Our Violent Times
My partner and I are in western New York at The Chautauqua Institution. This is where, on Friday, an attempt was made to take the life of Sir Salman Rushdie. Rushdie, is a renowned author of many books, including “The Satanic Verses”, which prompted a fatwa against him in 1989. Also injured in the attack was Henry Reese, co-founder of the Pittsburgh nonprofit City of Asylum, who was scheduled to join Rushdie in a conversation about the need to protect persecuted writers. Quite ironic!
In this morning’s worship service, here on the grounds in
the very Amphitheater where the attack took place, The Very Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas
spoke about our violent times and asked us, “How are we to live, as people of
faith, as believers in God, in times like these?”
The answer, of course, is love. That’s what Jesus not only
modeled in his life, but commanded us to, “love one another as I have loved
you.” But what does that kind of love look like?
It may be hard to define what love looks like, but Rev.
Brown Douglas defined violence in a way that also reveals what its opposite,
love, should look like. She says, “Anything that dehumanizes, degrades,
disrespects, denies, or destroys the sacred humanity of another person…THAT is
And so, I count myself among the many stunned Chautauquans
who have been praying for Mr. Rushdie, Mr. Reese and those who know and love
them. And my faith also calls me to pray for the young 24-year-old man, Hadi
Matar, accused of attacking Mr. Rushdie.
Yes, Mr. Matar should be held accountable for his actions
AND we do not need to do violence against him by dehumanizing him and
destroying his sacred humanity. We don’t yet know the story of what led to this
young man attacking Mr. Rushdie, but there is always a back-story. The story
behind the story does not excuse violent actions, but it can help us have
compassion for those who find themselves in a situation in which they think
violence is the answer.
All throughout history, there have been people who think
violence is the answer and it seems to be getting worse, not just in the US,
If we are to love one another as Jesus commanded us, then we
must stop doing violence to each other. Republicans must stop doing violence
against those who disagree with them. Democrats must stop doing violence
against those who disagree with them. Whatever the labels are that we claim or
that we put on others, we must stop using them to divide us. If our humanity is
to survive, we must disagree without disrespecting and dehumanizing those who
disagree with us.
We can work to make the world a just and equitable place for
everyone without doing violence to each other. I believe our survival depends
By Sibling Michelle "MJ" Johnston, CFA