redemptive violence

So many times in the church we talk about worship.  We talk about living your beliefs out as a form of worshiping God.  If that’s true, then sometimes I wonder which god we worship.  Let me tell you a story of the creation of the world, according to ancient the Babylonians. 

Apsu was the father god and Timat the mother.  These two gods gave birth to all the other god’s. Their children created so much noise that Apsu and Timat couldn’t sleep so in retaliation for the noise they plotted the death of all their children.

The children god’s found out about the plot and they killed their father, Apsu.  Timat (who is the dragon of chaos) was so overcome with rage that she plotted her revenge, which was the death of all her children.

Timat terrified all of the gods so they turn to the youngest son named Marduk for salvation.  Marduk negotiated with his siblings and the deal was that if he won the battle with his mother then he would become the head of all the other god’s.

Marduk eventually captured Timat in a big net, caused an evil wind to go into her belly, an arrow pierced her heart and he spread her corpse out to make the cosmos, from the cadaver of Timat the world was created.  To go even further since Marduke created mankind he also set up a solution for law and order.  Kings and queens were authorized to use force and violence as a means to restore order.  The highest value in this Babylonian creation narrative is restoring order over chaos.[1]

Now I bet none of us would really agree that this is the way the world was created.  However, creation narratives often have an ethic that is lived out by the followers of that God.  For example the ethic in the Christian creation narrative is that God love his people so much, he hides his image within them and walks in the garden with them.

In this Babylonian creation story we learn that order comes to a society through violence.  We learn that violence can actually be redemptive because it restored order to a society.

According to the two creation narratives what god does our society serve?  Almost any movie, TV show or video game will tell you the way to restore order in a society.  The story of good conquering evil through violence is actually a religious belief.  In the ultimate reversal, Jesus conquered evil through an act of violence done to him!

So when we shout for revenge, who is it that we serve.  When we come to the conclusion that violence can restore order to a society, did we just stumble into the ultimate lie?  If you study your history you would see link to wars that started in 1618 (the thirty years war) to the war in Iraq.

Does violence do the trick?  We obviously can sit idly by and watch a Hitler destroy a people group, but would there have been a Hitler if there were a different solution other than violence?  We clearly can’t stand by and allow Osama Bin Laden to operate a terrorist group that will result in the deaths of thousands.  Loving our neighbor demands that we protect them, but how do we protect our neighbor without engaging in a violent act?  How do we worship Jesus and protect?

For those who believe that the only way is violence, I would suggest that the ethic of the ancient god Marduke is hard to shake.  In fact I would suggest what we live out shows who we worship.

I am strongly aware that our society has been conditioned to believe that violence is redemptive, but this is simply a well-crafted lie.  Violence does not restore order; it begets more violence and chaos.

Don’t buy into the lie.

May you let the love of Christ conquer the desire to live out redemptive violence.

[1] This story can be found in Walter Wink’s, “The Powers that Be”



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  • Wasn’t Jesus a little violent? (John 2:13-16; Matt 10:34; Matt 12:29)

    • John: the zeal of the lord…if a word study is done it is translated to the OT jealous…

      Matt 10:34: metaphor

      Matt 12:29: parable

      So to answer you, I don’t think so.


  • John 2:15 (NIV) “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.”

    This is a difficult passage as you cannot say with certainty that Jesus did or did not hit a human or harm an animal while in His jealous rage.

    Food for thought.

    Regarding your statement, “…but would there have been a Hitler if there were a different solution other than violence?” Could you elaborate a little more on what you mean?

    • Yes. I think Hitler As a persona and his beliefs were a response to WWI and the Treaty of Versailles. I guess if we asked the question, if we had a different response to war other than more war, would extremism like Hitler’s be as prevalent.

      After Colon Powell was through with holding office he wrote an article in Foreign Policy Today that talked about terrorist extremism. From what I remember he talked America being perceived as terrorist from the middle east. It was because of our response to conflict, he talked about the need for a third way…

      By the way, I still disagree that Jesus ever was violent!

      • Thanks Dave.

        I don’t think Jesus was a violent person, that’s far from the NT portrait of Him. But the episode in the crowded temple doesn’t fit our Zen picture of Jesus because it had to have resulted in at least a few cuts and bruises.