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Stopping Violence with Violence? It Never Works

Turmoil and uncertainty in Egypt have caused concerns about Egypt’s development of weapons of mass destruction, according to a recent MSNBC report.
 

Reasons for the growing anxiety are many, but a key issue is the possibility of Egypt’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty first signed in 1968.

 

Ironically, many believe the threat of war and violence is the only way to limit war and violence – a mindset most clearly formulated in the Cold War doctrine of “mutually assured destruction.” Its advocates say we must rely on “responsible” nations to possess the very weapons that threaten our destruction to discourage the use of these weapons by “irresponsible” nations – and thus maintain peace.

 

Recent events in Egypt, including Friday’s announcement that President Hosni Mubarak has resigned, have revealed that this distinction is precarious at best, and (as others have noted) the MAD acronym only heightens the dark irony of an ideology that believes we must move to the precipice of destruction in order to avoid it.

 

“The definitive renunciation of violence, without any second thoughts, will become the condition sine qua non for the survival of humanity itself,” wrote René Girard in his 1978 book, “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.” Regardless of the merit one assigns to his theory, it appears that human history has progressed to a point where we must heed his conclusions.

 

With the advent of the nuclear age, violence has crossed all boundaries and threatened the existence of the entire world. When turmoil in one country produces fear of nuclear war (even in the very leaders who believe the development and possession of weapons of mass destruction is essential to maintaining peace), perhaps it is time to find a better way.

 

 

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The blame can no longer be placed on any particular nation, group or leader. In Girard’s terminology, there are no longer any scapegoats to save us. Our precarious reality must be owned by all humanity because the “violence prevents more violence” belief has only produced more world tension.

 

We are standing at the proverbial crossroads. If we choose to maintain our present course – relying on violence to contain violence – I believe the end can only be ruin and destruction.

 

Alfred Nobel’s life was changed when he read his own obituary, mistakenly published in a local newspaper, which read, “The merchant of death is dead.” As a result, he vowed to leave a better legacy. What will it take for humanity to have a similar repentance?

 

What will it take for us to recognize that violence never brings lasting peace? What will it take for us to listen to the prophets of peace who call us to find a better way?

 

What will it take for us to heed Jesus’ warning, “If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52)? What will it take for us to remember the proverb we learned as children: “You reap what you sow”?

 

Zach Dawes and his wife, Peyton, are pastors of First Baptist Church in Mount Gilead, N.C. He blogs at Scribblings.