THE ALL THINGS PEACE PROJECT
There is an intimate connection between shame and violence.
Why are we becoming more divided over politics?
Why are addiction and deaths of despair on the rise?
What can we do about the violence in our streets?
And is there any good news?
We are seeking to address these questions and more.
"We quickly realized that what we were learning was relevant to everyone."
"This work was born out of a project aimed at helping Christians understand why violence happens in the name of Christianity. But we quickly realized that what we were learning was relevant to everyone. As I shared this work with friends from a wide diversity of faith backgrounds (or none) I found that it resonated deeply with nearly all of them. I was urged by many of them to think about this work in terms far more broadly than just the Christian church."
- Kristin Caynor
These resources are created in partnership with The Ephesians 2 Project. Visit the website of Mission ONE to learn more!
SHAME AND VIOLENCE
The Big Idea
A growing number of psychologists, sociologists, and criminologists are now arguing that shame is a frequently underlying cause of violence—both against oneself and others. These connections have been explored from the individual level all the way up to wars and acts of terrorism.
How Do We Define Shame?
The research we draw from uses a variety of definitions for shame, which all add to our understanding. For our purposes, we define shame as a sign that the Original Glory of humanity and the whole universe has been lost, degraded, or despised within a community. It manifests in feelings of worthlessness, rejection, brokenness, guilt, self-hatred, and more. Shame is not a disease in itself—it is a symptom of broken or toxic social bonds within a community.
What is Original Glory?
Original Glory could best be summed up as relational beauty. Original Glory cannot be possessed alone, but is always found in relationship with others. The Christian scriptures (along with other ancient traditions) teach that humankind was created with an Original Glory, made to resemble the beauty and harmony of the Creator and Source of all things. (Mystic writer Simone Weil called this "The Beauty of the Whole World"). This Beauty pours out a foundational Way which brings each being in the universe to harmonious and flourishing relationships with all others. The more harmoniously we relate to one another according to the principle of Original Glory, the more beautiful and glorious we each become.
How Does Shame (the loss of glory) Connect to Violence?
People are made to long for connection and glory with others. Our communities help us to form our sense of who we are and what the world is like. This need for connection and identity with others, some argue, is greater than the need for food. It provides the psychological foundation for both mental and physical health.
When shame becomes too intense and offers no hope for reintegration in a community, people become vulnerable to committing acts of violence against themselves and others. Physical and mental health are affected in profound, and sometimes deadly ways.
Acts of violence traumatize others. Trauma very often leads to shame for its victims. This leads to a cycle of trauma, shame, and violence. This cycle can exist not only inside of the individual, but inside of families, communities, and whole nations.
How Can the Cycles be Broken?
The first thing many people want to know is, so what can I do?
My first reply is often "I really don't know!"
The way we can begin answering that question is very simple, but often very difficult. It's often difficult--especially for those impacted by western culture--because we cannot do it alone. Western culture tends toward looking for a program to solve a problem. It wants to know how I can personally achieve solutions. But the truth is that each of us only has one piece of the puzzle. We believe that we have an important piece to offer. But each of you also has an essential piece for your own communities. And there are others in your community who also have necessary pieces. No one can paint a complete picture on their own.
We want to offer you our pieces. But we don't claim to paint a whole picture that will work in your community. Only you and your community can do that, by taking what we have to offer and seeing how it fits within your own unique context. This leads to the last question:
What Do We Mean by "Good News of Peace"?
We resist the idea that we, on our own, have a complete picture of Original Glory. But, we believe that by deeply understanding our own sacred Story, and explaining what it means to us, the better it can relate to others. For us, part of this process has meant embracing the freedom to think outside of modern western formulations of the story of Jesus and what it means to the world. When we talk about the Good News of Peace, we mean the announcement that God is working to restore humanity to its Original Glory, and with us the entire universe. It is a statement of conviction that a better world is possible. In fact, this Good News directly confronts many aspects of the modern western narrative, since it claims that the true Story of the universe is one of Peace and not of competition and conflict. In the stories of his life and their ongoing legacy in communities of Peace, Jesus reveals what this true Glory is.
Our work is focused on this Story. However, we believe that this Story is not complete when it includes only those who claim Christianity today. We embrace the biblical image of God's Feast for all peoples, of a party where unexpected people are invited, and where belonging is recreated by a new standard. The more people who come to this Feast, the more complete its Glory will be.
We also embrace the blessing of Abraham, believing that we are blessed in order to be a blessing to all the families of the earth (including the plants and animals!). Based on these convictions, we are always looking outward to see both what the Good News of Peace has to offer the world, and what insights we may be missing from those who are not like us. We are not changing who we are, nor are we advocating for some "universal" spirituality. But, we are firmly convinced that the conversation must be open to all if we are to embrace our own Story fully, or to build peace in any meaningful way.