Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spiritual Violence 2

While no one commented directly on my last blog several referred to me over on John Shuck's blog. Some of the criticism is directed specifically directed to my limited definition of the word "violence." One person even quoted from an online dictionary! Seeing the definition I have to say I have indeed so limited the definition of the word that I have excluded some potential definitions.

Alan specifically invited me to come and speak at his blog. What follows, for the most part, is what I said on Alan's blog. Changes are in italics

Let's take a look at snad's list: (snad was the one who quoted from the dictionary)


1. swift and intense force: the violence of a storm.

2. rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment: to die by violence.

3. an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws: to take over a government by violence.

4. a violent act or proceeding.

5. rough or immoderate vehemence, as of feeling or language: the violence of his hatred.

6. damage through distortion or unwarranted alteration: to do editorial violence to a text.

#1 I HAVE defined this one out as I use the word violence only to describe human behavior. I clearly need to change my definition to include non human violence as well.

#2 Clearly what I'm talking about

#3 This one could or not be physical violence depending on what actually happens. If the taking over of a government happens without anyone being hurt but is done by force of arms it is still violence. On the other hand if someone gets hurt it is physical violence

#4 I hear violent act and someone gets hurt. As far as I can tell from definitions online a violent proceeding is a violent act against a person or a community.

#5 Here you are correct. Violent language would not physically harm someone. Clearly I need to change my definition in relation to this definition. I take this to mean one who uses immoderate or extreme language that either insults others or goes beyond the language suited for the situation. So if I tell a bad pun and someone calls me a (several explicatives deleted) idiot that person has spoken violently. There may well be one to one correspondence between violent language and spiritual violence if one is spoken to with violent language at church because of one's sexual orientation.

A serious question: is there a difference between saying or suggesting you are not welcome here because of your sexual orientation or you are going to hell because of your sexual behavior and "I think the Bible says what you are doing is wrong?" Are all spiritual violence or not?

#6 This clearly is NOT physical violence but I am not sure it applies to what we are talking about. It seems to me that this means intentionally misquoting someone or so radically editing a text that it means something different than the author intended it to mean.

So #1 may or may not result in a physical injury and is not committed by one human against another.

#2 Does result in physical injury and is committed by one human against another.

#3 May or may not result in physical injury depending on the level of force used. It also may or may not result in a restriction of human freedoms depending on the nature of the previous government and/or the nature of the resulting government. At the very least there is the threat of physical force.

#4 I think this means that someone is physically injured. Please tell me if you think I have misunderstood.

#5 Clearly I am wrong and need to change my definition. This may also include spiritual abuse. I will post this whole response as a new blog.

#6 Also not physical violence.

(Alan asked me to respond to his husband)


I am heterosexual. I suspect you would think that I don't get the gay rights issue. If you by spiritual violence you mean you have been told or treated like you don't belong in a church or that you are less than human because you are gay I would certainly agree that Christians should not talk to or treat anyone that way. All are to be welcomed with love.

Question: is it spiritual violence to simply say I think what you are doing is wrong? If that is true, Alan, you and those who agree with you should work to make sure I am removed from my privileged position.

Like I said, this will all be posted on my blog with an introduction to explain why I'm doing it.

Pastor Bob


Viola Larson said...

I have been thinking about this some. (Who would not with all the posting being done on the subject.) I wonder if we haven't strayed off course some.

My whole objection was that people were saying that Christians defending the biblical idea of marriage, as between a woman and a man, were spiritually violent.

If I put that in another context it looks different but the possibility of it being called spiritual violence is the same. For instance if I say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God some one could and has said the same thing about that belief.

But to accept that means that I would have to give up my Christian beliefs.

I think it is just too easy to redefine words to make a case against someone you disagree with.

What I am trying to say is I like the way you, and even Snad, in some cases, have analyzed what violence might be. I just don't think you can say that the belief that homosexual sex is sin is a case of violent spirituality. If I say God hates homosexuals then of course that is violent. But if I say he hates the sin, all of our sin for that matter that is not violence.

I know I am not saying anything new, just thinking out loud.

Snad said...


Thanks for your thoughtful response. In regards to your point about #6, I might suggest that someone who interprets a verse from the Bible - or accepts someone else's interpretation with such force that it demeans, degrades, or excludes people from God's love, is in fact doing a violence not only to the affected person, but to the text as well.

At best I think we can say "this is how I see it" or "this is what I believe". But when we say "This is what IS", we've turned that text into a weapon.

Arthur said...

"But to accept that means that I would have to give up my Christian beliefs."

Viola, what you believe does belong to you, and I don't believe anyone can actually take it away from you, so I suppose you would be faced with the decision of whether or not to give it up. It does appear to me though that your belief could be idolatrous in that you appear to believe it is precisely God's Word and intent and that the rest of us should believe it too.

Viola, sometimes I get the impression from reading your blog and the comments you make on other blogs (like this one tonight) that your prayers are less about you asking God's Spirit to guide you to a true understanding and more about asking God's Spirit to guide us to your understanding. I guess I could be wrong about that, but that is the impression I get. I'm not GLBT, but I have no difficulty seeing how the things you write (actually the way you write them) could feel spiritually violent to someone who is.

I would ask you to try to put yourself in the shoes of those you disagree with, and try to feel what it feels like to listen to you. If you have done that before, and came away thinking you've been sufficiently gracious and that you haven't sinned (spiritual violence), then I suggest you try it again. Now don't take me wrong here, I don't believe I get it right either.

I truly believe you believe you have felt God’s saving grace working in your life. I can also tell you with total conviction that I believe I feel the same grace from the same God working in my life.



I agree.

Pastor Bob said...


I hear you. Nevertheless there are some passages,properly understood in context, that should cause all of us to be concerned about the state of our souls. I think Paul, read correctly, clearly says that there is salvation only in Jesus. Sometimes people say this in such a way that it demeans and thus rips the true meaning from text. Other times even when we talk about God in loving ways people get upset.

Love happens in the way we hear others and in the way, when necessary, we disagree with them.

Snad said...

Arthur said "Viola, I sometimes get the impression that your prayers are less about you asking God's Spirit to guide you to a true understanding and more about asking God's Spirit to guide us to your understanding."


Bob said "Paul, read correctly, clearly says that there is salvation only in Jesus." Ok, sure. But what does THAT mean? Does that mean the salvation of Jesus can ONLY be obtained by agreeing with you? Or Viola? Or Fred Phelps? By succumbing to the rock in hand?

Sorry Bob. I'm still reeling from the suicide of a friend on Sunday - a bisexual friend who struggled with many things, his sexuality being one of them, and the acceptance of his questioning by people in his life who could not accept him the way he was. As I told another friend, his self-loathing was staggering. And while I do not blame "spiritual violence" alone for his suicide, it surely didn't help.

Viola Larson said...

May Christ's love and comfort be with you during your grief.

Alan said...

Pastor Bob,

Sorry, I was away yesterday and didn't have a chance to respond.

But I have to agree with Geoffrey. This is crap.

My husband writes a comment talking about his experiences as a child with hate and violence and abuse in the church, and your response is "don't let experience trump Scripture." Who the said it did? And what the makes you think that's ann appropriate response? Whoever taught your counseling courses in seminary needs to be sued for malpractice.

Being a pastor is not like laying pipe. You are not God's cold, calculating, unfeeling engineer. At some point it might be useful for you to stop seeing your work as plumbing and start being pastoral.

Someone writes an article about spiritual violence in the church and your response is to question the validity of that experience from your high position as a straight guy. As Snad says, ask an abuser if they're abusive and of course they'll say no. Instead, you decide to nitpick about the particular word that is used to describe that experience. How, in your view is that even remotely pastoral?

This is the way you and your friends operate. If a gay guy writes something, anything, about any topic whatsoever, you cannot agree. You believe this is war, so then you cannot give any ground, or even be seen as giving ground (because if you do, you know the busybodies, fusspots, scolds, and tattletales on your side are circling to make sure you're "orthodox" enough.) So, even if you can't find anything to disagree with, you make it up. In this case, you find a word ... one damn word ... to grouse about.

For you and your cronies these little games may be fun, but to us, they're gruesome. This spiritual violence, abuse, or whatever word you feel more comfortable with, is KILLING LGBT kids. Period. This spiritual violence plants the seeds for physical violence, and yet you think it's more important to consult Oxford on the proper use of the Queen's English.

In addition, you and/or your friends aren't content with just making up phony things to grouse about like word choice, you also enjoy the fun game of pretending that we've said things we've never said. You all try to portray our position as "any disagreement is violence." I've read Michael's article several times, I've read Jon Pahl's article which Michael cites several times, I've read all these comments here and on the other blogs on which this discussion has taken place. Michael never said disagreement = violence. Jon Pahl never said disagreement = violence. Brian didn't, I didn't, Snad didn't, Geoffrey didn't, Arthur didn't, GayProf didn't, John Shuck didn't. Gavin didn't.

The only people making that specious argument is you and your friends. I wonder why that is. Could it be that the busybodies, fusspots, tattletales and scolds can't actually address the issues and so then simply pull out their usual Weapons of Mass Distraction?

It's called a "straw man". That's probably also in a dictionary.

All these distractions because, well, agreeing with queers? Well we can't have that now can we?

I've said about half a dozen times now that this is not about word choice. This is about real abuse really happening. And this is about your arrogance in presuming to lecture us about our own experiences.

This is about you needing to talk, instead of recognizing the need for a pastor to start by listening.

Pastor. Pastoral. If you're so keen on the right use of words, I'd suggest you look those up.

Alan said...

That was cross-posted from my blog, BTW.

Pastor Bob said...


I am sorry about your friend and am praying for you.

As to salvation being only in Christ that DOESN'T mean you have to agree with me. Well, except about salvation only being in Christ. :)

Pastor Bob said...


I said quite a bit more in my response than you responded to. And, while maybe I didn't make this clear, I meant to say what you have responded to is my unconscious, first without thinking response. I didn't say it was a correct response. Please read the sentence following.

Alan said...

Sorry, I can't keep up with 3 discussions on 5 blogs. My responses are over at my blog ... anyway, there are more people participating there than here, apparently.

I hope this doesn't stifle discussion, though unfortunately I presume there are those who comment on your blog who would never dare come to my blog (eew! gay internet cooties!) They'll just have to deal.

But I just can't keep up with so many discussions at once. :)

Viola Larson said...

May I say you are truly a good Pastor and I pray God just keeps pouring blessings on you as you stay faithful to him.Alan is right,"You are not God's cold, calculating, unfeeling engineer," instead you are a very warm person who tries terribly hard to reach out to everybody whether you agree with them or not. I am so glad to count you as my friend.

Presbyman said...


I've been lurking during this discussion. To be honest, I am not convinced that true dialog is possible on such charged issues, at least not with people who feel personally attacked by traditional views on sexuality. I admire your noble efforts, but I don't see this going anywhere. Speaking for myself, I am pretty much done with it at least for the time being.

Snad said...

Presbyman said "I am not convinced that true dialog is possible on such charged issues, at least not with people who feel personally attacked by traditional views on sexuality."

Sounds like blaming the victim if you ask me.

Alan said...

Feel personally attacked or *are* personally attacked, John?

I have attempted to have reasonable discussions on several of the blogs of the "consistory" folks, and those discussions inevitably have indeed turned into personal attacks. While I attempt to speak to issues and interpretation in the abstract, intentionally keeping things impersonal, it becomes for them just another opportunity to play smear the queer.

They intentionally misstate my positions, they make ridiculous assumptions about my beliefs, they respond with snotty sarcasm, and when that doesn't work, they just start deleting my comments.

Yes, you're right, these discussions will never go anywhere, but as snad says, the reason isn't because of those of us who are attacked.

When you point a finger, remember that there are three pointing back at you.

Arthur said...


How can people be attacked by a "view"?

People are attacked by living breathing creatures. In this case, some people who hold certain traditional views are motivated by them to wield various forms of weaponry and direct their blows toward homosexuals.

It’s not your belief that causes injury to others. It’s how you behave as a result of it that causes injury.

AndrewHall said...

I have thought about violence and have come to the following position:

Telling someone they should believe something or behave a certain way is violence. One of the most common words we use, should, is a violent word. "Should" closes down communication, judges the other person (or ourself if we tell it to ourself), and does not invite openness.

My own thinking is that a spiritual path means that we should seek to empower one another, to encourage one another, and to place trust in one another.

Using violent language like "should" does not empower the other person. Insisting on the sanctity of scripture does not empower the other person.

Life and the spiritual quest are about the perennial questions which we address as best we are able.

In our Western culture, the Christian myth is, in my experience, a rich store of meaning that helps me better understand myself and my search for wholeness, a personal quest that comes more and more to the fore as my time in this life draws to its end.

To say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God is, in my opinion, a violent statement that degrades and devalues a large part of humanity. This is a constant question for those in the Christian faith - known in the past as the doctrine of the Salvation of the Elect. Can we believe that God in his mercy would condemn those who believe something else because they have lived in different culture?

That doesn't square with my idea of a compassionate God.

But I can only speak for myself and what my conscious allows me to say. If this offends anyone, I apologize.

Andrew Hall
Ottawa, Canada