Tuesday, January 22, 2013


     Yes, the original Batman with Adam West is still on the air.  A friend and I were strolling through the first chapter of Isaiah and we came across verse 15:  "your hands are full of blood".  It reminded me of another verse...
"The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence." (Ps 11:5)
"Boards don't hit back..."
     We started talking and my hackles came up (you know, the metaphor for our instinct to be self-righteous and justify ourselves).  You see, my apathy towards sports notwithstanding, I would consider myself a red-blooded American male, raised and spoonfed on violent imagery and videogames.  In my flesh, there's nothing I love more than a gory decapitation, preferably with a sword, or a spinning back kick followed by a kung fu flurry of fists.  So I still struggle at times to exercise sufficient care in my media intake (what is the RDA of gratuitous violence?);  I got to thinking "What does it mean to "love" violence?"  I even pointed out to my study partner that even the Bible has violent episodes and reports the demise of the wicked in graphic terms.  So what exactly does God hate?
     I had some clue where to begin;  before my illustrious career in public transportation, I enjoyed 12 years at the local grocery store.  I use the word "enjoy" only mildly facetiously:  the guys I worked with were great, and I actually preferred the physical activity to sitting idle in a chair for hours on end.  But what I loved most were the shoplifters... I worked the night shift and me and my crew revelled in the opportunity, with every shady character that entered the store (and there were plenty!), to stalk them and catch them in the act.  Then, as they exited the building with something shoved down their pants, we would exercise our right to a "citizen's arrest":  we would ask them to reenter the store as we called the police, and if they consented, we would play "good cop, bad cop" in an effort to persuade them to confessing to a five-finger discount.  But from our pugilistic perspective, it was much more exciting and entertaining when these ne'er-do-wells tried to run:  we usually outnumbered the offender 2 or 3 to 1, and the force we were permitted to use was generally only limited to not breaking any bones.  Our store was in a bad part of town, so we could look forward to 5-7 violent confrontations a month.  And I worked there for 12 years... for you math majors, that's a rough estimate of 720-1008 total throwdowns!  I'm sure the actual number is slightly smaller;  I didn't work nights until 3-4 years in, and there were other mitigating factors.  
People call my wife "T", so technically I am Mr. T!
     So God saved me 8 years ago, and I've been a busdriver for almost 6;  I remember the initial effect of bible reading and study during the day and violence at night.  I knew that theft was sinful and illegal, and the restraint of such criminals was not in itself a sin.   But after some prayerful introspection, I had to admit I actually enjoyed hurting people.  It made me feel strong and manly (if you don't know me, I'm 5'8" and 165 lbs... not exactly Mr. T!).  I tried to tell myself, "I don't have a "violence problem"... I can quit any time I want!"  But that realization definitely changed how I looked at my fellow man, even the guilty ones who "had it coming".  I remember a few comical incidents in the following months where after tripping and subduing someone, with their arm locked behind their back and myself atop them, I would try to inform them of the eternal consequences of their sin.  One in particular had every opportunity to come quietly and after the brief struggle, I exclaimed "Man, you need JESUS!"
      Today, I would certainly not classify myself as a pacifist, but neither do I enjoy the prospect of a fight.  God has given me a healthy fear of my own depravity in this area.  In a way, a physical confrontation generally represents the final, most depraved level of our existence:  at least one of the parties has become so bestial that only overwhelming force will stop them from their sin.  And as believers following a Man to whom little children flocked (they obviously felt safe around Him!), we should attempt every other avenue before resorting to physical force.  Men obviously have an obligation to strenuously safeguard our families and neighbors, but we must see even the offender (in the worst case, the gang member breaking into our home) as our neighbor as well, and if possible, prevent harm to him while restraining him.  I know police officers and soldiers are absolutely necessary, and I thank God for their service to us... but I wouldn't want to be one.  My name is Brett, and I'm a recovering violence-aholic.

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