Violence In Our Society

by Rev. Mark Connolly

Ever since the story of Cain and Abel violence has been a part of every culture. We all know violence is found in some of the works of Shakespeare. Some of us, at one time or another, were asked to recite that famous line, "out: out: damned spot." If you read the Russian novelist Dostoevski many of his works are filled with violent episodes. So violence is in every culture. Basically, it is nothing new. Except that in our culture, we are going through a period when violence among the young is a national epidemic. All we have to do is to think back since last October and reflect on what happened in Littleton, West Paducah, Springfield, Oregon, in New Jersey and in Port Huron, Michigan. Violence has surfaced in different forms and in different styles, but it is still violence.

If you go back in our country from the year 1900 onwards and consider the lives of men like Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini, it is easy to understand how millions of people have been killed by the violence of others. President Milosevic of Yugoslavia with his ethnic cleansing philosophy is merely continuing the work of the Hitler's, the Stalin's and the Mussolini's of the past. Today we talk about new forms of gun legislation, better metal detectors in school, better screening processes as children go into school, new kinds of safety locks on guns, and some of these will help. If they save the life of one individual, they are all worth it. But I think we have to go deeper as to finding some other solution that might help us reduce this epidemic of violence in our country.

If you read the writings of Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist, who during his life interpreted over 50,000 dreams, he once said, "I have been a practicing psychiatrist for over 30 years and the vast majority of my clients would never have had to come to my office if they used the religious teachings of their religious founders." The founder of the Catholic Church is Jesus Christ. No one experienced more violence than he did on the occasion of being crucified and being nailed between two thieves. Concerning violence, for the most part it comes and starts generally in the home. Inasmuch as the child spends about 80% of his time in or near home, no one can expect that the church or the community or society can really make up for what that child is never taught at home. If he is never taught about anger, if he is never taught to control his tantrums, then basically when he becomes a young adult or older he will still have that problem with anger and that problem with throwing tantrums. If the child, by both parents, was taught that the most powerful words that Christ ever spoke were against anger, when he said "whoever is angry with his brother, should go first and be reconciled with his brother, and then return to the altar to leave his gifts." It is the same Jesus Christ who taught all of us that we must be willing to forgive 70 times 7 times. The child of today must be taught in the home that anger has to be controlled.

We all know the distinctions between justifiable and unjustifiable anger. We all know that the tragedies in these high schools of the past have been caused by unjustifiable anger in some form. When you read Carl Jung he reminds you over and over about the importance of teaching spiritual values and spiritual teachings to the children who God has entrusted to your care. It is interesting when you go back into the third century that St. Basil referring to unjustifiable anger called it a form of temporary madness. Another great teacher of the church, St. Thomas, always wrote about the common good. And what teenagers have to recognize today in their schools is that if they know someone who is showing signs of subnormal behavior, showing signs of behavior that is filled with strange aberrations when that person should be reported to the authorities in the school immediately. If they do not respond, they should be reported to the parents or the police. They have to be aware that in doing this, they are protecting themselves. If you go back into the tragedy of Littleton, you will find that two young men killed fifteen classmates and if they had been reported that whole scenario would have been different.

Anger that is unjustifiable creates havoc in the individuals life. The removal of anger or the lessening of anger in each one's life has to be done through and with the help of one's spirituality. The teachings of Christ concerning forgiveness of oneself and forgiveness of others are basic points at which to start when a person succumbs to unjustifiable anger. When you think of the tragedies that have taken place in our culture so many of them start in the mind of a child that was never taught that uncontrollable anger can lead to the tragic death of many. Jesus Christ has given us a theology of love and a theology of compassion. Each one of us has allowed our anger at times to get out of control, but today, because of the culture in which we live, there is so much more violence and we have to individually teach ourselves the value of controlling our tempers and in particular the young people how to control theirs. There is no doubt that Jesus Christ offered us a philosophy of forgiveness. It has to be learned in the home and then brought into the classroom, hopefully, it will lessen some of the violence that is growing out of proportion in the minds of the young.

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