A car plowed into unsuspecting pedestrians on an iconic London Bridge, and mayhem ensued. At the end of the unprovoked violence that expanded to include multiple stabbings nearby, seven people were dead. Gunfire erupted on the South Side of Chicago, and a stray bullet killed a young child playing in the street in front of her home. A jealous, jilted husband grabbed his wife by the throat and tried to choke her to death because he thought she was having an affair. A country invaded another, and dropped bombs that found their targets with frightening accuracy.
Ever since Cain killed his brother Abel, humans have been on an unrelenting killing spree born of hate, envy, and jealously. Violence, with all of its negative overtones, and consequences, has been an undeniable force in human life, and is so commonplace that it is often taken for granted. Like no other reality, violence stalks communities worldwide, stubbornly refusing to respect any nationality, race, gender, or socio-economic status. Turn on your television or tune into social media and you will see gory images of a world victimized by violence. Homicides, genocide, fratricide, acts of terrorism, war, and other forms of violence have made life on planet earth precarious and treacherous, and the proverbial million dollar question is, “Will the violence ever stop?”
I work in Chicago, a city that is virtually under siege. It is the third largest American city, and has a murder rate that is higher than New York City, and Los Angeles. More troubling is the fact that no one seems to have the answer, or a strategy to stop or slow the violence that rages on wantonly and recklessly. Gang warfare has made the South Side of Chicago a veritable war zone that prompted the city’s police chief to admit his impotence in trying to stop the gun violence.
Meanwhile, innocent children are still dying from stray bullets, and grieving parents are still burying teenagers who, oftentimes, were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Violence in Chicago did not escape the attention of the president of the United States. Donald Trump threatened, in a January 24, 2017 tweet, to send in federal troops if Chicago didn’t “fix” the problem. Is he bluffing? Is the president of the United States serious? Time will tell.
Why all the violence in our world? Violence is attractive because its perpetrators tend to see it as a way of enacting justice and getting even. Race riots, for example, are often viewed as a way for those being discriminated against to fight back. Some people, because of the quickness with which it delivers results or the desired aim of the perpetrator, embrace violence. It stems or grows out of anger, rage, or hatred, all of which are irrational, if not pathological, behaviors. It is also embraced because it is considered to be associated with power, and played a key role in the economic development of nations. Indeed, because politics is viewed as a struggle for power, violence is considered the ultimate political act by some, and is glorified by others.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who eschewed violent forms of protest embraced by others such as Malcolm X, for the non-violent protests, challenged us to live together as brothers, or die apart as fools. King wanted all forms of violence to end, viewing the alternative as being unattractive and unappealing. King said that if we continued to worship at the altar of revenge, paying homage to the Hammurabic principle of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, the result would be a totally blind civilization. An admirer of Mahatma Ghandi, King, ironically, died a violent death when he was gunned down by an assassin.
“Stop the Violence” movements have sprung up around the world. Yet talk of stopping the violence that is decimating our society must go beyond rhetoric and banter. Stopping the violence is a huge undertaking, since to turn human beings from their violent ways is, in a real sense, to humanize them. A call to stop the violence is a call for a return to our better selves; it is a call to sanity and sobriety. Violence has never contributed to society’s health in any way, and is decimating the African American community in Chicago in more ways than one.
Stopping the violence requires turning to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace who, Himself, died a violent death. Yet the cross on which Jesus Christ died is a symbol, not of violence, but of peace and reconciliation. This is because everything that Jesus touched, He changed.
R. CLIFFORD JONES, Ph.D., is president, Lake Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Chicago, Illinois.