Why July 4th Troubles Me: my loyalty is somewhere else.


As I logged onto Facebook today, I saw the predictable and obligatory independence posts clogging my news feed. Offensive images of the American flag with scripture scrawled about, countless posts about how “great” we are, and a host of other pro-American jargon that simply doesn’t represent what should be the humble attitude of Jesus followers.

July 4th used to be one of my favorite holidays, but now, it is a celebration that deeply troubles me. Here’s why:

The mere word “independence” insinuates that everyone in our country is actually free, and equal under the law. This however, is not- nor has it ever been- the case. America has benefited from the sin of slavery throughout her entire history, including today. Today, we still enslave people both directly through forms of human trafficking and modern slavery and also via institutionalized, cyclical poverty which entraps her victims with little hope of ever attaining true “independence”. And, if not hidden slaves within our own borders, we conveniently benefit from slave labor in other countries- far enough away so that we don’t see it, yet convenient enough to keep our favorite products at low prices.

We aren’t all independent. Not everyone is free. Not everyone has equal rights.

Additionally, as we celebrate July 4th, we are celebrating a day when two supposedly “Christian” nations chose to use war and violence to settle their differences. This violent choice, on both sides, was made in spite of the fact that central to the way and example of Jesus, is a radical love and forgiveness of one’s enemies that forbids the use of violence. The way of Jesus bids us to put down our weapons and instead, pick up a cross.

The fact that we fought… destroyed… killed… and did so under the false pretense that somehow God was supportive of our violent choices, should be a fact we deeply repent of- not one which we celebrate as our nonviolent savior watches on.

Finally, as a Christian who is desperately trying to follow the teachings of Jesus, American nationalism deeply bothers me. It’s not that pride in one’s country bothers me, it’s how Americans do it that bothers me. We don’t just celebrate the fact that we love our country- we have to take it to the maximum and celebrate that “we are the greatest country in history” and that we’re the “hope of the world”. In American Christianity, we have allowed our faith to assimilate with nationalistic culture like the slices of bread in a grilled cheese sandwich. As a result, we have forgotten that as Jesus followers, we are sojourners- citizens of another place- and that our loyalty must be to the Kingdom of God and not Empires of Man. Instead, we somehow have been lulled into a belief that we can be for both “God and Country” when in truth, the way of God often conflicts with the values of our country.

The ways of God are different than that ours.

As Christian Americans, we say “We’re number one!” yet scripture tells us: “don’t think more highly of yourselves than you ought”, and “consider others as more important than yourself.”

The way of Jesus isn’t the way of our culture. It never has been.

American culture says: “blessed are the talented. Blessed are the rich. Blessed is the country with the most powerful military…” but in the backwards Kingdom of God, the truth is that “blessed are the meek… blessed are the poor… blessed are the peacemakers…”

Believe it or not, Jesus himself confronted this same issue of nationalistic identity which detracted from the message of God. In Luke 4, Jesus gives his first sermon- unfortunately, Israel had expected her Messiah would affirm their nationalistic identity, which is similar to ours. They thought they were God’s “chosen people”, that they were “number 1″, and that the story was all about them. Yet, Jesus began his ministry by indicating that the Kingdom of God is available to everyone, not just Israel.

That it’s for the poor.

The blind.

The slave.

Those outside of the circle…

And so, they tried to kill him. Nationalistic identity, when given too high a priority, will cause people to do that- as we see all throughout history, including our own.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to live in this country- and I served it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to celebrate today- but not our violent history, my identity as an American, or the falsehood that we are the “best”.

Instead, I’ll quietly spend time with friends, and love them- those who are like me, and those who aren’t.

Those who are inside of the circle, and those who seem to be out.

I will love them… simply, authentically, and quietly, as I remember that I am a citizen of another place.

A place that has values which are the opposite of the values of the world I live in.

A place that blesses the weak, the marginalized, and those on the outside.

A place that tosses out the invited guests, but invites the rejected and forgotten to have a seat at the table.

A place that is different than America, or anywhere else.

I’m a citizen of this other place, and that is where my loyalty resides.




About Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey is an Anabaptist author, speaker, and blogger. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Theology & Missiology), is currently a 3rd year Doctor of Missiology student (a subset of practical theology) at Fuller Seminary, and is a member of the Phi Alpha Chi Honors Society. His first book, Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, is available now at your local bookstore. He is also a contributor for Time, Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, Evangelicals for Social Action, Mennonite World Review, has been a guest on Huffington Post Live, and is one of the CANA Initiators. Ben is also a syndicated author for MennoNerds, a collective of Mennonite and Anabaptist writers. Ben is also co-host of That God Show with Matthew Paul Turner. Ben lives in Auburn, Maine with his wife Tracy and his daughter Johanna.

You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

  • http://emerginganabaptist.com Ryan Robinson

    Amen. As a Canadian I’m always part interested and part appalled to see Independence Day, especially in contrast to Canada Day only 3 days earlier. We are no doubt very proud of our country as we celebrate on Canada Day, and while most of us probably would say it is the best country in the world, there just isn’t the same kind of “we’re better than everyone else” rhetoric. Plus we got our independence mostly peaceably, so there isn’t the same tie-in to violence, and we don’t have as many remnants of Christendom in place so there isn’t the tie-in to thinking we are God’s favourites.

  • Jan Carver

    I do not agree with this statement, “central to the way and example of Jesus, is a radical love and forgiveness of one’s enemies that forbids the use of violence.” Jesus did not forbid the use of violence – Jesus is the Word in the flesh – the Word of “GOD” His Father/Abba – God did not forbid violence & used it many times to His benefit & those he was “trying” to teach & discipline [mainly the Israelites of which we Gentiles are grafted in if you are a true believer of/in Christ]. This easy greasy faith some of you younger folk have been taught is not the TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL nor Jesus & His disciples. Love is judgement & violent too & heaven is taken by force. Stop the lie of no violence – there will be no peace and/or war until the Prince of Peace comes back & sets His feet on the Mount of Olives. Read your Word – especially Daniel & Revelation – war & peace till the end.

  • patty Smith

    Thank you for putting words to feelings I have felt but not quite understood. A testimony of my Christian self, that needs to keep working it, so that I can indeed feel as though I am living it.

  • Deano

    I feel it’s appropriate to have a national holiday commemorating the founding of the United States. Celebration of our “noble experiment” is not an endorsement of all of America’s faults, inconsistencies and excesses..it is just a personal appreciation of our country’s ideals…one day, for me at least, to be free from cynicism

  • http://cleanhandsandapureheart.tumblr.com Kim M.

    Once again Ben, you pen the burdens I’ve carried in my heart — this one since adolescence when I stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance because something in my spirit felt wrong. @Jan Carver: Jesus is indeed the Word made Flesh and wars were fought in the Old Testament but not to “His benefit.” Pray about this: A.) God does not need war, man or anything but man needs God. Wars were fought because man had become violent since Cane. God’s hand merely influenced man’s chosen way of life (in only certain wars) for His own purpose. B.) Please consider the life of Jesus Christ in its total message: Along with being the Word made Flesh, His birth fulfilled the law; His Lordship is the Sabbath and as Risen Lord He is the New Covenant. The nation of Israel and the Kingdom of God are not synonymous. As the spiritual children of Abraham we live by the Spirit of God and God is Love. That God used war for His own purpose is not our license for violence. We must look at the context for Matthew 11:12. He is referring to a time frame that begins with John the Baptist’s life (not the Old Testament wars) and is referring to the Kingdom of God not the nation of Israel. The “violent” referred to are NOT His children (the Kingdom of God who suffer violence) but those who have been INFLICTING violence on His Kingdom. Jesus forbade Peter from using violence to defend Him at His arrest.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    @ Jan- nonviolence isn’t a “lie”. I think “love your enemies” speaks for itself. Additionally, the doctrine of nonviolence and love of enemies is at the heart of historic, orthodox, Christianity. To reject loving your enemies, is to reject orthodoxy.

    Please don’t let this new, unorthodox theology of the “end times” and the new, false theology of the Church Israel Distinction, cloud the red words as you read scripture.

  • Peter Gardner

    Jesus has commanded violence, at times — He commanded the Israelites to conquer Canaan, and to execute criminals, under certain circumstances. Unless you want to draw an excessively sharp distinction between the Old and New Covenant, you have to come to grips with the same God saying “Love your enemies” and “blot out the memory of Amalek”.

    However, since the time of King David, God has not commanded any war in particular. Historically, Orthodox Christianity has understood the conquest of Canaan, and its associated violence, to be first a necessary time of, in a manner of speaking, getting it over with, to prepare the way for Christ, and second (more relevant to us), a parable for rooting out sin from our own lives, again, to prepare the way for Christ.

    We see in the Law, given by Christ Himself on Mt. Sinai to Moses, and endorsed later by God in the Flesh, that God allows controlled violence under certain circumstances for the protection of the people at large. (This, of course, is far from an endorsement of the 21st century American policies on capital punishment, though it does mean that there are conceivable circumstances where execution might be the least-bad option). The Law is a tutor, as the Apostle Paul says, to teach us about sin, to lead us to Christ, and on a somewhat more mundane level, to keep a particular late-bronze-/early-iron-age levantine culture functioning long enough for the necessary criteria to emerge for God to become Incarnate.

    As predicted by Christ, there will be violence in the world until the Second Coming. Christians have held since the time of Christ that to live in peace, as much as possible, with those around you is the best and holiest way of life.

  • http://cleanhandsandapureheart.tumblr.com Kim M.

    “We see in the Law, given by Christ Himself on Mt. Sinai to Moses, and endorsed later by God in the Flesh, that God allows controlled violence under certain circumstances for the protection of the people at large. ” There is no biblical foundation. Like many doctrines today it merely serves to support those things one is not yet willing to repent of (violence/revenge) through rationalization. That God chose to have Israel “blot out the memory of Amalek” in no way sanctions members of the New Covenant to use violence. He is God, we are not. He is Creator, we are created. The doctrine of permitted violence is merely the pride of life rationalizing its existence. Jesus fulfilled the Law. Jesus began a New Covenant. To minimize the New Covenant because one prefers aspects of the Old is to deny Christ Himself. He taught His disciples how to live in the kingdom of God (starkly differently from the world they’d known) with absolutely no teaching that violence was acceptable. He said it would not be easy to follow Him. It goes against our human sense of justice and compensatory living. But God’s justice is in harmony with His mercy and grace and we cannot even think like Him. Further, we are called to live in humility recognizing that vengeance belongs to Him, not us. In fact, one could say it this way: Jesus was more concern with ‘protection of His followers from the sin of unforgiveness than from bodily harm.’ Followers of Jesus submit to turning the other cheek instead of trying to theologically rationalize their way around it, not because it rationally makes sense to us, but out of a deep, abiding love that creates a surrender to Him. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One but at the same time distinct. That the Father gave the Law does not negate the Son’s teaching on discipleship. The Son is the fulfillment of the Law and that is not drawing an excessively sharp distinction, but acknowledging the Truth. The bible is not a history or sociology textbook. The Gospel is simple.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    Good thoughts, Kim. Thanks for your input.

    Jesus is the central figure of the Bible; he lived and taught nonviolence and love of enemies. Jesus bids us to follow him, and Paul says we are to imitate him- therefore, to justify violence is to fail to imitate and fail to actually follow, Jesus.

    Historic, orthodox Christianity teaches nonviolence. All of the early church understood this- as we see by testimony that all of the disciples, less John, went to their deaths nonviolently.

    To try to make claim in support of violence from the OT is a dangerous mistake. The OT exists to show us what didn’t work- Paul calls it the “shadow” and bids us to resist returning to it. A shadow is a negation, it shows us what a person is not, instead of what a person really is.

    Jesus was the exact representation of God, and shows us what God is really like- loving and nonviolent.

    Furthermore, Jesus blasted the religious leaders who would justify behavior by the law, but missed the fact that the scriptures were all pointing to him. If we want to justify violence by pointing to OT narrative, while ignoring that Jesus is the reference point which scripture points to, and Jesus is the person we are to follow– we commit the same sin as the Pharisees.

  • http://theologicalgraffiti.com T. C. Moore

    Welcome to blogging as a nonviolent Despised One, my friend :) These response are way too predictable. (What are people being taught in churches these days??)

  • Erik Warren

    Your premise that the command to love your enemies forbids violence appears to ignore the difference between what God expects from us as individauls vs what he expects of governments.

    God ordained government and one of the reasons he did so was to punish those who break the law.

    Another reason he ordained government was to protect the weak.

    Can you explain how governments are to carry out those functions without ever using force?

    You seem to think the use of force implies a failure to love. Certainly force is often used without love but use of force is not a sign that there is a lack of love.

    Did your parents ever discipline you? Was that because the failed to love you? Wer they sinning by not being non-violent? Every discipline is backed up with force. Even go to your room or sit in that chair must imply the use of force or the command will simply be ignored.

    You are actually troubled on account of folks claiming that the UISA is the greatest country ever?

    You really think that shows a lack of humility?

    You have swallowed too much multi cultural sensetivity propaganda.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey


    1. Where did I say governments can’t use violence? Never said that. They can. Christians can’t.

    2. Am I actually troubled that we claim the “USA is the greatest country ever?” and do I think this “shows a lack of humility?”

    Yes. Absolutely.

  • http://Cleanhandsandapureheart.tumblr.com Kim M.

    God did not ordain government. And herein lies a very slippery slope the Body of Christ in America has been on for 30 years. Government is a man made institution. The notion of God’s ordaining government emerged from the right-wing movement of the 1980′s when the “Moral Majority” was established for the justification of the church seeking political power with which it could attempt to legislate the interpretation of righteousness held by a relatively small but financially powerful sub culture within American Christian community and pronounce judgment on its interpretation of unrighteousness through legislation. God Himself ruled over His people. Priests, judges were not governors and held no power in themselves and the temple was not an institution. Their sole accountability was to God whose sovereign will cannot be compared to legislative maneuverings, collective bargaining or dictated human will. In 1 Samuel 8 however, His people ask for a king instead. God’s Word is clear that His people’s desire for governance through a man is a rejection of God Himself. Man created every form of the instution of government and for this reason it can never reflect the heart/will of God. He has given us the Bible for that. I’m not suggesting anything about government except that a) it was not ordained by God and b) man’s elevation of government is a reflection of vanity and humanism. The statement “God ordained government” is in error. It speaks to the political success of the right wing movement in American politics but does not speak from God’s Word.

  • Peter Gardner

    I was looking for something unrelated, and found this article on violence in the Old Testament, which may be relevant to the discussion here: http://fatherjohn.blogspot.com/2013/06/stump-priest-what-about-violence-in-old.html

  • Nick

    Jesus was mostly non-violent, agreed, but do not forget that he cleansed the temple of the money changers with a “whip of cords.” Don’t assume they all cleared out merely by his brandishing it. Individual human beings where literally whipped by the Son of God. Obviously, this is the exception not the rule, but you cannot claim the non-violence preached by Christ had no exceptions.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    Actually, I can claim that Jesus was 100% nonviolent, because that’s what he teaches and lived. The cleansing of the temple was non-violent disobedience. Had Jesus beat and bloodied the money changers, he undoubtedly would have been immediately arrested. There is not a single mention, anywhere in scripture, of Jesus acting violently toward other human beings. Had he done so, this would have contradicted his teachings of “not resisting an evildoer”, “turning the other cheek” and “loving enemies”.

    By saying that he literally whipped individuals is to ADD to scripture. It’s not in the Bible, anywhere.

    Nonviolence doesn’t mean that one does not engage in nonviolent resistance. Jesus’ action in the temple was similar to that of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as popularized by the TV show, Whale Wars. They resist and harass the whale poachers in order to get them to leave, but they do not injure any human beings.

    Furthermore, my position that Jesus was totally nonviolent and that he taught nonviolence, is historic-orthodox Christianity. This is what the disciples and early church believed for the first several generations (until AD 170 and later) when converted pagans began entering the church and brought with them concepts of justified violence. Ultimately, this resulted in St. Augustine trying to broker a middle-ground deal (called “Just War Theory”). However, it is settled fact that the early church believed in nonviolence and is settled fact that scripture never mentions, or even hints, that Jesus was ever violent toward human beings.

  • Nick

    An addition:

    I’m not claiming the US has been justified in any of the battles/wars it has waged. I’m just saying a blanket statement saying that “a good christian is never violent” is false.

    Some argue that Christ only whipped the animals, but it is undeniable he turned their tables over and dumped their money. Anyone who has been one or know any “money changers” of our day know they wouldn’t take too kindly to such a provocation and is very unlikely they just left they temple because some hippie from the country chased away their animals and made a mess of their booths. They were likely making a days wages worth of profit for every transaction made, people generally don’t just walk away from profits like that because some stranger tells them to.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    So, what I’m hearing is that you’re not a biblical literalist and that passages from scripture and the teachings of Jesus (turn the other cheek, don’t respond in-kind to an evildoer, et. al,) shouldn’t be taken at face value, or literally, correct?

  • Nick

    I’d just like to start off with that I really enjoy reading your blog. It is a needed voice and does a great job of challenging Christians (including me) on the cultural biases we hold; American exceptionalism for one. And promotes awesome, charitable discussion, which is rare on the internet.

    I attempt use a literal interpretation of the BIble, rather than a literalist interpretation. (Just to be clear what those words mean to me: If the Bible said “it was raining cats and dogs” a literalist would say it was a miracle, mammals were falling from the sky, while a literal interpretation would be “it was raining really hard.”) I think the teachings of Jesus should be taken as the gospel writers intended them to be taken and that is in the context of the whole of biblical teaching as well as with an understanding of the age they were written, and who they were written for. I am not saying that Jesus encouraged or promoted violence in any fashion, but I do agree with Augustine that there is a small space for the appropriate use of force. I believe that a proper Christian understanding is that “the ends never justify the means.” And if that is true, and if violence is an objective evil (as you seem to be saying) then God would never command that violence be carried out to achieve good, including in the Old Testament. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Another thought: Why did Jesus allow Peter carry a sword (granted that it was improperly used in the garden of Gethsemane) if he would never have been justified in using it in any occasion what-so-ever? I’m not saying Peter had a full understanding of Christ’s teaching prior to Jesus’ death, but I would think Jesus would have addressed the topic when Peter wore it on his hip long before he cut off somebodies ear.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey


    Jesus commanded them to bring two swords, so as to fulfill the scripture that he was counted “among the lawless.”

    I agree on your concept of literal (which means translated according to the literature). It is simply my contention, that the early church universally understood that to mean a prohibition to violence. So, if we’re going with what an author intended for an original audience, the case is overwhelming that the original audience understood it to mean that we are to love our enemies and refrain from violence.

    Also, you seem to contend that all parts of the bible (though all inspired) are equally important- which isn’t what scripture teaches. Jesus teaches that all scripture pointed to him, and that his message was of more importance. This causes us to use the life and teachings of Jesus as a hermeneutic through which to view the rest of scripture.

    Also, there is great contention as to whether or not God actually ordered the violence in the OT. I side with scholars who say that he did not- but that’s a topic I plan to write about later.

    My point is this: if we really want to follow Jesus, we have to take seriously that his example is that of radical, nonviolent love of enemies, which we must emulate as his followers.

  • Nick

    Love of enemies does not necessarily mean non-violence as an absolute. While very rare, use of force is the loving thing to do. If a Christian comes upon a person about to conduct an objectively evil act to another human person, the loving thing to do is intervene. It is the loving thing to do to keep a fellow person from committing a terrible sin against someone else, even if using one’s fits is needed to do so.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    I understand that makes sense using cultural logic and logic of self-preservation, but if that were true theologically, why would Jesus say “do not resist (act hostile toward) an evildoer”? Why would his message invite us to “pick up our cross” which is symbolic of being willing to die instead of resisting with violence? Why would Paul say not to “repay evil with evil but repay evil with good”? And why did all of his disciples along with the early church understand his message to be that of nonviolence, if in fact, it wasn’t?

    I think you’re confusing nonviolence for passivity. I have been in both situations of being attacked with a deadly weapon and watching a loved one be attacked violently. Both times, I took action- but not violently to harm the offender. Nonviolence, to me, doesn’t mean you can’t go “hands on”, it just means that you refuse to injure another person. Instead, there’s use of nonviolent restraint, physically removing the person, and physically removing yourself, from the environment. I have used all of these successfully in the past to deal with violence without being violent (I’ll blog specifically later with the stories). The doctrine of nonviolence isn’t a call to do nothing, but rather a call to beat the devil by refusing to play the devil’s game.

  • Kim M.

    Here, here!!!!: “The doctrine of nonviolence isn’t a call to do nothing, but rather a call to beat the devil by refusing to play the devil’s game.” We limit our options in responding to threat or danger to violence because that is how we are socialized. Jesus said we would do greater things than He (when speaking death to the fig tree) but do we believe and act upon that knowledge or try to find an interpretation of “greater things” that will fit into a qualified faith? Anyway, there are times when imminent danger must be faced down by the power to do “greater things” that Jesus speaks of. There are also times when physical harm may in fact occur. I have experienced both. At the latter, I felt betrayed by God until I recognized Paul’s reference to “the fellowship of His suffering.” Seems the question becomes do we really want to “know Christ and the fellowship of His suffering”?

  • Nick

    Thanks for the clarification. It seems I did not fully understand your definition of non-violence. I equated it to “no use of force.” I am awaiting your future articles that further flesh out your positions. I could be convinced that if someone wants to rob, beat or kill me than I should choose not to resist. But it is my responsibility as a husband and father to protect and defend my wife and children. And being a mere 5′ 7″ and 160lbs, its not likely that I would be able to restrain or physically remove an average sized male attacker’s ability to harm my family without first injuring that attacker in some manner. So it is hard for me to swallow the concept that a Christian should never intentionally injure another person.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    I hear you, Nick, and very much appreciate that you’re willing to stick around and wrestle with this issue (though it’s not the only ethos behind the blog).

    Just to clarify your last statement: I don’t think that if you are violently attacked you shouldn’t “resist”, it is simply my theological contention that you shouldn’t respond “in kind”. There are plenty of other things one can do to defend themselves- best of all is to find a way to retreat.

    However, on the issue of self defense, I’m personally a fan of pepper spray: it is non-lethal, and only temporarily incapacitates the attacker without harming them beyond the temporary incapacitation. I actually think incapacitating them so they don’t hurt themselves or others would be the loving thing. But, I’m not able to theologically justify violent resistance such as the use of lethal weapons.

    In Luke 4 and other places, the life of Jesus is at risk, and instead of allowing them to throw him off a cliff, he slips away. So, “nonresistance” isn’t what I advocate- I advocate a nonviolent love of enemies.

    I really think there is a reasonable meeting place for both sides, if folks would just be willing to wrestle with the concept.

  • http://www.dirtydiaperchic.com laura g

    gosh darn it, I really like your blog and have appreciate your insightful responses to comments here. I’ve sort of been struggling with the idea nonviolent resistance recently, as a friend passed away from cancer and I hated the battle/fighting language used to describe it. But also didn’t like the idea that not “fighting” cancer=just take it. It is a bizarre angle to have come at this whole idea from, I admit, but I still really benefited from this discussion.

    I’ve also struggled a lot with the violence in the OT. and was sad to see the comments that seemed to indicate it’s NBD/God’s way. ick.

    Finally and most importantly, this comment made me saddest of all: “Did your parents ever discipline you? …Every discipline is backed up with force.” To discipline is to teach. Hitting a child, even putting them in time out, doesn’t actively teach them proper behavior. What is more, research has shown time and again that negative reinforcement/pos punishment is not a long-term behavior modification strategy and the only effective lesson they teach is to avoid punishment (which can be through behaving, or through not getting caught). To teach a child is to sit down with them and show them strategies to effectively interact with people and deal with challenges. Or to model those strategies yourself. If you’re just “disciplining” by using force and violence, ACK, you’re doing it so, so, so wrong. And it just makes me really sad. And I think our heavenly father should know this best of all. I mean, JESUS was the ultimate teacher and the embodiment of nonviolence. and yet so many christians area all about violence (in parenting, politics, etc.) ugh.