Monday, March 26, 2007

TMNT and a Myth

This weekend the family and I went to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the drive-in theatre. We had a good time, but it had me pondering about the use of violence as the best weapon against evil.

Before I get all theoretical and critical, I do want to admit that we had a splendid evening. The movie wasn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but the kids had fun sitting in the back of our van and in chairs outside on a nice evening watching a movie. Good times.

But with the recent hit movies out, 300 and TMNT, violence is the means to overcome problems with our neighbors, even if they are a bit cranky and overbearing like threatening death if you don't bow down.

So what do you do if you are the good guys? Well, you fight back with superior force until they act the way that you want them to act, or, if that fails, you destroy them. Of course it's legit - we are the good guys! Of course, "good guys" meaning in the realistic sense those that are on the same team as you are.

The movies do have a heavy dose of let's-work-as-a-team and we can overcome all obstacles. Now, I am a strong believer in teams but let's face it: you can't overcome all obstacles just because you are a team. You also need to work out and become all muscle-y so that we can pulverize people together.

The cost of the myth of redemptive violence is heavy. You must be absolutely sure that you are in the right, whatever that might mean to you, and the fight with your conscious when it means destruction of people, including casualties. You must ensure means that the other people will act forever as you wish them to behave because let's get one thing clear - you won't change their hatred for you. Their retaliation will only escalate if they believe in redemptive violence as well. It never ends.

The cost may also be yourself and your people. I was amazed after we saw 300 at the non-reaction to the destruction of babies that did not meet the standards of maintaining the ability of heightened physical violence. Can anyone say "Hitler"? Hello! I have not seen anyone flinch at the scenes of kids beating on their brothers in the name of becoming stronger. Personally, that was the saddest moment of the movie for me.

But we overlook all that when we see Bravery. I love seeing people go against great odds. I long to be the one who stands up with others to say, We will not stand for this, it is not right. The emotional impact of watching heroes - people who stand up for what they believe or who fight for others - can catch you up. But to do that with the threat of physical Power shows a lack of imagination and bears a cost. Is there another way?

While I was in DC, there was a pastor at a local church that I had the opportunity to attend a function with. He told about the time when he attended a presidential luncheon with other church leaders with President Clinton. During the luncheon, if I remember correctly, there was a guest speaker. This lady needed a box to stand on to be able to reach the microphone. When she did, she lambasted the President and the country for their views on abortion. No one said a word, including the most powerful man man on earth. They didn't cuff her, they didn't shoot her when she got outside. She just finished and went back to her seat. Mother Teresa wielded real Power.

Real Power lies in not forcing behavior on people, but changing their hearts, beliefs, and values so that the behavior comes from within. And that takes Bravery and Imagination.

What are some of the problems that you see in your community? Maybe we could talk together, maybe even use some teamwork, to come up with non-violent means of confronting these issues.

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