by Christopher Harbin

Discarding Violence
Christopher B. Harbin
1 Peter 2:23-3:8

There are many images of violence inundating our society. We see them on the news. We see them in our favorite television shows, in our movies, in the books we read, and in the general discourse in the larger society. We find some of the very same within our families and in our church interactions. It seems we are hard-wired toward violence, even to the point of glamorizing and enjoying it. How can we move beyond our violent tendencies to breed love, care, concern, and compassion in its stead?

Evolutionary biologists would tell us that the reptilian brain, the lower portion of our brains and brain stem, are responsible for our fight or flight tendencies. We respond to unknown stimuli with a sense of fear that is healthy in that is places us in a position to work for our survival in dangerous situations. Our mammalian brain, the higher cortexes, is able to override the immediate response to fight or flight as it assesses the stimuli around us to determine its level of danger or harm. It is in this portion of our brain that we begin to look for logical explanations for the stimuli around us and determine what the best response might be. For too many of us, however, we have not developed this second aspect of our existence sufficiently. We are much too prone to react instinctively, rather than take the time to give life situations a deeper look.

The ability to live beyond our instinctual responses is what distinguishes us from so many of the wild animals of the world. It is what gives us the option to develop complex cultures and societies which are not consumed by the level of violence we associate with the wilds. Cats and dogs live in cooperative hierarchical groups, finding their social ties to work in their better interests. Rattlesnakes, sharks, and spiders can be trained, but are not as disposed to cooperation for the good of the whole. We have the capacity to live according to a higher coop ...

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