So now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.
Reflection: Examples of structural violence also include the patterns of inequality and exclusion called the “isms” of racism, sexism, classism, ethnocentrism, and nationalism, as well as homophobia. These patterns operate at interlocking levels—institutionalized (policies and practices), interpersonal (group and individual), and cultural (social norms and valuing).
Most Americans know that the isms exist, but the common discourse in our country narrowly addresses discrimination that happens at the interpersonal level—when someone makes a blatantly derogatory comment or is accused of doing so. This myopic focus stymies people’s understanding of the more insidious institutional and cultural forms of the isms that crush the human spirit and deny people access to adequate food, water, shelter, education, health care, and self-determination. . . .
We dehumanize ourselves and degrade others by unconsciously supporting patterns that pin our opportunities for well-being on our neighbors’ marginalization. In each case, structural violence prevents us from fulfilling our Christian calling to be in authentic, loving relationships with our neighbors, near and far.
Question for discernment: How is discrimination against particular populations within our society (sexism, racism, classism, ethnic or religious prejudice, etc.) a form of violence? How would you define “structural violence”?
Prayer: God of all nations and peoples, no matter what our differences, we are all your beloved children. Guide our feet, that we may walk in your ways and treat one another with respect and dignity, justice and equity.