’re there to try to help them establish and preserve a government that values freedom and equality instead of prejudice and oppression. You’re written before about the harsh treatment of women in other countries, and those are some of the very people that we’re there to stand against.

    “But when even one person is willing to die that another person may live and have freedom, that is love.”

    I think for a lot of soldiers and families, that’s exactly what we’re doing in Iraq, and many have been called upon to make or endure that sacrifice. Rather than writing off what they’re doing as hatred, we should commend their willingness to give their lives fighting for the freedom not of their neighbors, but of people they’ll never meet, people with whom they have little in common besides the shared bond of humanity. That, I would argue, is love. “Greater love has no man than this …”

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    1. Hi, David-
      I may not have been clear on what I meant. I wasn’t talking about the soldiers in Iraq, etc., as fighting out of hate. I agree with you; all of them are making a tremendous sacrifice. I commend them for that. I’m not trying to write off what they’re doing as hatred.

      What I was talking about is the hatred that’s rampant in our own country against Muslims and others; usually the hatred and violent acts are committed by those who aren’t willing to lay down their lives for others, but would rather scream and yell and cause trouble. It’s unproductive. Those who express their hatred toward Muslims (and others) aren’t offering a solution to the issues. They aren’t recognizing that they have a common bond of humanity. Their hatred and violence (I would consider calling for the Quran to be burned to be violence) only produce more violence.

      I hope that makes sense. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear on what I meant. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

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      1. OK. In that case, I agree with you. 🙂

        It’s sad that there are so many knee-jerk reactions on both sides — people who want to get revenge out of hate, but also people who condemn the military for being purely destructive rather than constructive. I misunderstood your intent as the latter.

        Good post!

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  5. Hey Laura:

    What you answered me is different than what you wrote. I agree in principle to overcome evil with good. But there is a time where you have to confront evil and back it down. I agree that burning the Quran would be counter productive. What they were trying to do is to confront the evil in the extremist fringe, but they failed mjserably in their methods.

    Like I said, I normally agree with everything that you write, but you were not clear this time. I am probably one of your biggest fans so don’t take offense at my gentle correction. Men and women do see things differently.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

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  6. Great post, Laura. I think we needed to respond, but I also think we went too far in that response. In this case, the violence of 9/11 could not stand, and we needed to do what we could to find or mitigate the source of what could be another attack. Unfortunately, we took our eye off the ball.

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    1. Rick-
      Yeah, I agree that we had to respond in some way to 9/11. It’s just so sad to know that war had to be the response. I wish there were another way.
      I’ve been more disturbed by the violent, hateful response of Americans to the attacks than by the war, really. It seems that the hateful people are usually the ones that won’t put their own lives on the line in their “fight” for freedom, and typically aren’t thinking of the possible ramifications of their words and actions for those who are fighting for justice and freedom. Sad.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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