Trauma in today’s world
(A Christian’s perspective)
A Lenten piece, written in 2015
When we see images of extreme violence on TV or on the internet, is it a form of trauma? About a year ago someone shared a YouTube video on Facebook. There was no warning about the nature of the clip and I right clicked it. Within five seconds I saw a man’s throat cut all the way back to his neck bone, then he was thrown into a grave and still alive, gasping and twitching. The men who did it calmly talked while he was bleeding out. This happened within 30 seconds of my click. I was so stunned that I could do nothing but watch it until the end.
Then many watched an Iranian pilot being burned to death while he was trapped in a cage. Most of us saw the pictures I am sure. These images once seen can’t be forgotten by many if not most of us. Seeing violence in a movie is ‘make believe’, it is nothing like watching the real thing. I presume that is why I can’t watch movies about Viet Nam, not because I was there, but because it happened while I was in the Navy and I had two brothers over there. I also know many who still suffer from the after-effects of that war.
Then the news about FergusonMo, and other cases like it must take a toll on most of us. How deep does it touch our souls? When the latest news about the 21 men killed by ISIS, merely because they were Christian, broke something in me, perhaps it is my heart, I have no idea. It was not that something died, but something came alive and I am not sure what it is. How is it that in the name of God, or some political ideology, or different shades of skin color, or even over sports, we can so easily kill one another? As I say this I know full well that I am capable of the same things.
What if those of us who live in Atlanta were subjected over the years, even if sporadic, to rockets being lobbed into the city from Augusta? Or if from time to time suicide bombers were coming in and blowing up our buses. Or what if atheist and believers starting killing each other on a more or less regular basis, or let's say Republicans and Democrats? How would that affect the general population who were the victims of these assaults? What would our children and teenagers be like? I doubt they would be like they are now in the Atlanta area….they would act like children and teenagers but would be hardened, angry and fearful. We already see this in certain areas of any town or city. Places where violence over drugs, for instance, is common. How easy would it be for us to descend into violence towards one another if it went on for years or for generations?
Each person on earth when they suffer, Christ suffers with them. When we hate one another or kill, it is Christ that we also hate and kill. I am not immune to being sucked into a mob mentality about the ‘enemy’. I suppose we are all an ‘enemy’ to some other faction. For me the only thing that keeps me from giving in to hatred is my clinging to Christ Jesus. In prayer, I can stop, reflect, take stock and ask for a larger more expansive and compassionate heart…..for a heart that is still armored in many ways.
In Lent, we are called to not run from the intimacy that Christ is calling us to. To embrace the disorderliness of life as well as our part in creating that messiness and suffering…It may be the only way to stop these cycles that seem to take us over in spite of our best intentions. To become more human, less filled with fear and hate can be a long drawn out process…one that I am still on. Many people are truly gentle. I am not like that at all. For like many men there is still a sword carrying, instinct driven man of fear that lives deep within me. Though at my age I doubt I would be much of a fighter.
So in the meantime, I pray and hope and wait. Christ Jesus is God, the creator of the incredibly vast universe, omnipresent, and at work in ways that I don’t understand in the hearts of all men and women. I believe that as Christians when we pray we should seek to become ever more conscious of our unity with all humanity and that in prayer we are really one with them because of Christ who identifies with the least, our enemies as well as with those we love. My community when I pray is with those who struggle to deal with their inner chaos without fear, as well as those who have been swallowed up by it. Christ Jesus is one with us. When we hate, kill, and torture or ignore another, it is Christ Jesus that we do these things too.
“Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” So easy to forget this saying of Christ... way too easy, at least for me, I am not speaking for everybody, for that is impossible, I believe there are those who get it, we call them saints. I believe I have the honor of knowing a few of them.