COULD OUR THOUGHTS ABOUT GOD
BE AN UNEXPECTED CAUSE OF OUR VIOLENCE?
This is the last in a 4-part series of commentaries on the Connecticut events, and the larger implications of them.
In Part III of this series, I called upon all of us to join together in launching what I have called a Civil Rights Movement for the Soul as an antidote to the slow poisoning of human society that has created the environment within which something as horrific as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School could take place.
As I have observed in the past, I believe we make a mistake if we view the Connecticut event as only and just the tragic playing out of the twisted thoughts of an unstable mind. It is that, for sure, but it is not only that.
Many people seem to limit it to that. One comment entered by a reader of my blog on this topic at Huffington Post appeared to be typical of this group: “Wow! Talk about a writer being out of touch with reality. I can answer his question as to how the Newtown Massacre happened. A woman who had a mentally ill son that was obviously also out of touch with reality had weapons in her house that never should have been there.”
But it is not — it just is not — as simple as that. That is the outcome, but more than one input produced that outcome.
I believe the event at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as all the gun violence (and, for that matter, all the violence of any kind committed in this world) is the outgrowth of a society in which there has come to be an inordinate and consistent focus on, and portrayal of, Violence as Solution. This portrayal is seen in all the ways that we tell stories about our species to our species; in the myriad ways that we tell each other about each other.
I know that many are beating this drum now, but I am not opposed to getting on a bandwagon simply because others are on it. So I will agree with many others who say: it is true that everything from movies to television programs to pictured story books unfortunately called “comic” books (although there is nothing comical about them) to electronic video products for children regrettably called “games” (although killing others should never be thought of as a game) tell our culture about our culture in such a dramatic way that it cannot help but create more of that culture.
We did not tell stories around our campfires in the earliest days of our existence simply as a means of entertainment. We told stories around the campfire as a means of informing ourselves about ourselves. Stories have a larger impact than passing time. They pass the baton to a new generation. To suggest that they have nothing to do with any of this is disingenuous at best.
The complete desensitizing of human minds — stable minds and unstable minds alike — produced by the unending onslaught of vivid, ugly, bloody, gory violence everywhere we look cannot help but produce a society in which the playing out of those storylines in minds that are not stable leads to the acting out of those stories in real life.
And that, as much as the instability of one person’s mind, is what produces, ever more frequently, events of unimaginably tragic consequence such as the Sandy Hook shooting. Especially when one has easy access to assault weapons designed for rapid-fire killing.
Now what I am going to say next may feel like a bit of a stretch, but follow me here for just a bit and see if in the end you can agree with me. I begin with a question.
How do you think it has come to pass that we have found our way to a place where we find depictions of overt violence perfectly okay?
I believe it is because we have equated Violence In The Name Of Justice with Righteousness under Moral Law.
Movie audiences cheer when the Good Guys (the ones who have “Right” on their side) end the lives of the Bad Guys in the most graphic, revolting, violent ways. Video game players pump their fists in self-congratulations when the Good Guys (the ones who have “Right” on their side) blow the Bad Guys to pieces, literally — their body parts exploding all over the screen. Television viewers give higher and higher ratings to programs in which shooting and killing by the Good Guys (the ones who have “Right” on their side) bring an end to the lives of the Bad Guys in the most horrific ways.
What is it within our culture that allows us to cheer violence — to actually crave it in the name of “justice” — as we do, for instance, in countries (America perhaps most rampant among them) that continue to tolerate the Death Penalty?
I believe these are all the behaviors that might be expected from a species that has been raised to believe that indescribable, horrific, and painful punishment is entirely appropriate as a response to what has been judged to be “bad.” Especially when this idea comes to us from the most authoritative source of which our human society has conceived: God.
From the time of our youth we have been told of a God who judges, condemns, and punishes in the most gruesome, ghastly ways as payback for (or, if you wish a more gracious label, as the consequence of) the deeds of humans that God determines to be unacceptable.
The Bible — to cite just one powerful cultural source of this Gory Story — tells us of over one million people who have been killed at the hand or the command of God. (You can take out a calculator and do the counting. It’s right there in black and white.) And if that isn’t evidence enough, notice that we have heard, over and over again: “Vengeance is Mine, sayeth the Lord.”
This is the God in whom we believe.
And even those who do not believe in this God at all live in a society in which the vast majority of people do — and have created a social milieu in which justifiable violence is reflected in both the entertainment industry and the justice system, to say nothing of international politics.
It is this deeply engrained Cultural Story about God from which emerges our idea that violence is fine when it is used as payback on behalf of that which is Good. This is what has led us to a Content Code for our motion pictures in which depictions of graphic violence are totally and completely acceptable — while depictions of, say, passionate or romantic sexual love are not.
(Humans do not, you see, imagine or think of God as romantic and passionately sexual, but we do imagine and think of God as punishing and violently vengeful. Therefore, in our culture, publicly making war is more acceptable than publicly making love.)
Small wonder, then, that unstable minds use violence of a means by which the perceived injustices in their own lives are paid back through vengeance.
I believe that the next evolutionary edge for Earth’s people is the creation and the embracing of what I have called a Civil Rights Movement for the Soul, freeing humanity at last from the oppression of its belief in a violent, vengeful, and vindictive God.
Humanity’s Team has created just such a movement. It focuses on the same thing that Martin Luther King Jr. sought to produce for blacks, that Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan sought to produce for women, and that Harvey Milk sought to produce for gays. In a word: freedom. Freedom from the impulse to use violence as our means of punishing what we perceive to be evil, even as we cite God as our moral authority for doing so.
The Civil Rights Movement for the Soul specifically invites members of all religious, spiritual, political, economic, and cultural groups to join together, to dialogue together, to explore together, and to examine together, with sincerity and honesty, the question: Are our present beliefs about God and about Life working? Are they producing the outcomes for which we have yearned — and for which they were intended?
Some of the activities we can pursue as part of the Civil Rights Movement for the Soul…
1. Engage all levels of media — including Internet media and websites, as well as brick-and-mortar media…newspapers, magazines, television and radio programs and networks…and, of course, today’s pervasive social media (Facebook, My Space, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) — in platforming the driving message of The Civil Rights Movement for the Soul…which is that humanity now needs to be freed at last from the oppression of its belief in a violent, vengeful and vindictive God, and from its slavery to a dogma of separation from Divinity and punishment by Divinity that has divided the world for thousands of years.
One idea is that we form a Special Project Team to be engaged in writing articles, news stories, press releases, and interviews and sending them to all media, challenging humanity to release our species from a global doctrine that creates separation and competition, and replace it with an ethos of unity and compassion.
2. I would like, further, to encourage people all over the world to form Spiritual Discussion Groups, on-the-ground as well as on the Internet, inviting close examination in every community of the beliefs we have been holding about God, about Life, and about Each Other, and to honestly ask ourselves, “Have our beliefs been working? Are they producing the results for which we have yearned?”
3. I would invite local HT groups to join in spiritual activism at the local level in other ways as well, in addition to regular weekly or bi-weekly meetings discussing and sharing the New Spirituality. These other ways could include sending Letters to the Editor of local and regional publications, posting the Five Steps to Peace (mentioned in Part I of this 4-part series of commentaries) on community bulletin boards, natural food co-op boards, new age bookstore notice boards, etc. throughout their region, all on a given day (Oneness Day?) around the world….so, suddenly, the Five Steps to Peace “show up” everywhere, simultaneously!
4. Local Humanity’s Team Speakers Bureaus could be established, making persons available to give short talks before Kiwanis Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Lion’s Clubs, Exchange Clubs, etc. throughout the year (these clubs generally meet once a week and are always looking for speakers and topics to fill their calendar), as well as longer Thursday Night Lectures offered within the community, on the topic A Civil Rights Movement for the Soul.
5. Bumper stickers could be made and distributed, saying:
JOIN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT FOR THE SOUL
ARE YOU A MEMBER OF HUMANITY’S TEAM?
6. The Spiritual Activist Project of Humanity’s Team could send members every Saturday to local shopping centers, flea markets, sidewalk shows and galleries, etc. to hand out booklets titled: Humanity’s Team and the Civil Rights Movement for the Soul The booklets would alert people to the amazing opportunity now within the grasp of all of us to recreate ourselves anew in the next grandest version of the greatest vision ever we held about Who We Are. It would talk about the Five Fallacies About God and the Five Fallacies About Life that stop us from doing that (also highlighted in Part I of this series of commentaries), and it would then list the Five Steps to Peace and invite people to embrace them — and to join and support Humanity’s Team in its work.
There is much more that could be done as well, as the project team gets rolling and moves deeper into the year, leading up to Oneness Day 2013. These are just some beginning thoughts and some opening ideas.
If you have an interest in joining the project team, simply write to me and tell me what you are moved to offer in terms of assistance. My address for this project is: neale.walsch@HumanitysTeam.org
All of this is part of what I hope will be a constructive, healing response to the event in Newtown, Connecticut — and to violence all of the world. I send you all at this very special time of year my personal wishes for a special holiday season.
Love and blessings…Neale.