The Myth of Redemptive Violence

Around 2400 BCE, Indo-European warrior-nomads invaded southern Europe. The culture changed drastically.

In 1987, in The Chalice and the Blade, systems scientist and cultural historian Riane Eisler described the contrast between the two systems:
• Partnership style, where women and and men share roles and the difference between female and male is not equated with inferiority or superiority.[1]
• Domination style, where men rule by force and warfare is common.

Like all women, I grew up all too aware of the dominator influence in our culture, with our addiction to violence.

But I didn’t recognize the insidious belief system undergirding that ascendancy — until I read the work of theologian-activist Walter Wink, who nails it: the Myth of Redemptive Violence. This is the belief that demolishing the perpetrator of an evil will correct the evil; will redeem the situation. Killing the bad guy will solve the problem.

Whereas this kind of response to evil just perpetuates a vicious cycle of violence and hatred, and hoodwinks us to the situation.

Wink comments:

The myth of redemptive violence is the simplest, laziest, most exciting, uncomplicated, irrational and primitive depiction of evil the world has ever known. Furthermore, its orientation toward evil is one into which virtually all modern children (boys especially) are socialized in the process of maturation…. Once children have been indoctrinated into the expectations of a dominator society, they may never outgrow the need to locate all evil outside themselves.[2]

This just about ruined me for TV and movie watching. I notice all the easy solutions offered time and again by killing the bad guy. I can feel my programming telling me to be happy with it, and I’m not satisfied; I’m angry at being manipulated; at being fed that cultural brainwashing. I want a real solution to the problem.

[1] Eisler, Chalice and Blade (Cambridge: Harper & Row, 1987), xvii.
[2] Wink, Engaging the Powers (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 22.

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