Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
In one sense, of course many computer games are extremely violent, with blood and guts flying everywhere, lovingly rendered. We may say the same of fairy tales too -- pretty grim. The mind is a violent place, just read the Bible if you don't believe me -- and a lot of that stuff actually happened! Earth, the planet, is surely violent. As humans aiming to be humane, we're concerned with making it no more violent than it needs to be. Gratuitous violence, like unnecessary suffering, are worthy foes.
The Quaker Peace Testimony speaks of outward weapons, which to my way of thinking leaves "inward" more to the imagination. Psychologists seem fairly united in warning against the psychic toll exacted by repression. To purge one's mind of any imaginary and/or televised violence would seem to require a deal with the Devil, and a loss of one's soul. How could we read most literature? How would we keep the Bible from infusing our imaginations with depictions of torture? Impossible, right?
For this reason, I am leery of the common practice among Friends of labeling speech acts as "violent" and thereby conflating an all-important difference between "inward" and "outward". My bumper sticker aimed to counter this is: Quakers Play Quake. For those not in the know, Quake is a semi-violent first person shooter, a successor to Doom.
Not that I really have such a bumper sticker (maybe someday), but it gets my point across: to play violent computer games is in no way on a par with using cluster bombs against real humans (combatant or civilian, it makes no difference). The latter is a crime, a travesty, a gross sin. Quakers would never endorse such violence. Quakers think outward war is for losers.
In my own mind, I might retaliate with imaginary violence against the perpetrators of such a heinous act, but given I'm not planning on "acting out" and use "my own mind" as the arena, I don't suffer any pangs of conscience. I recognize that I have an active imagination (a good thing) and move on, praising Allah (or God or whomever) for this great gift. I don't say I need to forgive or forget about those war crimes, just that I'm with Gandhi in countering outward violence (craven, cowardly) with true bravery (like he showed, as did MLK).
I actually think the Quaker Peace Testimony is undermined by those sensitive, fragile eggs who go around accusing one another of "violence" because they engage in Quaker practice. Suddenly it's "violence" to use satire or apply a label. We're engaged in "holding a meeting hostage" if we engage in any political maneuvering.
I'm fine with using metaphors, but not at the cost of losing touch with reality. Why is escalating the terms of debate OK? Is labeling outwardly non-violent acts "violent" in itself a violent act? Isn't calling someone a "name caller" a way of name calling? I find the "zero tolerance" Friends tend to spiral into a black hole of contradictions.
Like, the Lamb's War is a war, OK? Get over it. Call it "violence" if you must, but then in that inward sense, let's expect Quakers to be violent, in keeping with their commitments. Mark Twain is one of my heroes.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me" has come to sound like an uncommonly sage saying of late -- too wise for some contemporary Quakers?
In my outreach to Junior Friends (I'm nearing sixty), I'm not one of those who preaches they must never play Half-Life 2 or enjoy a good James Bond movie (some will call that an oxymoron). Letting off steam in this way is not intrinsically against the Quaker dharma.
That's my teaching at least. Others will beg to differ of course and I suggest they needn't beg as my permission is not required.