David with the Head of Goliath

David with the Head of Goliath

Holy Deacon Kandra doesn’t appreciate pictures of severed heads, videos of murders and clips of Iraqis being herded off for extermination. He posts on Facebook

One more time, for those who missed it: you post on Facebook pictures of decapitated heads, or videos of people being murdered, or the bloody aftermath of an execution, you will be unfriended. You may feel otherwise, but trust me: things like that are a violent and unwanted assault on me and my sensibilities; it is anti-social, anti-Christian, anti-life. Yeah, I know bad things happen. The world is a horrible place. But I don’t need you to rub my face in it first thing in the morning. That is all.

My first instinct is to agree. I don’t need gruesome videos of beheadings pushed in front of me all the time.

Or do I?

Should we witness the horrors of the world? What about those photographs of dismembered unborn babies the anti-abortion protestors put on billboards? Should we have heard the details about Dr Gosnell’s house of horrors in Philadelphia? The “snipping” by which he virtually beheaded newborn babies?

What about the pictures of emaciated bodies stacked like firewood which came from the concentration camps?

The horror. The horror.

Does it do any good to be forced to face the horror?

First of all, we have to admit that violence is woven through the Bible. The writers of the Old Testament didn’t shirk from telling us about David beheading Goliath, Samson slaying thousands with the jawbone of an ass, Jael driving a tent peg through the skull of Sisera or Elijah slaughtering the prophets of Baal. Blood happens.

Neither is the New Testament a very cozy place. John the Baptist’s severed head is served up on a platter, Stephen is stoned and all the apostles end up being beheaded, flayed alive, crucified, burnt in oil and otherwise cruelly murdered and martyred.

There has been a good bit of interesting theology done recently on the relationship of violence to religion. Is the shedding of blood part of the curse of Cain? Is violence woven into our human nature to such a degree that we cannot excise it from our lives or from our religion? Is humanity red in tooth and claw?

I agree with Holy Deacon that we don’t need beheadings for breakfast, but on the other hand, there has always been something in our Christian faith which forces us to face the horror, to weep with the victims and to go through the Via Dolorosa and not around it.

The cross is, after all, the central sign of our religion, and while we should not revel in the bloodshed, we dare not look away.