Religion and Violence, a Brief Aside in a Larger Conversation


A footnote to the terrible incident on the 16th of September when Aaron Alexis rampaged at his workplace at the Navy Yard shooting many people and killing a dozen before being shot and killed himself was that he was a professed Buddhist.

I find myself thinking about this. Particularly within the context of our current times where so much of the violence that rages across the globe has a sectarian element to it. In particular much of the violence in the Near East has a religious cast to it. Also, here in the United States, while such incidents as Mr Alexis’ brutal assault on his coworkers usually do not have an explicit religious element, they sometimes do, and whether the assault has a religious component or not, still, people often look for a religious aspect to the event. Particularly, of course, if a Muslim is involved.

I’m not sure, but I suspect that outside a few people on one end of the spectrum who are totally innocent of any knowledge of world religions, or, at the other end those obsessed with the relatively fewer, although nonetheless never justifiable, moments of violence that are marked by Buddhist religious elements, the fact Mr Alexis is a Buddhist means there will be no particular focus on his religion.

With Mr Alexis, mental illness seems the most likely issue. And maybe access to guns is another issue to address.

Still, I think we would be foolish to not note when religion really is part of the issue. The mass murderer Nidal Hasan was clearly motivated by religious animus, whatever other factors are involved. To ignore that part of the picture would prevent us from understanding a critical part of the murky depths of his heart as he decided on his rampage.

And religious animus abounds. One way and another…

All this noted what would be both an open-hearted and a clear-headed approach to these things?

Here we need to pause.

I know I must confess my own feelings that I see religious animus in the violence against GLBT people in our own country. Of course that, for the most part, involves Christians. Sometimes, maybe even often, this is true. And, there’s a part of me, I fear, I see that just assumes…

Perhaps you’ve done such, as well. Someplace. With some religion.

Or, in some circles about those without religion.

So, for me, the project is, not being blind to real currents, but to remember the world is always a bit bigger than the box into which I try to cram it. And, when we’re called upon to make judgments, to at least leave the lid to the box open.

We might even do a bit less harm, if we do.

And, even, wouldn’t that be wonderful, open the door to a more generous and, with that, more accurate assessment of any given situation.

And with that, maybe even doing some good.

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