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Against Violence: An open letter to everyone.

Purple ribbon for Domestic Violence Awareness.

I have just read about the violence committed against T.V. Food celebrity Nigella Lawson at the hands of her husband, Charles Saatchi.  I am sick, and I’m angry.  These stories seem to be too prevalent in our world; yet no matter how many times media turns its attention to such things, you always know there are countless cases that go unspoken.  If you haven’t heard about this incident, while dining at one of their favorite locations, Lawson and Saatchi began to argue during their meal.  No big deal; Couples argue.  Some argue softly, some loudly.  This, however, was different.  Saatchi, who apparently is known to be hot tempered, did not just reduce Lawson to tears amidst a verbal assault, but several times throughout the course of this argument Saatchi gripped Lawson’s neck as in a choke-hold.   Paparazzi was on hand to catch photo’s of this altercation (you can view the photo’s here. Warning: images may not be suitable for younger audiences).  The images clearly show a husband rendering violence toward his wife.  The look of fear, hurt and shame that comes flooding through Lawson’s eyes convey the entire painful story.

Since this incident, Saatchi has stated that the public outcries over his actions are completely unwarranted.  According to him, the altercation between him and his wife was nothing but a ‘playful tiff.’  I’m sorry.  My wife and I have had playful tiffs.  We have also had serious arguments.  Never once have we reduced our actions to physical displays of violence.  Never once have we gripped the other’s neck in an attempt to choke out their confidence and self-respect.

But even if we, by some twisted sense of logic, take Saatchi at his word, does this really change the situation?  Does it make it any better?  For even within a playful tiff, violence is never the answer.  Violent acts are never the manner in which we interact with another, never mind ones we love and care about.  Violence and Love simply do not mix.  To have any sense of the inherent and God-given dignity of another, as a lover, a friend, or as one made in the image of God, one must conclude that violence toward another is a complete denial of that belief.  It is never ok to put your aggressive hands upon a woman, a man, or a child.  Domestic violence is despicable, shameful, and vile in the utmost degree, and it needs to stop.

I could easily go on. But as I read the report of the incident another element began to concern me.  This event was caught on camera by paparazzi.  People were on hand to catch the violence take place.  Frames were snapped as Saatchi’s hands approached Lawson’s throat and began to squeeze.  Furthermore, when Lawson left the restaurant afterwards, cameras were poised to catch her tears.

But did you who took the pictures ever consider putting down your bloody camera in order to intervene?  Did you consider asking if Lawson was ok, or if she needed help, instead of profiting from images captured at her most vulnerable? Did you ever think that such an act of violence should not be recorded, but stopped? Jesus said ‘A greater love has no one then this, that they lay down their life for their friends.’ (John 15:13)  What would you be willing to lay down in order to help and protect one being shamed and brutalized?  Would you lay down the possibility of exclusive photos and paparazzi glory?  Would you be willing to lay aside earthly gain for the sake of acting according to a higher standard?

The act of sitting by as domestic violence takes place is frankly almost as shameful as doing the violence ourselves.  Sure, we may inwardly be disgusted and horrified.  We may even silently speak a prayer.  But unless we stand up against the perpetration of violence in our world, all we do is give the violence space to breathe.  This goes for the paparazzi who took the pictures, to the other diners and restaurant staff just a few feet away, and to us who read about this report and grumble in disgust.

Violence is a problem in our world and as citizens of this globe it is up to all of us to work towards its eradication.  We can’t ignore it.  We can’t turn our heads at the horror and wish it will go away.  Nor can we presume that violence, as long as it doesn’t touch our own doorsteps or cross our line of vision, is someone else’s problem.

When a child beats up another in the playground, it is not just a childhood problem.  When a husband or wife abuses their spouse, it is not the spouse’s fault, nor is it their problem to solve.  When parents hurt their children, it is not just a family issue.  Domestic violence is not someone else’s problem; it’s ours! Let’s get our heads out of the sand and begin to combat that which is tearing so many people apart.   Violence is a human problem and a communal evil which we must all work against.  Whether we have or have not suffered violence ourselves, domestic violence is something that we all need to respond to.

Cain famously asked God “Am I my brother’s keeper?’  While the biblical witness does not record God’s answer to that particular question, I like to think that God would have responded ‘Darn right you are!”   I pray that we all have the boldness to live in such a way, and take up our communal stance against this evil.

Kyle Norman

About Kyle Norman

I am a Priest in the Diocese of Calgary, serving the wonderful people of Holy Cross, Calgary. I watch reality television, I drink Starbucks coffee, and I read celebrity gossip columns. I am also a magician and often use magic tricks to teach the children at church the lessons of the Bible. I believe that God is present in the intricacy of our lives, and thus I believe that Pop Culture can provide intriguing lessons, examples, and challenges for our lives of faith. Connect with Kyle on
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