Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thoughts on Pacifism

I've recently come to terms with being a Texan, living in Alabama who happens to be a pacifist. I think, like many of my friends who just knew about their sexuality, I've always known. Something just doesn't sit right with me about violence. Sex bad language, bad behavior in films? Those things just don't bother me as much as violence. Those things don't translate themselves into my dreams and keep me awake at night. I knew that is not the normal barometer for these things, but I think it is a good indicator of how we were made.

I have this buddy Mike Greenholt. He is a really cool dude, and before I tell the story I intended, and because it was just Memorial Day, I have a funny Mike Greenholt story. Mike had invited me to a back-to-back-to-back screening of the first three Indiana Jones movies one Memorial Day weekend. He told me about this great girl that he really liked who was going to be there. Her name was Jessie. (And yes, that link is in fact supposed to go to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Consider loving on them a little today!)

Well, the plan was for Mike to get some good Jessie time. But our plan was thwarted and there was another dude who also wanted Jessie time. The time came for the third movie and Jessie asked to sit with me. Unfortunately this meant that we would be in the two seats away from our group because we somehow ended up two seats short. I do my best to sell the virtue of Mike. She didn't know me...she knew Mike. SURELY that is she REALLY wanted to sit with. Fast forward a few years...Mike and Jessie are married and our little crew has a fun story to tell.

So Mike, like I said, is a really cool dude. The type that works for Disney and takes you to Disneyland and movies at El Capitan theater...always on his dime. That kind of good dude. The opening week of The Dark Knight I traipse over to Burbank and we watch the film. Something kind of common place that I had never thought of happens. Whenever Heath Ledger bears a knife, my leg started shaking uncontrolably. Mike looks at me grabs my knee and says, "Stop!" Twenty minutes later we repeat the process.

Mike is an amazing artist.
I think that was the first time I took time to start contemplating violence and its effect on me (that or Kill Bill, Vol. 1, which I watched around the same time). Up until that point violence was just something uncomfortable. I had grown up on a farm. I had hunted through part of high school and college. But I can still vividly remember the last time I shot and killed an animal. It was one of the most raw, emotive moments of my life.

As I stated above, I grew up in Texas and I currently live in Alabama. I even have a 22 in my closet. My dad gave it to me when I was young. It is really just a gift that I keep and don't know the last time I even shot. But, living in the South, and frankly in America, gun ownership and pacifism are hot topics. Yahoo News! will have a brand new gun violence article tomorrow. They will have another the next. They will dig and find them. It is one of their hot button issues (along with homosexuality and Amanda Bynes). And here is the deal, both liberals and conservatives make great points about gun ownership.

Yes, liberals, the more guns we have in America and the easier access we have to guns, the more problems we will have. Yes, conservatives, we have already gone down this road, and if we ban gun ownership only the bad guys will have them (and bad gals too...I show no discrimination!). Violence, guns, media portrayl, video games. They are all a part of the swirl of crazy that exists among us. But I think none are true solutions. You don't get rid of gun violence by simply requiring better education. You don't get rid of gun violence simply by getting rid of certain video games. And you certainly, at this point, will not get rid of gun violence by banning the ownership of guns amongst the American populous. All of those are naive reactions to a bigger issue, which I will say the Catholic Church has been shouting for years: sanctity of life.

The root of so many of our problems is simply life has become less than sacred. Whether you think it is because of a lack of morality, kids playing Crash Bandicoot, abortion, euthenasia or hate crimes I say you are right. Movies that portray twisted, brutal killers dismembering cast members in explicit ways is just morbid...even if a professor of mine once said that slasher films are the list of the true good-vs-evil pictures we have.

The truth is we see more violence than ever before. Back in the 1950s Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye experienced a "bombing" that would be considered laughable in today's theater. We desire more accuracy and grit. We went to experience what those soldiers experienced. We want to see the blood. We want to see the bullet holes. We are like the Greeks and Hollywood yells back, "Are you not entertained?"

And really that is what it is for me. That is why I have come to terms with my pacifism. I don't need more wanton violence in my life. I don't want the picture of sacred man and woman defiled and butchered in front of me...because my faith tells me that this God I believe in stooped down to earth to create something special, something in his/her own image. And violence against that creation throughout the Scripture I call holy has said it is wrong to defile His image, and I infer, by proxy, against those that bear his/her image.

So...even though I'll receive some undue flack, some guffaws and even some challenges to my ideas on pacifism, it's just where I have come down on things. And in twenty years, if you see me, wife and kids in tow bearing a shotgun preventing horn dog teeanage boys from approaching my daughter, I will let you know that change has always been a part of the game...but for this season of life, being surrounded by image bearers of all shapes, sizes and races, I just don't think that violence is, or will ever be the way.

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