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Myth of Redemptive Violence

Pastor Darryl Burton’s story of unjust conviction and incarceration is powerful and disturbing ( His story of forgiveness is equally powerful and disturbing. Because it goes against one dominant value in our culture – violence against evil. Our society believes in violence as the answer to end evil and suffering. Just look at the latest Hollywood blockbusters to see the “myth of redemptive violence,” that is, the myth that only violence can save us from evil.*

The belief that violence can save us from evil is simply that – a belief in the face of millennia of historical evidence revealing it for the lie it is. Belief in violence is perhaps one of the most persistent religious ideas of our day. Darryl himself was a victim of this belief in violence.

If Pastor Burton followed this dominant value, he would seek violence against those who unjustly incarcerated him for 24 years. He would seek to destroy those who had destroyed his life. Instead, he chooses another way just as Jesus chose another way -- the way of reconciliation.

In the GPS for today, we are invited to consider ways that each of us, in everyday life, could make justice a priority. Perhaps one way we can follow Jesus’ way of reconciliation is to question the judgment about others who are presumed guilty– whether in the criminal justice system, in a news story, in our community or across the globe. Before we join the chorus of condemnation on Facebook or Twitter, we can pause to consider we might be wrong and thus do great harm.

Pastor Burton shows us how to walk the Jesus path seeking redemption rather than violence, restoration rather than vengeance. Praise be to God.

*For more on “the myth of redemptive violence,” see Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers. Fortress, 1992.

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