Ignatian Lenses on Violence

Lenses Rainbow by csaveanu on Flickr.

Pick a lens, any lens.

There’s a (pseudo) famous and (completely) accurate saying about Jesuits that goes something like this: ask three Jesuits what they think and you’ll get five opinions back.

Maybe that’s why it’s not surprise that a few weeks back Jayme Stayer, TJP’s reigning King of Snark,1 wrote an essay on rhetoric that laid out some thirteen lenses, thirteen different ways we could look at the same object (okay, it was a crack house. Moving on…).  What’s more, he didn’t even give us a pat way to decide which lens is right. But he did give us a key. That key, he said, is that the right lens:

[C]annot be decided until those terms start duking it out inside of a rhetorical argument. …When what is at stake has… a clear rhetorical outline, then the grounds of the debate are relatively easy to find, though interlocutors will argue vociferously for control of those grounds.

According to a new video from our friends over at the Ignatian News Network, even Ignatian Spirituality sometimes needs different lenses to make sense of the world – in this case, to look at the senseless violence of the Aurora shootings.  Their video includes interviews with three people (including TJP’s own Matt Spotts and Sean Dempsey) who look at those terrible events through different lenses.

Sean Dempsey points to the problematic relationship between art and public action, while Sr. Rose Pacatte, a Pauline nun, points to the social causes (the disassociation of action and consequence) that blunt our empathy for one another.  Both of those lenses resonated with me, but as I watched, I found three of Matt Spotts’s questions bouncing around my heart.  He says that the Ignatian questions in response to the events are:

  1. “What was God like in the midst of that tragedy?”
  2. “What is God moving us to?”
  3. “What is the role of violence in each of our lives? …what does it mean when we feel the violence at a distance?”

I hope one of the varying Ignatian lenses resonates with you as you consider events as horrible as those that happened in Aurora.

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  1. A title he held on to with this gem of a footnote: “The snobbish (and false) binary between the supposedly pure methods of philosophical dialectic that lead to truth and the impure methods of rhetoric that lead to manipulation can be caricatured as follows: ‘Dialectic is what we do; rhetoric is what you do.’ That’s what she said.” Great work, KoS.

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