Monday, 2 May 2011

Actions that speak of the failure of imagination

I don’t believe in smacking, spanking, or whatever you like to call it.  I don’t believe it is the way to deal with a situation that has gone wrong.  But of my five children there was not one that didn’t get smacked sometimes, and mostly by me.  The ones that were smacked the most were not the naughtiest – they were the ones I understood the least.  If I could live my life again, and change one thing, I would like it to be the case that I never smacked any of my children – never frightened them, never was harsh or impatient with them.  But that isn’t going to happen.

Whenever I smacked my children the same root cause was in operation; I had hit a wall.  I had run out of ideas, the situation was beyond me, nothing else seemed to be working, I couldn’t think of anything else to do.  As a course of action, in the here and now, it short-circuited a few dramas; but in the deeper and more important levels it was never an improvement.

I think now, and I thought then too, that smacking/spanking is evidence of failure: to communicate, to empathise, to exercise patience, and to understand.  It is a failure of the imagination and of moral strength.

I think the same about putting Osama bin Laden to death.

I can see how we got there, I can see why it has come about, but it seems to me to be at a deeper level a symptom not of justice but of division – the failure to imagine, to understand, to redeem and to heal.

He inspired and condoned violence on a mass scale.  He hated the West and all it stands for.  A lot of the things he hated about our way of life are things I hate too, oddly enough – secularism, imperialism, the ways of Mammon.

I am sorry that it had to come to this.  Sorry that, if we find killing and violence so repulsive, we couldn’t think of anything better than killing and violence exacted in revenge.

I have no idea what kind of a man Osama bin Laden really was.  I deplored the atrocities he inspired, and I can see that this execution was inevitable.  But I believe it was inevitable not only because of the evil in him but also because of the evil in us.  Supposing, like St Paul, he had experienced a visitation from the living Jesus, and come to us to tell us so.  Would we have received him like Ananias, like Barnabas, and taken his overtures of friendship on trust, in good faith?  I doubt it.

The Old Testament seems to be full to the brim of Osama bin Ladens, visiting the wrath of God on people and slaughtering the enemies of the Lord in their thousands – yet we don’t say they were evil; we say the battle belonged to the Lord.  This violence, this interminable bloodshed!  Until we can get past the mindset of it being about whose side we’re on and reach the mindset of understanding, the manufacture of guns and bombs will always be a lucrative trade.

As much as I deplore the violence and bloodshed Al-Qaeda has perpetrated, so do I deplore the cheering crowds on the news broadcasts today.

A man who was our enemy has died an untimely, unnatural, bloody death at our hands.  It is not a matter for rejoicing, even if it had to come to this.

There is only one good way to annihilate an enemy; and that is to annihilate the enmity itself, and win him over into being a friend.

I hope this day’s work will have weakened rather than strengthened terrorist activity around the world; but even if it does, I’m sorry we had to do it this way.   I wish we could have found a better way to draw the sting of terrorism and promote the cause of peace.  

The question we are to live by is “What would Jesus have done?”  In this case, realistically, I'm not too sure what Jesus would have done – and that’s always at the heart of where things begin to go wrong.


20 comments:

AbiSomeone said...

Timely words ... not only globally in the aftermath of yesterday's actions, but in my home today.

Having married late, my children were all born late, as well...and where my friends have grandchildren, my youngest is 10! And my first born will be 16 this month.

Yes, it is a failure of imagination and patience and self-discipline when I speak or act harshly to my children. Lord, have mercy on me ... but especially on them -- that they will not be forever scarred by my failings, but will see how very much I love them ... in the midst of my difficult circumstances.

Sigh....

Ember said...

Hi Abi :0) It seems the way of healing in human relationships involves always being ready to say 'sorry'. x

Ganeida said...

Oh Pen! The sight of those crowds figuratively dancing on the man's grave breaks my heart. Yes he was an enemy. I get that. But....he was also a man made in the image of God with wives, children, grandchildren & an eternal soul. We in the west condemed Islam for the scenes of jubilation when the twin towers came down, yet now we do exactly the same! I think it is crazy. I think it is sick. In no way do I think OBL death has resolved anything. Indeed I rather suspect it will makes things much worse over time. Naught I can do but it frets my soul. I think we acted impetously & fear we will pay a high price for our callousness.

Ember said...

Indeed. God have mercy. x

Hawthorne said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who felt only sadness when I heard the news. And,yes Ganieda, I thought just the same thing about the dancing crowds. Tit-for-tat never solves anything.

Ember said...

:0) Hi Hawthorne x

Bean said...

I so agree with you. I cannot see how killing OBL will make any difference, it will not bring back those that died on 9/11, it will not eliminate terrorism, and it does nothing to bring peace to the world. Most likely it will cause more violence. Our president has basically resorted to an eye for eye policy. If all Christians would actively live the gospel life and turn the other cheek, we would live in a very peaceful world.

Also, as a grandmother to two little boys that I get to watch several days a week, I sure wish that I had had the patience with my own children that I have with my grandchildren. Perhaps it is getting older that allows you to just enjoy your grandchildren with great patience and love. As parents we are usually too young to fully appreciate what we have when we have small children, as grandparents we fully appreciate small grandchildren and we know just how quickly they will grow up.

Bean

Jan said...

All day I was sad. Violence begets violence. I understand WHY. Had my child/family been murdered and I could get to the person responsible, I would likely be insane enough to take his life--and maim my spirit in the process. My family has a long history of military service. Not one who has taken a life has ever been the same...I am still sad. We must find a better way...

seekingmyLord said...

Sometimes the best way to fight a wild fire is to set another fire to make a fire break. Both are destructive, but one has no discipline and the other is extinguished after it has served its purpose to gain control over the other.

Likewise, discipline is rarely completely painless for the child or the parent, but that does not mean it is done wrong. Didn't God punish David by taking the life of his first born with Bathsheba, an innocent child? I think I would rather have God give me a smack or be yelled at than to have my child taken from me.

Just some thoughts....

Jules said...

so totally agree. we as Christians should be weeping and not rejoicing over the fact that another soul will be spending eternity in Hell.

Ember said...

Hi Jan, hi seekingmyLord, hi Jules!

It's like Gandhi said, a policy of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.
I think the Bible shows faith on a journey, moving deeper into self-discipline and love, as the Spirit calls us towards the Father heart of God. First there was chaos of violence, then the Law limited it to an eye for an eye, then Jesus showed us a better way of absorbing violence into love.
I personally in an immediate situation have a temper that flares very quickly. I often used to explain to an errant child, hald humorously, half seriously; "Darling, I should stop doing that if I were you, or Mummy will fly into an ungovernable rage."
But I wouldn't like to see my human nature enshrined in law and enacted by the military. What I hope to see in the legal system and official actions of my country is the best of my aspirations, not the basest instincts of my nature - thirst for vengeance, retribution, self-righteous violence.
Bin Laden was used politically. If you look back at the statements of Bush, sometimes he was important, sometimes he wasn't, as it siuted the way the political wind was blowing. Same with the Taliban leaders. I sat and watched on UK TV as the BBC tranquilly filmed the Taliban leaders coming out of a meeting, climbing into a vehicle ad driving off. Only later did they morph into the world's most wanted men - and as far as I could see, nothing had changed in between.

Ember said...

Ooh - and hi Bean! :0) x

Gerry Snape said...

....And what will be the outcome now in Libya?
"Peace, peace but there is no peace."

seekingmyLord said...

"I think the Bible shows faith on a journey, moving deeper into self-discipline and love, as the Spirit calls us towards the Father heart of God. First there was chaos of violence, then the Law limited it to an eye for an eye, then Jesus showed us a better way of absorbing violence into love."

Ember, this is a good point and I agree that mankind, in general, has been handled as a parent would handle a child. First with laws: Do not go into the street, says Mom. Then with knowledge: You could get hit by a car if you go into the street. Then with understanding: You can cross the street safely after you look both ways to be sure no cars are coming. Then with wisdom: Do not go into the street, my child.

Certainly the Ten Commandments were the Laws, but Jesus then gave the understanding of all those laws with just two. However, on an individual basis, God worked with each person differently.

I have trained a few dogs to stay within a set perimeter. One dog I could just give disapproval in my tone and place my foot near her front paws, not even touching her, to get her to understand the new rule and the boundary line. Another dog I had to give a jerk or a tap on the nose when he wandered outside the perimeter. If I had done that to the first dog, it would have been a puddle of nervousness--such treatment would have been overkill for it. The second dog did not respond to the same techniques as the other and being an Alpha male, he needed something that would get his attention better before he understood he was being trained. Both dogs were very intelligent, attentive to me but not fearful, obedient, wanting to please, quite loving, and playful, but I had to learn the "language"--the method of force--they would understand. Likewise, I think God uses just enough force to get our attention and some of it is not all that gentle, but sometimes necessary. Peter was given a boundary but not crushed when Jesus dealt with his...uh, undisciplined eagerness.

I believe that parenting should be done with wisdom and balance, but what it takes to get through to one child is completely different than what works with another. My mother used to punish me by making me sit in a chair--that was no punishment as I would read a book, but my sister found sitting in a chair unbearable. Some people respond to gentleness and others see it as something to exploit, and I say this because I was one who would have exploited it.

I admire gentle parenting, but then I have seen parents calmly tell there children not to do a certain thing when there was urgency to protect them and the children got hurt because they did not understand the difference between a preference and a protective order. Personally, I would have yelled...harshly, so there was no confusion about the urgency.

Sarah said...

Hello, I have just caught up with your blog posts after a while, and I really do value your 'take' on life, and your wisdom. Thank you.

Ember said...

Hi Gerry, hi Sarah! :0)

Thanks for that thoughtful comment seekingmyLord x

Trish @ Lily-Rose Cottage said...

I understand what you're saying.
I also regret the times I reacted too harshly when my boys were younger.
But..as you say we can't go back.
We can only go forward with the Lord's help, and try to be people of peace.
I don't like the jubilation over Bin Laden's death either, though it doesn't surprise me to see it.
The Lord does not rejoice over the death of the wicked..
Imagine how different things could be if he'd come to truly know Christ.
I pray his followers do discover many Pauls amongst them!!
God bless you Ember.
Trish

Ember said...

:0) Hi Trish! x

Clare Weiner said...

Came to this site to find out more about Pen - found the piece on the latest news - Osama b L's killing. Wonderful piece wh expresses how many of us feel - how can violence and revenge ever do other than promote more violence and revenge? I am ashamed pretty much to be a "Western person" and wish there was a way to dissociate oneself from the vile act. As the article says, OBL hated much of what we hate - or at least are saddened by -materialism, secularism, etc Thanks for a succinct comparrison with parenting, too. I totally regret having ever hit my kids - thanksfully, they've grown up great,whatever we did.

Ember said...

Hi Clare - welcome! You can meet some fab people here - thoughtful and kind. It's always worth reading the comments at least as much as the blog posts. Sent thee a Facebook friend request :0)