The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: How Do We Solve the Problem of Violence?

What needs to happen in order for the violence and corruption we are surrounded by to stop?

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see the Kaufman Interfaith Institute page and their weekly Interfaith Insight column at InterfaithUnderstanding.org.

Linda Knieriemen, Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Holland, responds:

“Violence and corruption will always be a part of this created world. Always have been, always will. Humans have free will, are prone to selfishness, and hardwired to seek revenge on those who harm us. Biblical stories such as Cain and Abel describe what the world has been like after the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. It’s telling that this story is placed so early Biblical accounts. It sets the context for all that will follow. 

“That’s the big picture. In order to curb cycles of violence and promote peace with justice,  individuals and communities will need to decide that violence doesn’t improve quality of life for anyone. Violence begets guilt and shame and incarcerations in some, wounds and PTSD and parentless homes in others.  A true respect for life, even the lives of those we disagree with, or those who have harmed us, must supersede the instinct to use weapons — whether those weapons be words or an AK47— if any sort off peace is to prevail in our homes, or communities or world.”

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“According to Hindu scriptures, the world goes through cycles of different ages. Most Hindus believe that we are in what is called Kali Yuga, a rather dark era that will see the kind of negative activity we experience today. I belong to a school of thought that says we are in the Dwapara Yuga, which is one level up from Kali. Things are better in Dwapara than in Kali. But those who estimate the calculations say that we are only about 300 years into this higher age, so we still have much of the leftover negativity of Kali. There are higher ages to come that will be much less challenging, but are millennia in the future. Even at the pinnacle of human evolution, however, we are not to expect any sort of heaven on earth. There will always be the challenges you offer, only not quite as widespread. 

“The good news is that the great saints and sages of our tradition encourage us to ignore (for the most part) these cosmic calendars and strive to make ourselves harbingers of the higher ages to come.  I don’t disagree that this is easier said than done, but despair and pessimism are not options for the brave.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“A more supportive and compassionate society can reduce violence and corruption. Building more prisons and selling more guns has only created a greater divide and more desperation which leads to violence. Setting up systems that prioritizes helping people rather than punishing people is proven more effective in creating better living circumstances for all people. Supporting things like more affordable housing, health care for all citizens, equal access to higher education, food security, fair employment opportunities and free or affordable childcare are all great ways to support those struggling in our society.”

The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:

“Violence and corruption stops when we learn to love one another. As trivial as it may sound, the answer is Love. God is Love. He sent His son to die for us because He loved us. Now is our turn to love others as we have been loved. We don't have to die on a cross but we do have to die to Self. This is the new law that Jesus introduced when He came. He taught us that the Old Testament Law with all its commands can be fulfilled in these two commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) We can continue to live promoting violence and corruption or we can get busy figuring out how to love God and each other--as Jesus commanded us. The choice that we make will determine where we spend eternity!”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“The answer to this question is ‘The Beatitudes.’ Specifically, ‘blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.’ Unfortunately, violence is the result of sin (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 457. Peace is profoundly from God as a gift of the Holy Spirit (ibid., p. 194).

“There is no easy answer to this question. ‘Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance between adversaries’ (ibid., p. 555). Peace requires each of us to ‘safeguard the goods of others, respect the dignity of persons and peoples, and practice free association’ with one another (ibid.).”

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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