August 28, 2009

Redemptive Violence?

At the beginning of July a good friend of ours was shot three times. Once in the hand, once in the abdomen, and once in the face. Rumors were flying around about what happened and many thought he had died. After a good amount of prayer and a couple of phone calls we determined where he was and a few of us paid him a visit.

The first visit came a week and a half after the incident. He was heavily sedated and breathing off a machine. He had no clue we were there. A couple of our friends who knew him from the streets along with a few of us Catholic Workers stood there amazed that he was still alive after sustaining the injuries he did. After talking with the doctor about Sonny’s condition we prayed over him, and I was immediately struck by how vulnerable he was. We generally operate from the mindset that we are invincible and nothing can stop us, but I found myself staring at a man whose life was nearly lost by a few pieces of metal. This man was rendered child-like. He was completely dependent on others for his well being. He couldn’t breathe on his own, after all.

We left the hospital relieved but concerned about the possible complications. Not two weeks had passed when we paid him a second visit--this time at a rehabilitation center. When we entered room 305 we were greeted with a beautiful smile. Sonny was awake and glad to see us. We got to sit and chat with him for about an hour and he filled us in on the details of the night he was shot, the miracle of his life, and how he loved getting to eat so much ice cream.

Over the course of our conversation I was again amazed at how Sonny, a man who was seriously injured by another, held no desire to retaliate against his aggressor. He told us how useless it would be to seek revenge because it would just perpetuate an unhealthy cycle. Not only that, he was far more grateful for the “million dollar surgery” that made his face look normal and kept him alive. He had something horrific happen to him and he chose the path of love and forgiveness rather than hate and revenge. Sonny understood in a deep way the myth of redemptive violence. We have much to learn from this man.

Catholic Workers after the Blackwater retreat

Recently I wrote about a corporation known as Blackwater. It is one of many transnational corporations who train and deploy a privatized army that will do everything from police work to frontline battle. Blackwater specifically now has over 20,000 soldiers and its own air force. At a Catholic Worker retreat recently, we acted against this type of corporation. Blackwater (now known as Xe) makes huge profits from government contracts for Iraq, Afganistan, and Katrina and then use that money to finance the very candidates who issued the contract to them in the first place. This fact alone places them in a situation where they have every incentive to ensure continued violence and conflict because peace would bring about bankruptcy for them. Beyond that, Blackwater also has lawsuits pending against them for the illegal smuggling of weapons into Iraq, illegal possession of firearms, murder of innocent Iraqi civilians, and tax evasion.

If that wasn’t a long enough list for you, there was a news story recently that takes things up a notch. The owner, Erik Prince, is now being investigated for playing a role in the murder of individuals cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. Two employees, an ex-marine and a member of management, recently made these allegations in a sworn statement. You can read more about it on-line.

Our guest speaker, Darryl Burton, will lead a discussion on this issue. In September 2008, Darryl was released from 24 years of captivity after a judge ruled that his 1984 murder trial was constitutionally flawed. He hopes his case will convince the public that this country is jailing innocent people. Please come and hear Daryl’s compelling story.

Mona Shaw, of the Des Moines Catholic Worker, will lead us in a discussion about health care. We will look at the current state of our nation’s health care system and explore possible ways forward. We will also explore how our faith perspective speaks to this highly emotional topic.

Just as our Jewish brothers and sisters do, we will be celebrating the many ways God provides shelter for those oppressed in our city. Come and participate as we listen to testimonials of those whom God has provided much needed shelter, and then experience God’s provision yourself as groups will go out for 24 hours and see how God provides. Our time will conclude with dinner fellowship and stories.


  1. OMG! What a terrible thing to happen to your friend, but I do admire his courage.

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  3.; You saved my day again.