Subject: NCC Weekly News: Sri Lanka, the Myth of Redemptive Violence

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From Jim: The Myth of Redemptive Violence
It now appears that the slaughter in Sri Lanka of Christians worshiping on Easter Sunday was carried out in retaliation for an earlier slaughter in New Zealand of Muslims who were themselves in the midst of worship. Extremists carried out both of these massacres, but we should not view these as isolated incidents. Attacks on houses of worship have become all too common. 

The cycle of violence is also known as the Myth of Redemptive Violence. For example, Dylann Roof, the murderer who killed those engaged in Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, said he murdered black people because he believed they raped white women daily. Timothy McVeigh asserted his bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was in retaliation for various attacks and raids carried out by federal agents over the years.

The drums of war and violence are beating once again. Frank Gaffney, president of "Save the Persecuted Christians," and a longtime purveyor of Islamophobia, is demanding the US government use the tools at its disposal to punish those who attack Christians. There are those who would love nothing more than a "holy war" to cleanse the world of people they refuse to accept.

I confess that when I was growing up, I was a true believer in the Myth of Redemptive Violence. It was no mere myth for me; it was an article of faith. I relied upon my belief in redemptive violence continually in my relationships with my younger brother and sister. My violence toward my siblings was physical and emotional, and in my mind, it was always justified as retaliation for some real or imagined slight. My violence was carried out simply to right the wrong(s) I had been subjected to. 

I don’t mean to be trite or flippant when I say this. I think there are genuine parallels. As the theologian Walter Wink pointed out so brilliantly in his powerful trilogy (Naming the Powers; Unmasking the Powers; Engaging the Powers), young children are indoctrinated into the Myth of Redemptive Violence through cartoons. 

As a boy, my favorite cartoon hero was Mighty Mouse. In each episode, Mighty Mouse saves the day from the bad guys and rescues fellow mice who have been harmed. Never are any lessons learned, never are relationships made whole. Each episode stands alone as a satisfying example of evil intent and actions defeated by a mythic hero coming to the rescue.
These same "lessons" are imparted through spy thrillers, westerns, and war movies. They are deeply embedded in our worldview. Road rage is another manifestation of the Myth of Redemptive Violence—‘he/she cut me off and I had to get revenge!’

Entire wars have been fought based on the Myth of Redemptive Violence. Remember the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 in which, supposedly, a North Vietnamese attack was carried out against an American warship? In retaliation, the United States killed as many as two million Vietnamese and lost tens of thousands of its own soldiers in a war of folly. 

My parents enrolled me in first grade when I was five years old. I was thus among the smallest children in the schools I attended. I reluctantly set my faith in redemptive violence aside for eminently practical reasons—fear of being beaten up being chief among them. This experience began to create doubts in my mind as I learned that kindness, negotiation, persuasion, and forgiveness—which I utilized out of necessity—could often work wonders. 

The Myth of Redemptive Violence is a favorite tool of the bully and the coward. It is no wonder that attacks have been carried out on houses of worship because people gathered there are not anticipating violence and because, ultimately, their faith teaches that violence is wrong. Equally, it is wrong to retaliate. What is proper is for a criminal investigation to be made, for those responsible to be taken into custody, for judicial proceedings to be held, and for those responsible for acts of violence to be held accountable for their actions. 

The Myth of Redemptive Violence is part of a mental superstructure that holds us in captivity and prevents us from becoming the people God intends us to be. We must disenthrall ourselves from such myths to advance the Kindom of God. 

Grace and peace,
Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary
NCC Expresses Grief and Lament Over Easter Attacks in Sri Lanka

The National Council of Churches expresses grief and lament over the horrific attacks against Christians in Sri Lanka as worshipers gathered for Easter Sunday celebrations on April 21, 2019, turning this joyous day into one of mourning and chaos. 290 people were killed and more than 500 were injured.

Upon hearing the news, NCC President and General Secretary Jim Winkler reached out to Rev. Ebenezer Joseph, General Secretary of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka with expressions of sorrow, solidarity, and prayer.

Violence against religious minorities has a long history in Sri Lanka. We pray these attacks will not result in a renewed cycle of violence and we express our hope that intensified interreligious engagement and cooperation may result from these attacks.

Shoulder to Shoulder with Sri Lanka

Our hearts and prayers go out to those in Sri Lanka, where hundreds of people were killed in bombings at three churches while celebrating Easter and at three hotels. We join leaders and communities around the world in condemning the attacks and reaffirm that no one should worship in fear or under threat of violence, whether it’s violence targeting churches and hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, mosques during Friday prayer times in New Zealand, or morning Shabbat services at a synagogue in Pennsylvania.

Hate and violence have no religion. The perpetrators of these heinous acts of violence aim to stoke fear, division, and further violence between faith communities; and there are people already using this incident to paint that entire faith community as culpable in this violence. We can not and will not let them win. Now, more than ever, we must come together and continue building a just society where all are treated with dignity and respect, no matter their religious or cultural background.

Global Ministries, Sri Lankan partner condemn heinous Easter Sunday bombings

Global Ministries leaders are offering support and prayers as they stand in solidarity with church partners in Sri Lanka, condemning the heinous Easter Sunday bombings that killed 290 people and injured 500 more.

The common overseas ministry of the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (DOC) is longtime partners with the Church of the American Ceylon Mission in Sri Lanka. Both faith organizations immediately decried the reprehensible acts of terrorism April 21. Bombs went off in eight locations on Sunday morning in the cities of Colombo, Batticaloa and Negembo. Three churches and three Star hotels were hit in a coordinated attack that targeted Christians and foreigners in the South Asian Country.

The Church of the American Ceylon Mission, a steadfast mission partner of Global Ministries dating back more than 200 years, immediately censured the killings and called for countrywide cooperation against terrorism.

"We consider these attacks on worshippers who gathered in the churches to receive the blessings and the peace of Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is against the norms of a civilized society and a threat to those who love Justice and Peace of the whole world," its statement reads. "We the Church of the American Ceylon Mission request the cooperation of every peace loving citizen of Sri Lanka, irrespective of religion and ethnicity, to join hands to eradicate terrorism in any form from our Country."

Christian Conference of Asia denounces the devastating bomb blasts in Sri Lankan churches on Easter Sunday

“The devastating bomb blasts that ripped through Sri Lanka including three churches holding Easter services on Sunday, 21 April 2019 killing 215 people and wounding more than 450 are heinous acts of terrorism, and are incompatible with the values of any religious teachings and moral values of a civilised society”, stated CCA General Secretary Dr. Mathews George Chunakara.

The successive eight powerful blasts left devastation in three churches and other places, including the capital’s well-known St Anthony’s Shrine, a historic Roman Catholic Church which traces its roots back to the 18th century. St. Sebastian’s church in Negombo, located north of Colombo, and Zion church located in the eastern coastal city of Batticaloa were the two other churches hit.

“The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) condemns these horrific acts of violence which shattered hundreds of Sri Lankans on holy Easter Sunday. We share the grief of the families and the dear ones of those killed, and we pray for the victims and their families”, said the CCA General Secretary.

Mathews George Chunakara further stated, “The international community has the responsibility to make every effort to combat the scourge of terrorism and ensure peace and security in the world.”

How long, O Lord, how long?

Even as we celebrate the resurrection, we ask: how long, O Lord, how long must violence and terrorism continue to wreak havoc in your global communities.

Our deepest condolences go to the Sri Lankan community, which yesterday suffered a terrorist attack of extraordinary magnitude as churches in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, as well as hotels and a banquet hall were targeted by suicide bombers.

We condemn these acts of hate, terror and violence, and we mourn for the more than hundreds of people killed or injured.

That these attacks occurred during Easter Sunday services in churches brings a particular pain to Christians around the world. Easter Sunday is a day of joy and life, a celebration of the victory of God’s love as the fundamental ethic shaping the world. Churches, like all houses of worship, should never become sites of violence, death and destruction, and, in fact, should be sanctuaries of peace and healing.

We call on United Methodists to join us in praying for our siblings in Christ in Sri Lanka, the entire Sri Lankan community, and all who were affected by Sunday’s horrific events. We also call on United Methodists to join us in advocating for peace and the freedom of religious expression and observation worldwide. The persecution of Christians, particularly in places where Christians are a religious minority, is an ongoing reality which highlights the lack of this essential freedom around the world.

Stated Clerk condemns attacks in Sri Lanka

As the threat of more attacks lingers in Sri Lanka, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is calling on all faiths to find peaceful solutions to their problems. As many as 350 people are known to have died in a series of bombings on Easter at three churches and three hotels. Sixty people have been arrested in connection with the attacks.

“We offer our consolation to all who have suffered devastating loss as a result of these most recent acts of violence,” said the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II. “We call on those in authority to put aside their apparent internal differences and work together to provide comfort for those harmed by these cruel acts and bring to justice the perpetrators.”

In his statement, Nelson said religious leaders need to determine the root causes of the violence.

“We must continually seek to discern what it is at the core of all religious ideology, including our own, that turns certainty of rectitude into feelings of exclusivity and, in far too many cases, motivation for violence against ‘unbelievers,’” he said.

Remembering the NCC's Witness on the Armenian Genocide

April 24 is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

From the resolution adopted by the NCC General Assembly in 2007:

From the 4th Century, the Armenian community has been a living and vibrant witness to the Gospel that is at the heart of our shared Christian faith. This community suffered through genocide at the turn of the 20th century, with the loss of one-and-a-half million lives through persecution by the Ottoman Empire.

The NCC General Assembly finds it unacceptable that the United States has yet to officially recognize the Genocide of 1915, which in fact decimated a majority of the Armenian population then living in Asia Minor. This year, after repeated efforts to bring legislation forward acknowledging this universally recognized historical fact, the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs passed legislation (H.R. 106) condemning this crime against humanity. Unfortunately, due to pressure from an Administration preoccupied with other diplomatic concerns, instead of embracing our country's tradition of affirming human rights, House leadership decided not to bring this legislation forward for consideration by the full House of Representatives. As persons of faith, we express our concern that the truth was not upheld by our elected representatives.

Therefore, the NCC General Assembly strongly urges the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives to bring forth this legislation before the end of this Congress. We do so recalling the NCC's long history of support for the Armenian community in its efforts to have the historical record rectified, and its equally long history condemning genocide whenever and wherever it is perpetrated.

See also:
Thursdays in Black: Making a difference one person at a time

“What can one person do” can often sound like a lament about powerlessness.

For Thursdays in Black, though, one person can build a movement.

David Emmanuel Goatley, Faculty Director of the Office of Black Church Studies at Duke University Divinity School in North Carolina, USA, learned about Thursdays in Black through his involvement with the World Council of Churches’ Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. He has now launched the campaign through the Office at Duke University.

“Many universities in the United States have a horrible problem of sexual violence,” Goatley states. “We must notice, name and confront this violence among young adults as they are forming ethical cores. We must prevent sexual violence, protect the vulnerable, provide care for those who are victimized and insist on accountability and restitution of perpetrators.”

Lament and Hope: A Pan-African Devotional Guide

In 2019, after centuries of structural change, protests, and policy reforms most often led by Africans and people of African descent, why do these groups still experience such disproportionately high percentages of hunger and poverty today? And why is there still such a wide wealth and income gap between these groups and individuals of European and Asian descent? 

An essential part of the answer lies in the history of the Quad-Centennial of the transatlantic voyage of African peoples from the country of Angola in 1619 to Jamestown, Virginia. The practice, and later policy, of enslaving African peoples before, during, and after this time are the foundation on which inequitable policies were established. Additionally, these policies have informed a practice and culture of colonization, racism, and Afrophobia around the world. 

In light of this historic moment, Bread for the World is honored to produce and dedicate the new 2019 Quad-Centennial monthly devotional, “Lament and Hope: A Pan-African Devotional Guide Commemorating the 2019 Quad-Centennial of the Forced Transatlantic Voyage of Enslaved African Peoples to Jamestown, Virginia (USA).” The devotional celebrates the hope, faith, and resistance of African and African-descended people, while also lamenting the evil and horror of the history of enslavement, racism, and inequitable policies, many of which are still present today. In addition, this Christian devotional acknowledges and seeks to inspire readers to address the resulting consequences of hunger and poverty through advocacy. Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, Sr. Associate for Pan African and Orthodox Church Engagement for Bread for the World, serves as editor of the devotional.

Earth Day Sunday is April 28

Each year, thousands of congregations set aside a day to pray, learn, and act near Earth Day, which falls on April 22. In 2019, Earth Day falls close to Easter. Earth Day Sunday can be celebrated April 28 or another day convenient for your faith community.

The 2019 theme focuses on children and youth leading the way for creation justice. Our Christian education and action resources will feature stories such as that of the youth who brought the Our Children's Trust climate change lawsuit against the federal government. The resource to be available for download now at


The Bible is full of beautiful language and theology for celebrating God's Creation. Yet sometimes, in the rhythm of the liturgical year, it can be challenging to find a specific time to focus as a church community on the theme of Creation. Earth Day Sunday provides just such an opportunity.

Since 1970, communities have taken one day each year to be especially mindful of the Earth and its many gifts: April 22, Earth Day. This day has ecumenical and bipartisan roots.

Ecumenical Opportunities:

The World Council of Churches Seeks a Programme Executive on Mission and Evangelism/Mission from the Margins: This person will facilitate and support an inspiring and effective involvement of Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized groups of Mission from the Margins in the life and work of the WCC, its member churches and ecumenical partners.

For more details, click here.

NCSS-RFC Religious Studies Summer Institute, July 9-11, 2019, Washington, DC

The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute and the National Council for the Social Studies invite you to join us at the Newseum in Washington, DC to:

  • Increase professional competence related to the disciplinary concepts and tools of religious studies as an academic discipline.
  • Increase personal confidence in teaching about religion in constitutionally appropriate ways that engage key stakeholders in your school context.
  • Develop working relationships with leading religious studies subject matter experts and curricular resource providers.
For more details click here.

Religious Studies Institute for Independent Schools, July 23-25, 2019, Washington, DC

The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute will host the Summer Religious Studies Institute at the Newseum. The program will convene K-12 independent school educators in the nation's capital to explore issues of religious literacy, civil dialogue and the challenges and opportunities of navigating religious diversity in the classroom.

Independent school educators will learn about religious studies as an academic discipline and increase personal confidence in navigating religiously and ideologically diverse classrooms while upholding their schools' missions. Co-conveners include the Thales Academy, the Council of Islamic Schools in North America, Sacred Heart Schools, and the National Catholic Educational Association.

For more details click here.
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