Originally posted Feb. 1, 2011, at Luthermatrix Republished with permission of the author.
As has been widely noted, Christina Greene was born on 9/11. She was featured as a “face of hope” after the Tucson, Ariz., shootings on January 8 in which, of the six people killed, she was the youngest.
That her life was bracketed by violence in such a way has spiritual significance; it also says something about our present reality.
I believe it says something about a whole generation born into a world that has been set on edge by violence and threats of violence their entire lives.
Their lives have been enveloped in the War on Terror — worry about religious radicals and dirty bombs, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, torture at Abu Ghraib, easily accessible videos of Nick Berg’s head being hacked off, the Mumbai attacks in India — they have never known what it is like for America to be at peace.
Having entered into young adulthood when Christina was born, I can only feel an echo of what this time we live in does to the impressionable and young. These events have resulted in a certain cynical scaring of my own soul.
Four days before the shooting in Tucson, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab province in Pakistan was assassinated for standing up to extremism.
I felt bad for the loss of a good man, yes, but it fit into the larger story of this last decade — the triumph of violence, so I simply shrugged and thought, “Violence is essential to being human. Hobbes was wrong, it is not that the state of nature is nasty, brutish and short — it is what we are.”
Yet, when I first received a text about the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, I was still shocked and sickened, and I thank God for that.
My shock means my heart is not entirely immune to violence.
And now that we know more fully what happened that day in the parking lot, I am impressed by the counterweight that this particular story has to the larger story of violence that Christina’s generation has lived with.
There were too many instances of people laying down their lives for another — spouse shielding spouse — to ignore.
I see soul force meeting physical force. I am reminded that self-sacrifice — sacrificial love — is also embedded in our soul.
This helps me to look at the world around me again.
It helps me to shake off the depressing narrative that has built up.
It helps me raise my head and look at those standing against violence and for mutuality and understanding.
It helps me to look again at the world around us and find some hope.
It draws my attention anew to another international event that happened two days before the Tucson shooting.
On New Year’s Eve there was a deadly attack by Muslim extremists against a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt.
On January 6, the Coptic Christmas Eve, Egyptians from all over the country, anticipating more attacks on Coptic Christians, attended Christmas Eve Mass.
This may seem a small thing, but it conveys a collective heroism on the same level as John Roll, a federal judge, pushing Ron Barber out of the way of the Tucson shooter’s bullets, which cost John his life.
These Egyptians also offered their lives to protect others. They, too, in a faithful and courageous way, met physical force with soul force.
Therefore, while I am in full agreement with our president that we should live up to the democratic idealism Christina showed, I can’t stop there.
I believe we have a deep and abiding responsibility to be an anti-violent witness to Christina’s generation.
We must speak of historical counter-narratives to the violent story that has plagued her decade.
We must point to, and lift up, present instances of ethical behavior and faithful reconciliation.
We must speak and behave as a counterbalance to the burden of violence that marked Christina’s beginning and her end.
Find a link to Chris Halverson’s blog Luthermatrix at Lutheran Blogs.