There is a reality in blessing…it doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it. ⎯Marilynne Robinson
After the horrific and senseless mass shooting last week where 19 children and 2 teachers were murdered just days after ten people were shot and killed in a Buffalo supermarket, I started rereading two books from my studies at Meadville Lombard Theological School where I earned my Doctor of Ministry degree. They are, Violence; Reflections on a National Epidemic by James Gilligan, M.D. and From Violence to Blessing by Vern Neufeld Redekop. I began my studies at MLTS because I wanted to understand the structures of violence and the roots of “deep-rooted conflict that has humankind in its grasp” (Redekop). In this year alone, there have been over 222 shootings in our country. I think we can all agree that this senseless killing has to stop.
How can we transform violence?
Vern Redekop explains what he calls “the structures of violence” by using case studies and wisdom from multiple sources including the Bible and the Quran. Intrigued by something he read that claimed it takes ten positive articles about a person to counter one negative article, Redekop was reminded that “within Islam one good deed counts for ten. A bad deed is counted at par.” I took this to mean that the orientation of violence in our world has become so structurally entrenched that violence has become the norm or “par for the course.” Blessing is the word chosen by Redekop when he searched for a word to express a correspondingly positive impulse to the negative force of violence. Blessing, he says, is so overshadowed by violence that it is expected, but it doesn’t have to be inevitable. Years of extensive experience and research led Redekop to the powerful conclusion that if structures of violence are our reality, then structures of blessing are possible. Structures of Blessing can become our reality instead of constant violence, but it is up to us to build them. What would “structures of blessing” look like? How do we build structures of blessing when violence has become an everyday occurrence?
Redekop writes that in deep-rooted conflict and scapegoating, people can become united around violence. “Imagine a situation in which people are united instead of working for the well-being of others…when people are united around a positive-centered practice, they can experience the same exhilaration around the shared experience as in the violent scenario.”
In general, mimetic structures of blessing are open and life-oriented, involving creativity and generosity. Mimetic structures of blessing result in trust, love, and joy, which are their driving dynamic. Emotions associated with mimetic structures of violence –anger, fear, hatred, resentment, envy, and shame. These occur from interpreting events as a threat resulting in an emotional response.
The Soul Matters theme for June is Celebrating Blessing. Contact me at email@example.com to receive a copy of the small group packet filled with readings, quotes, activities, and resources to help you explore the meaning and practice of blessing. If you are interested in joining me for a conversation and deeper exploration of how we might help move our world from violence to blessing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It feels overwhelming right now, but if we work together we can make a difference.
Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister