The Common Good
November-December 2001

The Silence of God

by Walter Wink | November-December 2001

Many of us feel a deep desire for revenge and violent retribution. We
know how natural that is. We want to strike back at the perpetrators.

Many of us feel a deep desire for revenge and violent retribution. We know how natural that is. We want to strike back at the perpetrators. And it is true: We do need to find and punish them. But we must not let that need be overwhelmed by sheer rage. We need to counter those who want to bomb indiscriminately, to "take them out" with missiles, or even to use everything in our arsenal. That can only mean "nuke them."

We must call for restraint and patience, as so many of our political leaders have fortunately called on us to do. We must turn the other cheek, as Jesus taught, not in weakness, but in a nonviolent attempt to resolve this crisis. Our leaders would have been far wiser to treat this as a police action against criminals, in which the nations of the world attempt to apprehend, try, and incarcerate the perpetrators.

Can we together agree that retribution is not the way of Jesus? Can we remain steadfast in nonviolence, despite the skepticism of those who embrace violence as a way of fighting violence? Can we repudiate belief in redemptive violence? Christians must behave as Christians no matter how much our society and churches ridicule nonviolence as idealistic and ineffective. If we cannot be faithful in such a crisis as we presently face, when will we?

Finally, we must cling to God by blind faith in such a time as this. To the question, Where is God in all this? we can answer, Where God always is: nearer than breathing and closer than hands or feet. But just as the clouds of dust and smoke and falling debris blotted out the sun on Sept. 11, so horror of this dimension blots out the light of God. In such a time, we cannot perhaps feel God's presence, but it is there, and we have to cling to it even as we scream at the silence of God.

Walter Wink is professor of biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City.

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