Lessons in Violence

The nation recoiled in horror from the recent, unexplainable, bloodshed. As the survivors stumble to pick up the pieces of their lives, the onlooking nation wrestles to make sense of this latest act of senseless violence. “What is the guilt of these poor people?” laments one local, while another is overheard repeating, “Why did this happen?”

It would be understandable, even expected, for one to assume that I’m referring to the theater shootings in Aurora, CO which cost 12 people their lives. I am not.

Instead, I am referring to yesterday’s coordinated bombings in Iraq that killed at least 107 people, wounding at least 216 more. In one city a series of bombs destroyed an entire row of houses. A second bomb exploded as police and onlookers rushed to the scene to provide aid, reducing a crowd of good samaritans to loosely strewn piles of bloodied torsos and limbs. By day’s end 41 people were dead, most of whom were civilians.

I have spent much of this weekend trying to discern why I am so emotionally impacted by the Aurora shootings (and Ft Hood, Columbine, 9/11, and others), and so ambivalent to nearly 10 times the carnage in Iraq. Or 2o times the carnage in Syria.

This is not a question of belittling the loss in Aurora, or the suffering of the survivors or the victims’ family members. Nor is it an issue of simply attempting to conjure an emotional reaction solely to placate my own conscience.

But I can’t avoid looking deep into myself and asking the question, “Do I believe that USAmerican life is more valuable than Middle Eastern life?” I’m haunted by the eerie silence that echoes back at me. 

I could have been in that theater. Sure, not in CO, but you understand my point. I see the footage, hear the survivors’ descriptions, and all I can think is, “That could have been my friends and me.” I’ve never felt that degree of affinity for the dusty streets and markets of the Middle East or its turban-wearing inhabitants. Why doesn’t the Evangelical blogosphere reflexively defend the goodness of God when the victims are dark-skinned and wear turbans?

I’m reminded that butchers don’t name their pigs. Death is always easier to stomach when it’s not one of my own.

I wish I cared deeply about human life, not just American life.

I wish I lamented the dark night of mourning caused by civilian casualties in US drone strikes as much as I mourn the Dark Knight shootings.

I wish I longed for justice for Bashar al-Assad more than I do for James Holmes.

I wish ‘gun control’ was an armed forces paradigm, not just a divisive political pet cause.

I wish the frequency of violence over there would render reports of violence more abhorrent, rather than simply commonplace.

I wish the killings would stop.


About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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3 Responses to Lessons in Violence

  1. Denise says:

    How about you pray for God to return soon because that is the only way it will stop, anywhere. In the US we are used to hearing everything about ourselves and very little about other places in the world. Partly the medias fault but it come from our basic “American” attitude. Hurt of the other side of the globe is normal, we expect it but because we live in a peaceful, relatively safe place when something does happen here it is a big deal to us. We can see our children or sister in that theater. That is normal. If it bothers you, as it should, that killing is going on everywhere and we go day to day without noticing there is a reason for it. Do something. God has placed it on your heart for a reason. Writing it in a blog might get one or two more to contemplate their thoughts on the subject but it isn’t going to change the fact that we are not a war torn country used to our own dying on our own soil. A basic reaction for human survival is to become desensitized. We hear about death in Iraq all the time so the 107 dead has to become a number or we would fall apart too often. My husband was in Iraq for the first 15 months of the war there and I got used to shutting out any news. Most people do it because they do not want death on the other side of the world to ruin their day.
    We are a fallen selfish people capable of so much greatness so rarely realized.

  2. Faith says:

    we are definitely more desensitized to the violence across the oceans….even more so than our parents before us…….and i think we are more impacted by violence among our own people because it is happening where we don’t EXPECT it to happen. sad…..and sadly there is always going to be war and rumours of war until our Prince of Peace returns….I also think each..er…most, American Christians, unless a missionary overseas in war-torn countries, are just so consumed with our daily lives, children, careers, etc. I’m not making excuses, it’s just the way it seems to be. And truthfully? my heart pricks more at the children of Africa than any Middle Eastern carnage. It might be because I’m a little prejudice (which is scary to admit!!) or because of the media influences…..hm….good things to ponder here, Tim

  3. Anonymous says:

    I wish the killing would stop. Such a simple statement, such a profound desire.

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