November 8, 2021 Wayne Northey

Walter Wink & “The Myth of Redemptive Violence”

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November 8, 2021

WN: The author of the highlighted article below is right on.

For background to Walter Wink’s use of the term, please see:

To see the tragedy of how this plays out in conservative White American Evangelicalism, please read my book review of: Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez. In this respect, majority White American Evangelicalism partakes of a pernicious anti-Christ heresy that has authorized slaughter of enemies (and endless numbers of “collateral damage” innocents) on a gargantuan scale almost ever since Jesus taught:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

43You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43 – 45)

As to the vast preponderance of Christendom’s embrace of the myth of redemptive violence, one can only respond: Go figure!

Please also see my lengthy: War, Police and Prisons: Cross-Examining State-Sanctioned Violence; and WAR AND HELL – and Exception-Clause Footnote Theology.

excerpts:

Several million dollars’ worth of fiction exploded the other day, leaving cinematographer Halyna Hutchins — age 42, a wife, a mom — dead, and plunging Alec Baldwin, who accidentally shot her, into a state of unimaginable hell.

The myth of redemptive violence is God’s gift to scriptwriters.

This happened on Oct. 21, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the set of the movie Rust. Despite the enormity of coverage the incident has gotten, I remain bewitched with incredulity over one unanswered question. Baldwin, the star of the movie, a Western, and one of its producers, was practicing his gun draw, using a prop gun he’d been given — except the gun wasn’t a prop. It was real. And it was loaded.

My question, of course, is: Why?

Why in God’s name would a real gun, containing real bullets, be anywhere in the vicinity of a movie set, especially a movie that contained gun play, with actors “shooting and killing” other actors? Making the situation even more bizarre, “the prop gun had been used recreationally for target practice away from the set prior to the deadly shooting,” according to People.

Indeed, the irony here is beyond comprehension. The entertainment industry is the prime purveyor of our national myth, that violence (“good violence”) is more than simply necessary. It is at the very core of social order. Without it, evil wins. Any questions?

Theologian Walter Wink, in his book The Powers That Be, called it “the myth of redemptive violence”: this belief that violence saves us. Indeed, “It doesn’t seem to be mythic in the least,” he wrote. “Violence simply appears to be in the nature of things. It’s what works. It seems inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god.”

The myth of redemptive violence is everywhere, a unifying force that keeps gun sales healthy and military contractors wealthy.

Strike up the orchestra. Here’s an example of how the myth plays out, on screens large and small: John Wayne, the Ringo Kid, has climbed atop the stagecoach and the Apaches are tearing after them as the music swells. In two minutes of the 1939 John Ford classic Stagecoach — a scene I recently took the trouble to examine in detail — I counted 15 “Indians” dying, each one flying dramatically off his horse. There are hundreds of them, hooting and whooping, armed with rifles, but they never hit anyone. They have almost no impact on the valiant stagecoach, on which four white men return fire at the savages with grim precision. One of them actually has a wry smile on his face, relishing his opportunity to do so. They blast away. Eventually the cavalry shows up and the Indians flee.

The myth of redemptive violence is God’s gift to scriptwriters.

I sometimes read about the potentially harmful effects that on-screen violence can have on children, but what concerns me far more is the effect it has on adults — not by shocking them but simply by retelling, ever so matter-of-factly, the myth of redemptive violence: You have to kill the bad guy. That’s all there is to it. This is why we have a trillion-dollar annual defense budget. This is why we have the Second Amendment. Guns — large and small — are simply necessary. Without them, no one would be safe.

And this is why, in the wake of the tragedy on the set of Rust, Donald Trump, Jr., spotting an extraordinary financial opportunity, began selling a line of disgustingly creepy T-shirts, which proclaimed: “Guns don’t kill people, Alec Baldwin kills people.” You know, Alec’s one of the bad guys. (He mocked Trump, he was a proponent of gun control.) When it’s not quite legal to kill the bad guy, you can always humiliate him.

The myth of redemptive violence is everywhere, a unifying force that keeps gun sales healthy and military contractors wealthy. Real violence is everywhere as well, both intentional and accidental, but it’s fragmented and isolated, a sudden moment that shouldn’t have happened, needn’t have happened — a human soul is ripped from her loved ones. Such moments bring only shock and grief.

Please click on: The Myth of Redemptive Violence

Wayne Northey

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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