Patterns of Violence

We live in a violent society that is spawning a culture of violence. Our contributors examine some salient patterns of violence and our prurient voyeurism of them. They propose better responses to them for congregations.

William Cavanaugh explores the idea that religions are peculiarly prone to instigating violence and concludes, this "myth is a dangerous ideological justification for the dominance of secular social orders, which can and do inspire violence." Mark Heim shows how Christ’s crucifixion plays a key role in exposing one of the most violent ways humans deal with communal problems--the scapegoating sacrifice--and rejects it.

Some may think no act of violence is prohibited if the consequences are good enough. To resist this lure, Candace Vogler commends Christian courage that faces the future by trusting in God.

Daniel Train critiques 'no-garbage-in' isolation from and 'all-things-are-lawful' consumption of violence in news, sports, and pop culture. Keith G. Meador, William C. Cantrell, and Jason Nieuwsma address the moral injury of soldiers, Al Miles gives advice on responding to domestic abuse, and Walt Draughon recounts building bridges in a community traumatized by racial violence.

The study guides and lesson plans integrate Bible study, prayer, and worship to examine and respond to the salient patterns of violence in the world. The guides can be used in a series or individually. You may download and reproduce them for personal or group use.

Download the entire Patterns of Violence issue and the set of six Study Guides. Or, download individual pieces by clicking the titles below.



Hymns and Worship Service

Inspirational Pieces

Book Reviews

  • "American Religions and War" by Sarah Koenig
    • John Carlson and Jonathan Ebel, eds., From Jeremiad to Jihad: Religion, Violence, and America
    • Jonathan Ebel, Faith in the Fight: Religion and the American Soldier in the Great War
    • Philip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade
    • Harry S. Stout, Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War
  • "What Kind of Religion is Safe for Society?" by David Cloutier
    • William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict
    • Kenneth R. Chase and Alan Jacobs, eds., Must Christianity Be Violent? Reflections on History, Practice, and Theology
    • Keith Ward, Is Religion Dangerous?

Study Guides and Lesson Plans (Download the set of six Study Guides)

Further Reading: