Voices without violence

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Voices without violence

July 19, 2007    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
tparham@flumc.org    Orlando {0704}

NOTE: A headshot of McNeil is available at http://www.flumc.info/photo_gallery2.shtml.

An e-Review Commentary
By the Rev. Dr. Timothy L. McNeil**

Since the beginning of time we’ve tried to figure out what to do with toxic emotions. You know the ones I’m talking about. They are hate, rage, disgust and shame/humiliation.

These were, incidentally, the four emotions that put Jesus on the cross.

We’ve sacrificed people, sacrificed animals, symbolically spit on goats and run them over cliffs. We project these emotions onto other people, other nations, other races and conveniently deny our own shadows.

When these emotions are trapped in a family system often the child becomes the identified carrier of the toxins and looks for ways to escape the pain. Someone ends up as a family kidney, attempting to purify the poison.

If we project our pain, what we do is project rage, hate, disgust and shame onto and into others. Without owning our own pain, we simply create more of it. When we scream at each other we temporarily release these intense feelings, and if we haven’t dealt with them, they will begin to build again until there is another crescendo in a week or two. It will happen again.

When we use the verbal club and are screaming at the top of our lungs, we communicate these four words: “I don’t love you!” You can’t be loving me and yelling at me at the same time.

Sure, we all get frustrated, at times reactive, and in moments conflicted with our thoughts, feelings and emotions. It’s all a part of our collective human dysfunction. And we see what happens when humans become hijacked by hate, rage, disgust and shame.

It is the common denominator with the not-so-funny comedian Michael Richards (Seinfeld’s Kramer) last November during his stand-up routine. It is the common denominator with actor Alec Baldwin. His emotional hijacking was recorded on a phone message he left for his daughter. Most recently we saw the common denominator on the campus of Virginia Tech when Cho Seung-Hui committed his massacre of rage, hate, disgust and shame. His videotaped and twisted tirade spewed the carnage before it was committed. The face of rage and pain may be your roommate.

Verbal violence always precedes physical violence. Ten-year-old boys taunt a homeless man, spewing forth the same hate, rage, disgust and shame before bursting open his head with a concrete block.

The toxicity is contagious and may poison the minds of groups, tribes, clans or nations and become embedded in the DNA for generations, as it has in the Middle East. No one is exempt from the collective human dysfunction. Not them. Not us. Think back to the prison pictures from Abu Ghraib and you will have a clear snapshot in your mind of what hate, rage, disgust and shame look like. No one is exempt from the collective human dysfunction. We are all infected with the same disease.

We will either transmit our pain or it will transform us. If you are a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew, in whatever shape, expression, culture or form, authentic faith is not about the finger, but the finger pointing to the moon. There is no one and only holy apostolic finger.

Authentic faith forces us to face our shadows and deal with our pain, not project it onto others. Authentic faith, in whatever form, is about a heart transplant. Life in the global village means the entire cosmos is sacred space. We, and we alone, make sacred space profane. If we wouldn’t dream of being verbally violent at church, synagogue or mosque, why would we think it would be OK to be that way at home, school, work or the roadways? Every space is sacred and even more so when we discover the sacred space, both without and within.

Legendary golfer Bobby Jones once was quoted as saying, “The narrowest fairway we’ll ever hit is the five inches between our ears.” Why? It is sacred space.

How do we stop the madness? By seeing it for what it really is: insanity. It is our collective and individual dysfunction. Eckhart Tolle reminds us that we are the only species that has murdered 100 million of our own kind in the last century. That is our collective dysfunction. Individually, we choose to decide whether to participate in the collective madness or not.

Tolle has written: “What would you do if you held a hot coal in your hand? You would drop it!” We must find ways to stop it and drop it. We are called to a higher consciousness: not to resort to the Darwinian default of verbal, then physical, clubbing.

I’d like to issue a challenge. Let us pledge to be peacemakers. Habitat for Humanity seeks to eliminate homelessness one house at a time. Let us pledge to eliminate violence one hearth, one hope and one heart at a time. We can no longer allow another human being to emotionally cannibalize another child or another human being. Let us put an end to verbal violence and all other forms of violence.

Bullies become bullies because someone taught them how. Are you bullying your children? If it’s not working, get help. Look within. Take a parenting class. Find healthy ways to de-escalate, detach and de-stress. Take a yoga class, jog or find your way to a gym. Make yourself accountable to others and pledge yourself to the pathways of peace. Build bridges of empathy. Cast the vision. Be purposeful. Lead the way. Communicate.

Make your home a safe place. Target your home for transformation where love, peace, discipline and nurture raise up children with confidence. Turn to a more excellent way, to real family values: faith, hope and love last forever, but the greatest of these is love.

Hate is not the opposite of love, for true love has no opposite, and creates no opposition. Make it real. Make it stick. Make it happen. Build pathways to peace. Make your voice a voice without violence!

Suggested introductory music prior to a message: “If We Don’t Wake Up Soon,” Tim Curran.

Suggested closing video for contemporary worship: “If Everyone Cared,” Nickelback,

Suggested readings: “Violence Unveiled, Humanity at the Crossroads,” Gil Bailie; “The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit,” Joseph Chilton Pearce; “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose,” Eckhart Tolle; “The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan; “How To Know God: The Soul’s Journey Into the Mystery of Mysteries,” Deepak Chopra; and “The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions,” Karen Armstrong.


This article relates to Church and Society.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**McNeil is executive director of the Genesis Counseling Center at First United Methodist Church of Ormond Beach, Fla. He is an ordained United Methodist minister, a fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and a licensed mental health counselor in the state of Florida. He may be reached at
tmcneil@firstunited.org or 386-677-5376.

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