Violence is not a Sin


#1

This is of course a provocative label. We cringe at violence and that surely is a good thing in general…but I have read an author who made a statement predicated with the words: “The sin of violence…” and gut level it rankled me as an emotional manipulation of the mind.

Student to student and trainee Christian to trainee Christian… It is my observation that while sin incorporates violence…and sin is bad…

still there is violence aplenty that is not sinful… for instance acts of God… sending an angel to slay 10,000 men in a single night, etc. .acts of nature (lightning has struck our dwelling in the past)…

What comes to your mind? How would you define Violence for instance, and what would fall in the catagory?

Or, can you think clearly about the topic at all? Those who have suffered domestic violence for instance may not be able to do so without considerable effort.


#2

So for this thread, you are saying maybe that violence is something that is destructive to its target.

Since God has done things that destroy, then destructive actions, aka violent actions must not be inherently a sin.

That what you said, right?

Alan


#3

Hi Alan

Well… as a student…

In my workshop I meditate on our Loving God and see He wears many hats. Whatever He does is always infinitely loving… but that clearly includes what I as a person see as violent. He has even rewarded one woman in the old testament for referring to Him as a “Bloody Lord”

It looks like the violence that is not sin may destroy the body but not the soul, however the sin that involves violence (and all sins appear to do so in some form or another) can destroy both the body and the all important soul.

What do you think?


#4

still there is violence aplenty that is not sinful… for instance acts of God… sending an angel to slay 10,000 men in a single night, etc. .acts of nature (lightning has struck our dwelling in the past)…

First let’s address the situations you describe. The first is not was applicable as it might seem because it was part of the old covenant. Though God is constant how he has interacted with his creation changed with the sacrifice of Christ. Not that the angel isn’t sent by God but rather we live by a new set of rules now. The second is more of a physics issue than a spiritual one. If I jump out of a plane with no parachute I will be killed. Not by the wrath of God but ultimately by hitting the ground at terminal velocity.

Ok on to the next issue. For the sake of discussion let’s divide the kinds for a moment; “Devine Violence” or that executed by God, “Human Violence” Executed by man, and " “Christian Violence” or violence executed by Christians in the name of God. I think we can all agree that Human violence is inherently sinful and displeasing to God so let’s discuss the other two in more depth.

Devine violence although we rarely see it these days comes from God and therefore we must assume a reason. I do not consider things like car crashes in this category (although God may use them) because these follow more natural courses of events. I speak more of the story in the early church of those who lied about tithing and dropped dead when confronted and instructed to tell the truth. This is a post-new covenant example of “Devine Violence” and really one of the few examples in the bible I can recall. All in all it is a good scholarly issue but not much more since modern examples of this are pretty rare from what I have seen.

The last form is the one I want to center on the most. The concept of “Christian Violence” (sometimes described as “Just War Theory” ) seeks to legitimize violence on the grounds that we are doing Gods will or preventing something that would be counter to his will. The problem with this form of violence is that it assumes that we are in perfect unity with the will of God. Some examples would be the crusades, the Spanish inquisition and the violence committed during the Protestant Reformation (done by each side to the other with the exception of most Anabaptist groups). The problem is that Christ commanded us to turn the other cheek. We tend to see conflicts with only two outcomes and Christ commands that we find a third if the conflict leads to violence. I could go on more but I don’t want to ramble too much. Admittedly I am Mennonite Brethren and we are decidedly committed to non-violence so that does show in my theology. To be honest though I have worked through my faith in fear and trembling (and continue to do so on a daily basis) so please feel free to post questions or rebuttals


#5

Well, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.

So, from a Catholic perspective, violence certainly is justified in cases of self defense. Of course, note that it does warn against using “more than necessary violence.”

Of course, there are situations beyond obvious self defense where violence is justified (in my opinion). I would suggest that violence in the defense of another’s life is also justified. It could also be argued that if an evil is clearly seen as a threat, violence could be used against it before the threat can be carried out. Of course, people will argue about that (it brings up the whole “pre-emptive attack” concept). Now, I must warn you that my opinions may be affected by my occupation. :slight_smile:

God Bless!


#6

It depends how you are defining violence:

Main Entry: vi·o·lence m-w.com/images/audio.gif
Pronunciation: 'vI-l&n(t)s, 'vI-&-
Function: noun
1 a : exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse (as in effecting illegal entry into a house) b : an instance of violent treatment or procedure
2 : injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation : OUTRAGE
3 a : intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force <the violence of the storm> b : vehement feeling or expression : FERVOR; also : an instance of such action or feeling c : a clashing or jarring quality : DISCORDANCE
4 : undue alteration (as of wording or sense in editing a text)

Which of these do you posit is not a sin? The first 2 definitions seem to be sinful. Numbers 3 and 4 would depend how you applied them.


#7

Shlemele

Very thoughtful and solid response. Thank you. The second part Is consistent with my findings also…

The 1st part…violence done by God… well, my research has a little different conclusion. (yet I put all conclusions on a work-bench and open to correction-with safeguards).

Lets build a model to examine that.

Regarding the new covenant… It is a new way for man to understand and get close to God. However, God has not changed. The God of the old testament and new testament is the same God and since He is perfect… He cannot change.

In the old testament God punished His people when they severely offended Him and often in a bloody fashion. The Jews were picked by Him and are a model of what we can expect at His hands… mercy and dicipline. From the Jewish faith position all one needs do to please God and gain Heaven is do what they were told to do through their laws… developing a relationship with God was not what they were told to do. (surely God wanted that and did so with individuals… but it was not emphasized per se)

So has the situation changed?.. If one reads the Fatima accounts (Tan Publishers)… and looks at history… clearly He (God) has not changed… nor has the sinful tendencies of man…nor has the punishments of God required by His justice. His mercy however has given us a much better way to cope and an enormous boost to our spiritual and temporal survival potential.

From your religious background… Fatima as an event (the miracle of the sun) would be material outside the normal experience… I submit to you however that it happened as told, and its recorded history was witnessed to by both those favorable to its occurance and those opposed completely.

I am very grateful for the Mercy of our Lord.


#8

Lambic Pen.

Thanks for the input.

Yes, your profession does certainly influence your views… because your experience of God is interacting with Him under conditions not normally encountered by a professional civillian.

Your experience is real and valid. I suggest to you… warrior to warrior… to sometimes meditate on the Bible passages looking for God the Warrior. He describes himself as such in the Psalms. Your views are supported there… and much more.

The warrior hat of God is one the cushy Christian looking for a teddy bear God chooses to ignore. Then look for what triggers His mercy.


#9

StCs David

Hi Dave

Thank you for the definition approach. It’s a good starting point

1A: The example they give of illegal entry would I agree usually be sinful… But it occurs to me that that particular example is not necessarily exclusive and others could have been chosen.

Motives for the act will change everything. Agreed? For instance I could use violence to enter my neighbors home unlawfully but if the concern was immediate need to protect their lives……

Still, entering to do them damage would be usually sinful I agree no contest.

2: Seems like a good view of the devils work so we have the same conclusion here.

3A and 4…. We concur


#10

Given the Church’s stance on just wars, the military, self-defense, etc., I guess we would have to conclude that violence in and of itself is not a sin.


#11

If one reads the Fatima accounts (Tan Publishers)… and looks at history… clearly He (God) has not changed…

I’m sorry if I do not understand the connection, I may not be understanding the example. From what I have read the Fatima accounts apply to a vision of Mary who hands down prophesy to three children. Although violence is described in the prophesy I don’t think that this falls under the category of Devine Violence. A better example might be if I were to tell someone that there was someone who wished you harm. This account you speak of (again if I found the right one ) seems to speak more of mercy than violence.

And on the part about God not changing I agree with you. God is as he ever was. What I see though is that how God deals with us has changed. Just as a parent treats his children differently at 5 and 25, God has changed the way he treats us because we now have the Holy Spirit. That being said I don’t want to make it sound like God doesn’t have teeth, quite the contrary. God power is however just as strong in the still small voice as it is in the force of a storm.

Given the Church’s stance on just wars, the military, self-defense, etc., I guess we would have to conclude that violence in and of itself is not a sin.

This is a bit disturbing to me. There is a lot of discussion about just war but let’s look at what makes war “Just”;

-A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.

-A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.

-A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient–see point #4). Further, a just war can only be fought with “right” intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.

-A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.

-The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.

-The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.

-The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

I believe this is pretty much in accordance with Catholic doctrine. As a pacifist though I see some pragmatic issues that really can’t be resolved. If you look at all the rules I can’t think of one example that met the criteria. Sure it sounds reasonable that War might be just if you have a situation where an injustice has taken place and the only way to right the wrong is by force. The problem is though that more often than not you create more injustice through the use of force than you would through peaceful means.

Let’s depart for a moment form the macro and focus on the micro…


#12

[quote=Catechism 2264]…If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.
[/quote]

Before I go on I don’t want anyone to think that I am attacking the Catholic church. I do however want to address something in the excerpt that I do not know as a pacifist how to accept. The part that says it is not necessary for salvation to avoid killing another man in self defense. So what I understand here is that if it within my power to spare the life of my attacker and I choose not to do so it’s ok, not the best thing to do mind you but not the same as murder. Let me use this in an example I have heard many times (and will address later in another context). It’s late at night and you wake up to the sound of a criminal in your house. You quietly sneak up behind him and on the counter there is a skillet and a knife. Thinking this man seeks to do you and your family harm you grab the knife and mortally wound him. The option of knocking him unconscious was there but you chose to kill him. According to the Catechism this is not ideal but it is also not a sin. The way I see this it is, as this man might be in hell because he was never given the opportunity of salvation that he might have come to had he lived.

Now let’s flip this around. Say I have a similar situation where I have an intruder in my house and he has one of my family members at knifepoint. I have the opportunity to kill him, do I? To be honest this is the situation that I have struggled with the most. If it was my life it would be a lot easier but when it comes to family emotions run hot for good reason. I would like to think that I could reason with whomever this was and end the situation without bloodshed. To be honest I don’t know though, I just pray I am never in this situation. This is a rare occurrence though so the chances of it happening are rather slim, it is mostly a scholarly tool.

I will see if I can add more later… starting to fall asleep here. Please though feel free to leave questions.


#13

[quote=The Iambic Pen]Well, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
So, from a Catholic perspective, violence certainly is justified in cases of self defense. Of course, note that it does warn against using “more than necessary violence.”

Of course, there are situations beyond obvious self defense where violence is justified (in my opinion). I would suggest that violence in the defense of another’s life is also justified. It could also be argued that if an evil is clearly seen as a threat, violence could be used against it before the threat can be carried out. Of course, people will argue about that (it brings up the whole “pre-emptive attack” concept). Now, I must warn you that my opinions may be affected by my occupation. :slight_smile:

God Bless!
[/quote]

Yup.

nationalreview.com/novak/novak021003.asp


#14

Also, I recommend reading the following…

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=68346


#15

This thread belongs in the category of Moral Theology, I think. There are all sorts of distinctions and frames of mind that need to be considered. Actions by individuals with the option for pacifism or for turning the other cheek or for running away. Actions by the state in a criminal matter (police in a hostage situation or a bank robbery). Actions by the state in a war matter (all out war as in WWII or geographically constrained war or a cold war deterrence situation or a fire-fight which is very local or a naval battle which is VERY violent.

Violence: stepping on an ant… swatting a fly… setting out a mouse trap… deploying roach killers … step on a crack, break your mother’s back.

The Commandment relates to “Thou shalt not commit murder”.

If we can kill someone without violence, is that ok? Execution by lethal injection… tranquilizer… relaxed state… increase dosages of certain chemicals… the heart stops. No violence there. Overdose of certain chemicals by individuals as versus overdose by the state or the soverign.

If we can kill someone privately, with minimum “fuss”, is that OK?

Is abortion ok?

Is abortion violent?

Sounds to me like the kind of discussion a troublemaker in a college dorm would initiate.

Need to distinguish between and to contrast and compare various aspects.

Bumper stickers don’t make for good Moral Theology.


#16

In my oversimplified way of looking at things…

Violence is a noun. A noun is a person, place or thing. A person place or thing is something created by God. God only creates good things. We can distort, exploit, corrupt the good things he creates in ways that cause them to be sinful.

So one could argue that violence in of itself is not sinful, but how one employs it could be. Having settled that…now what?:slight_smile:


#17

Kristina P.

Yes Kristina… Agreed. What I dearly wish however is more specific information on the real duty
of the Catholic layman in regards to violence.


#18

StCs David

For this thread Dave, I believe that about covers it. Nice hit. To go further, see what I said to Kristina P.


#19

Al Masetti

Al I agree with a lot of your input. I would only ask that you be a little gentler to the college targets.

There are indeed some who would make a topic just to cause problems. Yet, you and I both know that sometimes, the college troublemaker is attempting to solve a problem we can be dearly glad we don’t have to cope with.

Because it is private, he covers up his real need with various behavioral disguises.

The direction I’m going is looking into the real duty of the Catholic layman in regards to physical violence.

I tried to get specific information from “Ask an Apologist” but so far noting has emerged from that holy chamber.

Would it cover a lot of topics… yes. Do you have to provide all the answers …. No.

But I do appreciate the input
.


#20

Shlemele

I really like your thoughtful treatments.

The reference to Fatima was made because it is another case where God promises to punish mankind with war (old testament scenario ) because of our continued disobedience / rebellion. He did so as was laid out there.

Yes, It is also a message of mercy in that our prayer actions and acts of reperation are revealed to have a direct effect on His actions in that diciplinary action.

… Now with regards to the choices in whether or not one kills an agressor… hard training can facilitate the correct choice making, but sometimes… the emotion of the moment and the individual responses of the participants will dictate the outcome.

It is a very bad situation. My focus is attempting to reveal the education and training necessary to those of us in the human family that will not only make the problem easier to solve in the moment… but also make it another Holy act for God that we can offer up in praise of His goodness.

(Not trying to create the negative event… but getting and remaining prepared to handle it if God chooses to bring it about in my theater of operations)

Is that any clearer?


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