I mean by “myth of redemptive violence,” in a nutshell, the quasi-religious belief that we may gain “salvation” through violence. People in the modern world (as in the ancient world), and not least people in the United States, put tremendous faith in instruments of violence to provide security and the possibility of victory over their enemies. The amount of trust people put in such instruments may be seen perhaps most clearly in the amount of resources they devote to preparation of war.
- Ted Grimsrud, “The Good War That Wasn’t – and Why it Matters.”
I hope in this post to tie together two different threads running through my mind. One is based on this idea from Grimsrud, cited above. The other is inspired by the recent attacks in Belgium.
Grimsrud uses the words “faith” and “trust” to describe the view held by many toward this myth – this god of war. Certainly it is not based on science or reality. It is obvious to all but the most willingly ignorant or willingly blind that the violence “over there” is easily paid back “over here.” Call it blowback, because that is what it is.
Does this stop the standing ovations at sporting events when military veterans are paraded out like saints? Does this stop worshipful treatment in every public venue? No and no. As if we are thanking them for the blowback they have caused.
Part of the effectiveness of this myth stems from its invisibility as a myth….We think we know as a simple fact that violence works, that violence is necessary, that violence is inevitable. We don’t realize that, instead, we operate in the realm of belief, of mythology, of religion, in relation to the acceptance of violence.
Citing theologian and social critic Walter Wink, to understand how this redemptive violence works toward achieving “salvation”:
“Violence is the ethos of our times. It is the spirituality of the modern world. It has been accorded the status of a religion, demanding from its devotees an absolute obedience unto death.”
Wink offers that this “spirituality” is more reflective of the Babylonian creation myth than anything deriving from Christianity: “It, not Christianity, is the real religion of America.”
The Babylonian creation myth, according to Wink, teaches that subduing chaos and establishing order requires violence. Let’s take a look:
The Enûma Eliš, is the Babylonian creation mythos (named after its opening words).
This epic is one of the most important sources for understanding the Babylonian worldview, centered on the supremacy of Marduk and the creation of humankind for the service of the gods. Its primary original purpose, however, is not an exposition of theology or theogony but the elevation of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, above other Mesopotamian gods.
To make a long story short, there is an epic battle of the gods: