Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. - Genesis 6:11-13The lessons appointed for the Daily Office are bringing us through the creation narrative in Genesis. Too often, we think of that narrative as consisting of the first two chapters of Genesis only; but, beyond the two creation stories we find there, the narrative continues by describing the creation of human culture. What the story tells us is that human civilization if founded on an act of violence fomented by Cain's rivalry with Abel. And from that primal murder the spiral of violence continues until if fills the whole earth.
This is a rather startling idea: that the genesis of human society is an act of violence. It should give us pause when considering the normalcy of everyday violence that we take for granted; the violence upon which we depend to sustain our lifestyle: domination of peoples and cultures, exploitation of workers, and despoliation of the earth itself. These myriad forms of violence make our "way of life" possible. When we stop to think about it, perhaps the idea that human culture is founded upon violence isn't so startling after all.
In the Genesis narrative, God despairs of the possibility of redemption in a world of violence. And yet, through the faithfulness of just one person, Noah, the flood of divine judgment is tempered by the provision of a new beginning, the hope for a different kind of world. All that stands between the total destruction that is the destiny of a world of violence, and the hope of redemption, is the faith of those determined to build a humane society on another basis.
You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny. - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5Only a deep, passionate desire for peace can turn our destiny from the path of destruction that is paved by violence. This is the great spiritual challenge of our day: to become the peace we desire. It is time that the Church gave its undivided attention to shaping our desire for peace and the will to enact that desire. Our preoccupation with sex - and now, with property disputes - is a dangerous distraction from the sin that drove even God to despair: a world founded upon violence.
I suspect that if we attend to our desire for peace, and let go the rivalry and domination that breeds violence, those matters that currently preoccupy the Church would simply disappear.
What is your deep, driving desire?