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Daily News and Prayer is inspired by The Christian Science Monitor, one of the most important (and most underappreciated) newspapers in the world. Posts are usually (but not always) responses to articles in the Monitor about events and trends that call for prayer.

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An eye for an eye: Isn’t it time we outgrew revenge?

The idea is at the root of a lot of pain and suffering in the world: that mental and physical violence is justifiable when it’s done in response to violence from others.

It’s part of the justification for hardline police tactics in the United States, where crime is sometimes controlled as much by intimidation as by intelligence and mercy. The result is the violence and response of Ferguson and Baltimore and other cities. It’s also part of the justification for capital punishment in the US, which is ranked fourth in the world for number of people put to death, behind China, Iran and Iraq.

But of course, it's not just in the US. The idea of revenge is deeply entrenched in human thought, justified by religion and culture. A recent inspiring and disturbing video report from The New York Times (warning: graphic images) illustrated the sometimes absurd lengths to which a culture (in this case, Iran’s) will go to turn “an eye for an eye” into a law of justice. A woman who was blinded with acid by an angry suitor because she wouldn’t marry him was given the right to blind him – but only in one eye, because a woman’s worth in Iran is considered half of a man’s. The woman’s eventual action, and the man’s response, were astonishing.

The country of Jordan is having its own problems with revenge. Jordan is seen as a more enlightened state than Iran in many ways, but the idea of revenge is still very much alive there. In the town of Maan, police began a campaign of intimidation toward its residents when they were seen to be sympathetic to the Islamic State. According to an article in The Christian Science Monitor, nine Jordanians have died in police custody over the past two years, eight of them in Maan. The latest response to suspected criminality in Maan is the demolition of a home, leaving family members of accused criminals without shelter.

Our societies need to get beyond violence and revenge as a valid response to anything. But change won’t come in any lasting way just by pushing police forces, or the governments that control them, to act. It won’t come from willpower at all. It will come from individuals like you and me refusing to engage in “an eye for an eye” in our own lives, and not excusing it in others. A moral revolution has to be fought and won on an individual level, thousands and millions of times.

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness,” the Bible says, “according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” Let’s pray, each of us, to root out “an eye for an eye” as a legitimate direction of thought. Enough of waiting for cultures and governments and religions to change, and reacting when they don't. Let’s start the revolution ourselves!


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