In the 24-hour news cycle there is the 24-hour violence cycle. We hear one disastrous story after the next and process unending horrifying images of carnage and death. This is a damaged and hurting world, of that there is no doubt. In instances of man-made violence, our secular culture finds shallow satisfaction in playing the blame game, often scapegoating the marginalized person(s) involved, thereby allowing them to “attack” something “out there”. Sadly, the history of violence and the history of religion walk much of the same path. Immature religion tends to create aggressively judgmental people who find it all too easy to place themselves on the side of the just, good and worthy while projecting their own fear, evil and malice onto another group that they can attack at a more comfortable distance, as though it is someone else who has to die.
The truth is that we are called to die (to ourselves) first. As Richard Rohr says, “Authentic religion is always about you, it says you change first.” Whenever we find that we have entrenched ourselves on a particular side of a divisive social issue, we should stop and ask ourselves, “Have I examined my own role in this… what am I able to address in myself, and how, with God’s infinite mercy, can I love the other person?”