In the coming decade in Ireland we will be reminded of how the history of this island has been shaped by violence. Whether it is in the remembrance of the blood covenant in 1912 resisting home rule, or the horrific events of 1916, the Somme and the Easter Rising in Dublin, leading eventually to the Civil War.
Too many so-called patriots have seen the path of violence as the way of redemption – and often that violence was not suffered, but inflicted.
I wonder what connection there is between the violence of our recent history and the epidemic of suicides among our young people. We who have played fast and loose with the lives of others, are now surprised at how cheaply our youth view theirs. Will we ever be free of it?
The notion here that the use of violence to overthrow another deathly power results only in a refurbished form of that deathly power is chilling.
The ambiguity, as I see it, enters where violence against persons becomes the recourse of rebellion. Where the ethics of change practices violence and, thereby, imitates the moral power upon which the enemy of human beings solely relies, then revolution—no matter how idealistic, how necessary, how seemingly glorious—is essentially bereft of hope even if it empirically prevails. I am not an ideological pacifist, or, for that matter, an ideological person of any species, but, as with the Berrigans, I am persuaded as a Christian that resort to violence to topple the idol of death in the state and in society invariably results in idolatry of death in some refurbished form. This is, in truth, the central contemporary, theological issue. It is the point at which ethics and eschatology meet, for if the practice of violence, even in the name of revolution, is hopeless, the practice of non-violence, even where it seems unavailing, represents a most extraordinary hope.
Harlem, Rebellion and Resurrection, Christian Century 1970
With that, I’ll take a break from William Stringfellow till the New Year.