Can we heal the culture of violence?
THE issue of violence is prominent in our community conversations at the moment. Terrorism, drug-related violence, domestic and institutional abuse, and even road rage are insistently crying out for our attention.
Despite serious efforts over many years to prevent violence, to deal with its effects and to punish the perpetrators, there's now general agreement that violence will continue to escalate and to propagate fear in the community until we find and treat the real causes.
Fundamental beliefs that underlie and perpetuate violence are: that humans have an animal nature prone to competition, self-preservation and aggression; that certain brain-based dysfunctions may be the root of violence, aggravated by abuse or neglect during childhood; and that there are deeply rooted social and cultural patterns, leading to a distorted sense of manhood and womanhood, that may take generations to change.
People working in the police and community services often speak of how addiction and abuse reoccur from generation to generation, and there is now general realisation that special attention needs to be given to the families involved. There is some progress in breaking this cycle, as communities work together to fight apathy and educate each other.
A retired commanding officer in the police force shared one such approach: "…anytime I knew I was going to a call related to domestic conflict or violence I would pick up the local pastor." Often they were able to provide a spiritual viewpoint and connection that would later solve the problem.
It is often acknowledged that recognising a man's spiritual nature has a healing effect.
Significant psychological research studies find that spirituality is not only helpful to, but integral to mental health. This is an important point in considering individual and whole-society change.
Recognising the need to adjust our thinking about spirituality is vital.
For instance, it is helpful to realise that the spiritual qualities generally attributed to women - such as care for others, gentleness, forgiveness and patience - and those qualities attributed to men - such as wisdom, truthfulness, tenaciousness and strength - are innate in both men and women.
Jesus' ability to express both the fatherhood and motherhood of the divine set the benchmark for us. And like him, we're actually "tuned in" to hear spiritual intuitions that will prompt, direct and uplift thought.
Knowing that no-one can be excluded from hearing and acting on divine thoughts can help to overcome violent impulses and begin to heal the culture of violence.
A pioneer in investigating the effects of our thoughts on our health, Mary Baker Eddy, recognised this voice as the ever-appearing of "the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness." (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)
When Susannah (not her real name) moved out of home and obtained a copy of that book, she just loved the way the author described the divine power that governs the universe as Father-Mother.
Her family had suffered violence at the hand of her father for many years. To think her father could be capable of reflecting the gentle motherhood of God seemed absolutely impossible. However, she decided to stop wrestling with this idea and worked hard to try to see him as reflecting this tender divine nature; learning that he was meant to be nurturing, gentle, tender.
She began to replace the macho view of her father, and every other man she came into contact with, with this new view of men. Her thought and experiences gradually began to change.
As the weeks went by, she learned that her parents had not had a fight in months and her father was treating her mother and sister with new tenderness. Eight years on, this is still the case. (http://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/oob0825wou?s=e)
A scientific approach to thought and prayer in this way does not whitewash evil deeds; rather it exposes the mistaken beliefs and causes them to be destroyed.
Further changes in thinking about her own spiritual nature, meant that Susannah no longer saw herself as a survivor of mental, verbal or physical intimidation, but as a well-adjusted and balanced individual. She had no lingering emotional scars, but had learned truly to love and see the undamageable good in herself.
As Australian of the Year and domestic violence survivor, Rosie Batty, advocates, Susannah truly took responsibility for her own life, bringing vital change to those around her in the process.
Such an approach can spearhead healing the culture of violence in ourselves and in the community.