Rachel weeps the world over...

I suggested yesterday that American society and the church within it, needs to look at itself very, very seriously in the wake of the Newtown massacre, and other such events...
But I say that from a society that also needs to look at itself very seriously... another society that, whilst claiming to be democratic, thinks that violence or the threat of violence, is a way to achieve its own ends... And that applies to those on both sides of the constitutional divide, whatever flag they may choose to drape themselves in and dishonour. My own analysis of the recent spat about the Union flag flying over Belfast City Hall, is that it has less to do with honouring the fact that Northern Ireland is part of the UK (which it is), and more to do with both Sinn Fein and the Unionists trying to assert their particular credentials over and against Republican dissidents on one side and the "Lundyite" Alliance Party in the middle... We've been here many times before, with the Unionist leadership (both UUP and DUP) have done their half-baked Grand Old Duke of York impersonation with the loyalist community, marching them out into the public spotlight, and then abandoning them there... But this time there is a greater danger... Whilst Unionists and loyalists accuse Alliance of walking straight into a Sinn Fein trap, the Unionists may well have marched loyalists into a BNP trap... And as usual, who are the front-line troops in this political mess? The young people of loyalist communities... A couple of people on facebook wrote yesterday, in the wake of flag protests by young people outside Alliance offices on Christmas day, and in other places "Do they not have anything better to do with their lives?" My answer was that they probably don't think they actually have anything better to do... and that is awful...
Our politicians have spent their time wrangling over symbolic constitutional issues, instead of getting down to the hard work of trying to address bread and butter issues like the low educational attainment, generational unemployment and high incidents of young male suicide in areas that are currently out protesting about the flag flying over city hall. Previously, in reference to our still unresolved Education mess, I have referred to Paul Brady's poignant line from "The Island":
"Up here we sacrifice our children;
To feed the worn-out dreams of yesterday"
It was originally written about our political troubles, and here, nearly 3 decades after it's release we're still doing it... Pushing children out in flag-draped pushchairs to watch their brothers or cousins throw stones at the police, or vandalise the offices of elected representatives. Peaceful protest is a time-honoured democratic tradition, but in our society too often it is used as a Trojan horse for more sinister elements to emerge from the shadows with more violent aims in mind. And when that happens, all too often those who primed the pumps with incendiary speeches, wash their hands of the whole affair and claim that there was no connection between their words and what followed.
The mess of this island is built on blood-soaked myths of people dying for a religious or political cause, be it the martyrs on the Bridge of Portadown in 1641, the Catholic inhabitants of Drogheda and Wexford massacred by Cromwell, the glorious victory of William of Orange at the Boyne, the inglorious defeat of the United Irishmen, the Ulster Covenant which led inexorably to the foundation of the UVF and the "sacrifice" of the 36th Ulster Division on the Somme, the blood sacrifice of Pearce and the other Easter rebels, etc etc etc. Is it any wonder that brought up on such fare, together with the popular hagiography of paramilitary members, with neat shrines to "fallen comrades" dotted across working class areas of Northern Ireland, that young people from such areas think that violence is a legitimate and effective way to get your own way?
But its not just here or in the USA. The whole world is wedded to the myth of redemptive violence. A myth that Christ's death should have shattered... For three centuries the church eschewed involvement in military matters, pursuing the path that the Prince of Peace advocated when he told Peter to put away his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and it was domesticated, used to bless political violence as "just wars". The reformers may have written about breaking away from the "babylonian captivity of the church" but the reformed church bought the myth of redemptive violence, hook, line and sinker, sinking Europe into centuries of religious wars... Indeed there are those who argue that Ireland's troubles are really the last vestiges of the 17th century Wars of Religion. The separation of church and state in the US was, theoretically, an attempt to avoid a replication in the New World, but, as we've seen, they ditched state religion, but both religion and state remain wedded to the use of "justified" violence...
But so long as we keep thinking and teaching that violence provides any sort of conclusive answer to problems then Herod will continue to hold onto political power on the backs of the poor and the powerless, and at the cost of children's lives and futures... Whether it be children massacred in American schools, children throwing stones at police or soldiers on the streets of Belfast (or Bethlehem), or child soldiers toting guns in Africa.
And Rachel will continue to weep...



Anonymous said…
Amen David, well said

"The whole world is wedded to the myth of redemptive violence. A myth that Christ's death should have shattered."

My anabaptist sympathies are coming through here: is it that the world will get on with being the world, but Christ's death should have shattered the myth of redemptive violence among his people? And it is they who are to reflect the kingdom of the Prince of Peace. It's the mythic fusion of faith, nationalism and 'noble' violence that has been so toxic for the church and for its witness.

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