Conversion


Conversion is more than a change in direction, it’s a change in connection. (Frank Viola & Len Sweet’)

I was recently re-reading the introduction to A Jesus Manifesto jesusmanifestby Frank Viola and Len Sweet, a book that urges Christians to put Christ at the centre of their faith in very powerful language, when my eye fell a sentence which seemed to be filing in a gap in my thoughts somewhere, even though I can’t even exactly say why. But it did remind me that there are much more different factors in conversion than most people think of….

Conversion is more than a change in direction, it’s a change in connection.

Conversion, often simply seen as the change of religion, which can be more accurately be described as the turning towards Something Higher that hadn’t an important place in someones life before, deeply impacts a person, and it does not happen overnight. One does not just become a Christian, or Marxist, or modern Pagan, or very convinced atheist without changes on different levels or domains of their lives.

There are at least 4 different levels that I will explore in this post.
Edit: Note that I’m only talking about the individual level here, and thus about conversion of a human being in one lifetime, not of his family or culture over the generations…. Shifting baseline is a very strong factor here, and things like forced conversions will play out very differently over a longer time and beyond individuals… Even the kakure kirishitans are not recognisable as Catholics anymore…

Intellectual acceptance of information
This is the lowest level of what happens during conversion, and if it happens it’s  not actually a conversion at all yet. Just accepting information as true in the abstract can be a step in a conversion, but it’s not at all the most important thing, even though some atheists and Christian apologists use all their energy to work on this domain. At least that that’s what I would conclude from the way they try to convert people by using a lot of reasoning and logic.(I suppose  personality type is very important here too.)

The issue is that belief and faith are not the same thing at all. Belief is accepting information, while faith is trusting Someone/something. Americans who have faith in the constitution don’t believe that the document exists, but that it is important, and that it should be followed because it will bring liberty for all and yadda yadda… Christians should have faith in God, and thus trust God to take care for them in some kind of way. (See psalm 23 for example) Mere belief in something that goes against the naturalist worldview is not ‘religion’ at all. It is often part of religion, but some people can have just a very intuitive connection to God (or another deity) with no concrete beliefs at all, only a deep natural connection. That’s what faith is, not just ticking the box before every line of the creed…

Acceptance of a Reality in a Paradigm shift
This is a step deeper, and goes beyond the rational to the acceptance of a Reality that is percieved in one way of the other, and thus accepted. Often a paradigm shift happens when the data don’t seem to fit with the beliefs held, and the old worldview is rendered obsolete by the actual world as encountered by the person. This is often not a choice, but a realisation that just needs to be surrendered to.

On the other hand, just accepting a reality does not convert anyone either. I can believe_800happily accept the existence of Loki, fairies, or the information in Marx’ das kapital’ without converting to anything at all. A lot of people believe in God, not just as information but a knowledge of a Reality, without doing anything with it.
That’s no conversion at all yet.
Only if I make a connection and change my life towards one of the things I’ve acknowledged as a reality I really convert myself..

Polytheists are very interesting in this regard. They acknowledge the existence all kinds of gods, but that doesn’t mean that their path involves all of them. The polytheist will have connection with certain gods or deities and not with others that are as real to them, just as a human I do have friendship with certain people and not with others, even though I do completely believe in their existence…

So what’s needed for a real conversion is not just accepting how reality is, but aligning ourselves with that Reality.

Change in direction
So a  change in direction is what is often seen as a definition of conversion. You change your ways, and thus convert. ‘Repent and follow me’ is what Jesus said.
But there is a-one problem: this still can be completely outward, or in other words, fake. One can pretend to convert, and change outward ways without having any conversion at all.

Forced conversions for example are often lacking in this area. People are outwardly converting to the new religion, and become nominal Christians, or Marxists, or Muslims, but in their heart and behind closed door they remain connected to their old gods or God. Crypto-paganism probably lived on underground for centuries after the moment when Christians or Muslims made their religion the State religion.

The same has happened with Christians under rule of other religions that 330px-Maria_Kannonexpected them to convert, sometimes under threat of death too. The Japanese kakure kirishitans are a fascination excample of that: the Japanese Catholic Church went undergound during the Edo period after the Shimabara Rebellion in the 1630s when Catholicism became forbidden, and remained hidden until recent times, slowly evolving to something hardly recognisable.

No-one can really be forced to convert. It’s easier to take someones life than to take away the connection they have with their God in some cases. True believers will keep their connection no matter what happens…

Making a New Connection
Real conversion is also making a New Connection, as Frank Viola and Len Sweet said in the original . Not just an outward change in direction, but an inward change in connection.
We turn away from our former values, and gods, and embrace Something New that will guide our life, and connect with it.
When we become Christians we will from now on follow Christ, make Him the center of our life, and build our life around Him.
Others see that the deep Truth in Marx’ writings calls us to change not only our lives but the world for better. Or or give ourself over to the Higher Truth of science and reason because there’s nothing else to demand our obedience as source and truth. And so on… But it is only when we make the connection to whatever Higher thing we have come to believe in as real, that we really convert…

This does have several implications for us as Christians, as well as for others I suppose…

what do you think?

peace

Bram

Bram Cools Music: ‘Father I am tired’ + more contemporary Christian Muzak to come…


Hi readers,Mangocoffeesepia

Probably not everyone reading my blog is aware that I am also one of the most unknown musicians on the planet, but for those interested in my music, here is an update.

The Bram Cools classic ‘Father I am tired’, can now be heard and downloaded in a previously unheard version here  on my soundclcoud. Or click on the coffee if you like.
(Yes, for those who wonder: all instruments and vocals -including the choir!- are just Bram in this one!)

The rest of the news is that this upload of ‘Father I am tired’ can be also seen as the first ‘single’ announcing a coming electronic release of the old ‘Contemporary Christian Muzak’ songs, finally together on one album! This should have happened 5 years ago, but still it’s better soon than never.

For the uninitiated: Years ago now I had a band called the Contemporary Christian Muzak collective (or CCMC). We tried to play some kind of experimental Christian music that did both connect to the Creator and make some interesting sounds that haven’t been used 100 times before already. Most of it was not exactly elevator music for a boring Christian radio station providing safe happy clappy Christioa music for the conservative middleclass as the name might suggest, but raither some kind of rough folky indierock, mixed with very weird free-from noise and experimental impro-parts as well from time to time…

We only did a few concerts throughout the years but we did have a lot of fun, and I really miss those days! But time passes and things change, and the bandmembers had families and other bands and other stuff going on, so it all sort of fell apart. Unfortunately We never did any studio-recordings as a band, and no real CD-worthy live recordings have been made either. So all that’s left is my own home-recorded multitrack-versions with mostly myself on a lot of instruments, some of which were never finished. Finishing them is what we’re going to do now, so that in the near future everybody can listen to Contemporary Christian Muzak as much as they want…

I hope you all enjoy the song and share it with others who might like it.

peace

Bram

Some interesting links elsewhere (April 2015)


zone50I seem very busy at the moment, with ideas in my head that don’t get the chance to be converted into blogposts. But here is my list of interesting links elsewhere for April 2015 nonetheless…

(Picture is from my new DeviantArt, where I put some of my very unprofessional photographs from time to time now… And yes, I do like Sepia a lot!)

by Christian Piatt. Not that I agree with everything (I don’t even think I really understand the exact Buddhist meaning of ‘ego’ -I don’t think many Christians do- although I disagree with ‘the self is an illusion, but Western Christianity is way too ego-driven sometimes!)

The blogpost Am I really a Lesbian? at the spiritual apocalypse blog. Written by a lesbian woman married to another woman, but a completely different angle than a lot of things I regularly read. (Much more Christlike if you ask me)

These animals might go extinct because no-one wants to eat them (yes, really!)

Another one to read and work through, whether or not you agree with it or not: Social justice bullies: the authoritarianism of millenial social justice.  There indeed is a lot of very agrressive, unloving and not very rational discourse going on under the guise of ‘social justice’ these days, especially from the US.

Why Jesus is Anti-Capitalist by Micah Bales. Duh…

Another sign that Christians need to get away from both materialist reductionism on one hand and weird sensational supernaturalism on the other hand and  acknowledge the spiritual world in a more humble and dare I say, rational way: (at the Wartburg Watch) I can remember Wagner having influennce on the Charismatic circles, and I do know these sorts of ‘spiritual mapping’, but this is just dangerous nonsense which has nothing to do with Jesus or the bible. Why so some want to see demons an the like eveyrwhere where they aren’t (without  noticing them where they actually are), completely sidetracking God and Jesus in the process??

Faith in the system, or faith in Jesus? by Chaplain mike at internetmonk with a nice picture of Charles Darwin himself: “I was impressed anew at how evangelical Christianity comes across as faith in a system rather than faith in the person of Jesus Christ.
(Which reminds me for some reason of the Omian religion in Terry Prachett’s ‘small gods)

Completely unrelated: newly discovered small flying dinosaur (not a pterosaur!)  loooking like an inbetween form between bats and birds

I personally do think that our Western tendency for divorce, and making other things more interesting than relationships are much more to blame for this than ‘gay marriage’.  why would anyone still believe in marriage as defined by our cultures when most of them around us fall apart?

The Muslim man who chose to die alonSonhgside the Ethiopian Christian martyrs

I do like things that connect with global Christianity. So I want to learn this Song heard around the world , which I don’t know but is based on a verse I have been trying to write a song from too, although I’ve never finished it.

From Steve in S-Africa: Xenophobia, xenomisia, and the failure of transformation: Xenophobia and xenomisia taken together mean “the fear and loathing of foreigners”, and that fear and loathing undoubtedly exists in some circles.

Dan Brennan reviews Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian on John H. Armstrongs blog, and gives an interesting plea against the Freudianised friendship ethics of a lot of Evangelicals…

Just interpret this however you want: Female chimps making, wielding spears . Maybe weapons were invented by women after all from an evolutionary POV. No idea what this would mean to romantic feminists who say men disrupted the balance…

Anything that caught your eyes this month?

Bram

Some interesting links Elsewhere (March 2015)


tussi

March 2015 was a strange month, with time running in weird circles, computer problems and not that much time to read articles, so my list of interesting links elsewhere is quite short, and one day later than planned…
(Picture by myself, ‘kleinhoefblad’ (Tussilago) is a sign of spring here, but yellow is hard to get right on photograph with my small cheap camera;…)

I linked on FB to a article called The Joy of Promiscuity this month., because I liked the pictures even… Yes, my interests are diverse and this one really might not be for everybody…  (It’s about breeding perennial kales… What DID you think?)

What scares the new atheists by John Gray, himself an atheist but not impressed by Dawkins and Co.

The antimodern musings of the Orthodox Father Stephen resume with the provocatively titled post saving a democratic man.

Filmmakers move away from white Jesus. Which is not a bad idea, but moving away from American Jesus might even be more needed (be it Hollywood or the American ‘conservative’ version… There are wrong ways of representing Jesus in a culturally coloured way that go much deeper than just skin colour..

10 bad reasons to become Pagan; This one makes me wonder: what are good and what are bad reasons for being a Christian (or atheist for that matter)

Pope Francis: A Christian who does not protect creation ‘does not care about the work of God’ <– This friend speaks my mind…

Micael from Sweden about an American pastor named Dollar and stuff like that: Why You Shouldn’t be Rich: The Poor and the Climate Can’t Afford it

There are no heroes in the kingdom of God by Paul Munn

Why it is important to recognise there are diverse sources of diversity. by Matt Stone on curious Christian.

What can Christians learn from neo-pagans and ‘magickal’ traditions?


esoMatt Stone at curious Christian recently asked the question “Can Evangelicals Learn from Occult Traditions?” on his blog. It’s a questions that deserves way more comments and discussions than he did get. In it he did refer in his post to a book with a similar title called ‘Can evangelicals learn from world religions’ by Gerald R. McDermott that I haven’t read but that looks very interesting.

McDermott wrote a superb book entitled, “Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions?” The text explored the ways theologians of the likes of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin had historically engaged with Pagan philosophers of the likes of Plato and Aristotle and asked what a similar exercise might look like today. In the process McDermott explored aspects of Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism and Islam that Christians, evangelicals included, could profit from … even if only to rediscover forgotten aspects of their own tradition.

I do believe that every tradition, Christian or otherwise, is most likely to have things we can learn from, and things we should not learn at all. So I would definitely answer the question with ‘yes’, and for my own post (which is also part of the March 2015 Synchroblog – What I Appreciate About [Other Religions] I will broaden it a bit “What can evangelicals learn from neo-Pagans and ‘magickal’ traditions?’.

I’ve been having online conversations with neo-pagans, witches, other ‘occult’ folk and newagy types for a while now. A lot of my prejudices, weird stereotypes and outright lies that some Christians told me about them were shattered there, and I did meet a lot of wise and interesting people (as well as negative creeps and dangerous idiots, but Christians, atheists or Muslims do have those as well…), and I did learn a lot of things from them.

(Yes, I might have entered conversations and places that wouldn’t have been safe without Divine protection and the gift of spiritual discernment, but hanging out with other people, even Christians isn’t without risks either and might require the same amount of discernment and Divine protection actually…)

So what could we learn from Occultists, neo-pagans, wiccans and others who practice magick as a part of their religion?

1. Recover some of what we’ve lost in modernity
Modernity as we know it is a strange place for Christianity to find and contextualise itself, and getting too modernised can be quite dangerous for the Christian faith even. (Which is true both sides of modern Christianity, fundamentalism and liberal Christianity, although often in opposite ways)
A lot of modern Christians for example are quite handicapped when it comes to the ‘invisible world’ after what the enlightenment did to our culture. (See also Thoughts about the spiritual ecological naivete of modern Westerners for a more thorough exploration of that problem)
There is much more than meets the eye and can be dreamt of in our modernist philosophies, but even if we try to go there can can really struggle with finding ways to understand and conceptualise it from our modern paradigm in a way that makes sense…
Yes, we lost a lot in the age of disentchantment that protestantism and the Christian renaissance-humanism of Erasmus started and that has been influencing us for roughly 500 years now, creating a very non-supernatural world for us. (Which might ironically be the biggest magical trick ever , seeOur nonmagical modern world as the biggest magical trick ever…)
But Christianity is deeply connected with the supernatural world, and has a lot of claims that are quite useless in a purely naturalist/materialist paradigm. Which is not so strange; Christianity as we know it has pagan and Jewish roots, not enlightenment ones, and was born inside of a much more enchanted world than ours. And no matter how hard we try, we won’t make much sense of a lot of the gospel writings without an understanding of a world that is more than our modern materialist one.

Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity are probably one of the ways in which the Spirit sent us a correction of this disenchanted false worldview, but sometimes even those religions are through and through modern in a photonegative way. And here it can be interesting to connect with those who have retained their connection with the supernatural. (Yes, I know neo-Paganism and Wicca are mostly modern reconstructions, but we still can learn a lot from how they try to make sense of the Spiritual world in modernity sometimes.) I also think that the thoroughly postmodern chaos magick and its chaosunderstanding of paradigm shifting could have taught the emerging church a lot that it needed to not fall into the rigid and very dogmatic bounded-set neo-left-liberal trap that it ended up in… Which doesn’t make sense for a disappointed postmodern oecemenical evangelical as myself…
(See also: Some postmodern paradigm-shifting: from C.S. Lewis to chaos magic and back…)

2. See who the other really is without prejudices
In some Christian circles there are very scary views of ‘the occult’ that are worse than fiction, and that should be placed in the library net to stuff like the medieval maleus maleficarum. Some people even paint a view of non-Christians being just different groups of demon-influenced groups that all work together to hinder Christianity,  mostly in the form they regard as ‘the one true faith’, liberal Christians or even churches who have a slighly different view on god knows what bible verse might even be on the other side too with all of the other evil infidels… Which does not mean that there’s a lot of dark stuff going on among the magickal folk, but sometimes what Christians think occultism is is complete nonsense. (Take this Carman song as a good example)

We should never forget that as Christians we should care for the truth, and not spread lies about anyone, not even about Satanists. (most of which follow Anton Lavey and don’t believe in the entity Christians call Satan anyway) So it is always etremely inmportant to listen to people and let them self-identify instead of spreading wild stories and conspiracy theory. And even if we completely disagree with what someone believes we should not distort it if we describe it.

A lot of Christian descriptions of ‘occultism’ are not just slander but just outright ridiculous. Frank Peretti in his ‘darkness’ books for example lets new agers, devil-worshipping Satanists and atheists work together to oppose Christians (of a very conservative American variety). I’ve you’ve ever met people of any of those groups, the chance that they will work together and have common goals with the other 2 groups are not bigger than with fundamentalist Christianity. No atheist will like new-age or satanist superstition more than Christian superstition. A Satan-worshipper will not bother with secular atheism andd look down upon fluffy new-age BS. And no Newager in his right mind (hmmm) will get involved with either inverse-Christian Satanism or a worldview that excludes the supernatural…

Most of these people are not concerned with opposing Christianity, except where it hinders them in being who they are and doing what they want to do. If people are opposed they will try to stop that opposition. But non-Christians who agree with the Christian ideas about God and that want to oppose that God are quite rare. Most have totally different ideas about God/gods/the Divine/whatever… and are not interested in fighting with a misconception although they might fight the power of Christianity when in power, or criticise the things they see wrong in it (sometimes rightly). People generally do not want to attack a God they don’t believe in. Opposing God as Christians see Him is meaningless and out of the question for most non-Christians. There is no specific anti-God conspiracy!

So it can be very interesting to just talk with people like neo-Pagans, Wiccans, and others and let them explain what they believe and practice in their own words. FB groups like the Pagan and Christian moot or Watchtower are very interesting here for example.

It’s true there are a lot of people in and far beyond magickal traditions that are not very positive towards Christians. But that’s often because Christians have been very negative towards them. The least we can do as Christians is try to listen, try to understand who they are. They are all humans like us, and a  lot of them want to do a lot of good in their own way. And there’s really a lot of people in those communities who have been hurt and are still regularly hurt by Christians  who spread all kind of weird accusations about them. Nothing Christlike about that, we can do a lot better, guys!

3. Acknowledge the parallels and learn from them
This will probably be my most controversial point here. But yes, studying magick (even if it’s in theory in my own case) as a Christian can open our eyes to certain parallels between certain beliefs and practices within Christianity and paganism or magickal/occult traditions. (Let’s not forget here that most Western Occult traditions are derived from Christianity btw., except for paganism, Wicca,chaos magick and the like… )

Yes there are parallels between ‘energy healing’ and faith healing, and there is a lot more to say about ‘Divine energies’ (an Eastern Orthodox concept). Jesus seems to be doing forms of ‘magick’ in some of his miracles.  We can even see shamanic motifs in the gospels. (this bible study by ‘Captain Longpost’ on Marks gospel on the Pagan and Christian Moot forum is recommended for everyone.)

A lot of magick is done with the invocation/evocation of deities or other entities, and our Christians prayer can be seen as in the same category. We are oathed to Christ, the incarnation of the Creator of the Multiverse, and we do find our spiritual power and authority in Him.
This does not mean that other gods do not exist btw, we only do not regard them as gods to worship as Christians. My view about them is that they are more on angel/archangel level than the same species as the Supreme Being anyway…

But there also is a grey zone with human power that most people don’t believe in… A lot of magick is about projecting strong will (think also about ‘the secret’, ‘the law of attraction’ and even pop-chaos magick sigils) and recognising this can help us discern where Christians move outside of Christianity to revert to human magick. Without being focussed on God miracles are not something to be impressed by, and not something that needs to even be connected with Christianity at all. Just magick… And some ‘name it and claim it’ stuff very easily rolls into these kinds of magick, with a lot of miracles and rock’n roll going on…

…while Elvis has left the building already…

What we should never forget as Christians
We should not forget that as Christians, we are ‘oathed to Christ’. We are to root ourselves in God, the Ultimate Reality, Ground of Being, Creator of the universe through the incarnated and resurrected Christ, God-with-us, and through His Spirit in and around us. It is important to see this as a Reality, not just an article of faith to intellectually accept. Heaven and Earth are full of His Glory, as the ancient Hosannah-hymn says. In Him we live, in Him we move, in Him we have our being…

We live in a Spiritual world that is bigger than we can understand or grasp, and more Real than we can perceive with our senses. The material dimension is only one part of it (although not unimportant to us embodied beings, and apparently to God, who incarnated in one of us!).

One of the most-neglected but most-needed gfts of the Spirit might be the discernment of Spirits. I do think we should all ask the Holy Spirit for a bigger dose of that, and not only when we participate in interfaith dialogue with world religions or magickal folk, but also within Christianity. A lot of stuff, from theology to miracles does have other sources than the Holy Spirit, sometimes human, sometimes darker than that. And we often don’t recognise that at all…

shalom

Bram

This post is part of the the March 2015 Synchroblog – What I Appreciate About [Other Religions].  Be sure to read the other participants too::

Some interesting things elsewhere (Februari 2015)


glycymerisAs we approach the end of the month, it’s time to post the new list with ‘some interesting things elsewhere’.  The picture is indeed from ‘elsewhere’ (my offline life even) and is a fossil Glycymeris-shell I found when I was walking along the river Nete here in Lier, Belgium. Most likely a Pliocene Glycymeris varabilis if my determination attempts are correct.

Let’s go from the Pliocene to pre-Christian paganism, or at leeast the reconstructed forms of it: Last month I posted about the New Norse temple in Iceland, the first in 1000 years. If you want to know more about the reconstructed paganism, here is an interview that the ‘highpriest’ Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson in 3 parts: part 1, part 2, part 3. And I also found an older article a new beginning for Greek Paganism too. It seems that our myth of secularisation and linear evolutionary views of religion need some serious reconsidering…

There are certain blogs I will tell you to read every time I get the chance. Lana Hope with Confirmation Bias, Worldview Bias, and Arguments for and Against God’s Existence. Eric from the Jawbone of an ass with The Gods By Any Other Names.  Some criticism of our modern economic views on Holy Spirit activism in The Economy of Need and the Economy of Greed.

Sarah Moon with 16 Things That Happened When I Went to The Creation Museum. Seems to be quite a weird place if you ask me….

Some myth-busting about the middle ages. (I don’t know why it is mostly a certain kind of atheists that like to perpetuate this kind of ahistorical lies, but it can be very annoying and I frankly do expect more from people whose highest ideal is ‘reason’)

David Wilkersons book ‘the cross and the Switchblade’, about how he as a country preacher went to the street gangs of NY in the fifties to bring the good news of Jesus, and did some quite spectacular things was very important for me as a teenager. So reading this on the Wartburg Watch about the organisation he started saddens me a lot: Is Teen Challenge an Abusive Rehab Program?
The Quaker Testimony of… Truthiness? by Micah Bales. How seriously do we take ‘let your yes be yes and your no be no’?

If you want to join the secret society of the Illuminati, please visit their site. And oh, download their printable black’n white folder in  PDF. If I were the most mighty secret society on Earth I’d definitely have a printable black’n white folder in PDF on my website…

Carl McColman with Seven hopes for the Christian (and church) of the future. Based in Karl Rahner’s saying that ‘the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all’, a sentiment which I echo…

New Aaron Strumpel record: Bright Star

(And oh, if you missed my re-release of a very obscure Bram Cools CD-R from my ‘Contemporary Christian Muzak’ period last month and you like obscure Christian lo-fi; go here: CCM II: psalms and prayers in lo-fi)

Twitter bio generator: “Twitter advocate. Devoted coffee evangelist. Wannabe food maven. Amateur travel fan.” Not me, but there are probably a lot of people on twitter to whom it would apply…

Bill Kinnon on Narcissistic and/or Psychopathic Church Leadership.  It seems to me that narcissists in leadership are always dangerous, but are also very common. It might cost us our planet one day…

Christian supernatural author Laura Cowan with Coming out psychic. Raises some interesting questions… Coming out with this kind of abilities doesn’t fare well in either conservative Christian (evil demon-possessed occultist!)vor certain atheist circles (such things are not real because Science™, please let them cure you and don’t  disturb our materialist worldview…)

 What did you see that was interesting this month?

Bram

The virus of evil: animal farm revolutions and the cycle of violence…


Today we will explore the following potentially controversial one-liner:

Hate and violence are an infection that often spreads in new ways through their victims.

So what does that mean? It’s just another way of describing the cycle of violence, that so often works as a vicious circle….

From the beginning of our human history, certain forms of evil have always been furthering themselves in the form a spiral of violence. This spiral of violence works a bit like a zombie apocalypse: if the zombie bites you, you get infected with ‘zombieism’ and thus become one yourself, and you will most probably bite others too.
Surely my comparison isn’t perfect: The big difference here is that zombies generally work together against uninfected humans, while the evil aroused in us by violence and hate done to us is mostly directed to those who infected us with it. But hate and violence do work like an infection passed on to their victims nonetheless.

The principle is very simple: other people filled with hate and violence towards us do evil to us, and that damages us (or even kills us or people around us) and part the reaction to that evil is that it creates similar hate and violence growing inside of us.
It is probably one of the least-recognised effects of evil done to us, although one of the most destructive too. Evil done to us often grows more evil in us and thus generates a  new host from which it can operate. It’s often very simple: the people attacked in a barbaric war will fight back with equal barbarism. The oppressed become the oppressed. The hurt will become the hurting one. Thanimalfarme bullied becomes the bully…
The violated go on violating the violator and those who are in his camp, and so on…  The spiral of violence is sad and often very predictable, and will never bring us forward. The only thing that come from such a reaction is new variations on the well-known ‘animal farm revolution': the animals who have killed the farmer will in the end become worse than the farmer ever was. Like a friend of mine says in one of his songs:

History does not repeat itself, it just escalates

I repeat this: one of the most dangerous effects evil done to us can have is to take us as it’s new host to continue its life cycle like a virus that goes from host to host, mutating freely to adapt and maybe even get more vicious.  And it’s hard to stop this cycle. Our human sense of justice demands that we are righted, and that the evil is repaid.
We often forget here, blinded by the logic of this virus, that revenge does never make anything right or does not bring anything or anyone gone back, it only devours our soul from the inside and dissolves our own humanity!

Real justice is restorative! Evil must be stopped, and its influence limited, not just on us, but also in us!

Now, what I’m telling here is not very new at all. It’s something known to a lot of tradition, from the words of Jesus to some sayings from the Buddha or the Tao Te Ching. Take for example the next saying:

He who holds on to hate is like one who drinks poison and expects the other to die. (ascribed to the Buddha)

Deep down inside we should know this. Hate will only destroy us from the inside, and evil will never work drive out evil, violence is not the best way to stop violence (except in the case that the other side is completely exterminated). It will not make the world better. We need to stop this virus, this endless cycle.

If we want to live, we need to erase the cycle of violence. This means that we need to answer evil with good. Even in our heart. Especially in our heart.

Let’s contemplate the words of Jesus in Luke 6 in this regard:

27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. 31 Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Yes, it’s the radical Christ-stuff of loving enemies and repaying evil with good. It’s also quite important if we indeed believe that loving God and loving our fellow human is what matters most in this life.

If we don’t get a revolution in which everyone gets rid of this evil, including both those who are victims as those who are lead by it; it will be completely ineffective. The only revolution that makes sense in the long run is the revolution that restores the humanity of both the oppressor and the oppressed, and rids both of the evil that keeps them from recognising each others shared humanity!

This does not mean that we should give in to evil, we should confront it everywhere we meet, but we should never give it the chance to make us dehumanise the person on the other side. Even though there are times that for our own safety we can’t be in the same room as someone who has done us evil, we should not hate them. We might need to cut all their influence from our lives, and we need to realise the nature of what has been done to us and not minimise or conceal it.

But we should not allow hate to root in our hearts. We should not allow dehumanisation of our enemy. If the terror has won our hearts and has found a new host, it doesn’t even matter whether we or the terrorists win.

And even in the case that pacifism doesn’t work and violence has used, we should mourn for every fellow human on the other side that dies. Killing a human being made in Gods image is always a terrible thing, no matter how messed up they were. Our real enemies are never flesh and blood, but the systems, lies, etc that make us enemies.

Note also that what I’m saying here is inspired not just by Jesus and the Buddha, but has been lived out by people like Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, or for example closer to myself Pat Patfoort whom I once saw in a seminar on nonviolent conflict-solving. She developed her ideas when she was in Africa, and works with very traumatised people in war zones (Rwanda, Chechnya and so) , as well as giving relationship counselling since it works on all scales.
Western pacifists can be a bit naive and otherworldly sometimes, and if they have only been staying in their couch reading blogs instead of going to the country their own government is bombarding at the moment (like Shane Claiborne did) it can  be not very convincing. (That said, we’ve tried to use violence for much longer and it didn’t work either… I mostly only escalates unless one of the sides goes extinct.) But If people can reconcile the traumatised after a genocide like Pat Patfoort does, you do get my attention….

I do think also here of how Corrie Ten Boom as a WWI concentration camp survivor of WWII said after the war that it was the victims of the Nazi brutality who were able to forgive were the ones who were best able to rebuild their lives. Which makes a lot of sense in the light of what we’ve said.

Our soul is way too important to let it be filled with hate, and to let us dehumanise others, no matter what they’ve done.

Love is the only law, and the only thing that will remain

love and peace

Bram