Chapter 10 Samuel Wells deals with a puzzling statement made by Jesus. Now we ask, “Didn’t Jesus say he came not to bring peace, but a sword?”
Matt. 10:34-39 is the central text in this chapter. Jesus did in fact say these words: “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
The irony Wells points out is that nearly every Christian will tell you Jesus didn’t “come to bring the sword”, and yet so many Christians act as if he did, whereas he said he did “come to bring the sword”, and yet his life and the lives of his followers after his ascension show the opposite. So something’s strange here, right?
Chapter 9 deals with a single passage that gets abused quite a bit: “Let Every Soul be Subject”. Lee Camp tackles what this passage means in context, instead of in the absurd isolation in which it is often quoted, violently ripped from God’s word in order to serve agendas of violence.
If you read the entire passage of Romans 13, you realize that this one phrase was never meant to be a military mantra. We are to “present [our] bodies as living sacrifices” before God, and commanded not to “conform to the age” (often translated “the world”). Since we are a new creation, we live according to a new age. So whatever authorities we are under, they’re not ours. Continue reading →
In the last chapter Greg Boyd argued that God expects all Christians to “turn the other cheek,” but he may not necessarily hold nations to a standard only held within a covenant with him.
Chapter 8 begins the other side of the book. Before, we looked at “practical” questions that apply scripture to situations. The second half deals more with interpreting and understanding what scripture says on the matter, beginning with Ingrid Lilly’s question “What About War and Violence in the Old Testament?” Continue reading →
I remember one time we were with some friends watching How to Train Your Dragon with some friends who had children. I said, “I wonder if there’s some critics who say this film is bad because it’s telling us to love terrorists or something.” The guy said, “yeah, can you believe people actually believe that?” I think he meant the loving terrorists thing. Of course the whole point was that the dragons weren’t the real enemy, but the monster they were serving. So is there a kind of person we are not called to love?
While the previous chapter focused on soldiery, in chapter 7 Greg Boyd asks, “Does God Expect Nations to Turn the Other Cheek?” We actually may be surprised by his answer. I had previously read Boyd’s book The Myth of a Christian Nation, a terrific read that asks us to reconsider the naive notion that America is “Christian” in any tangible sense, by looking at scripture.
He reminds us that Jesus’ instructions are unconditional, and that God has even the worst, most violent of our enemies in mind, not just meanies down the block, in Matt.5:38-48; Luke6:27-36; Rom.12:14-21; 1 Peter 3:9,14-18. Imagine, he says, that Al Qaeda ruled America, and you will know the animosity the Jews felt toward Rome. But since what Jesus did for isn’t just what he did, but reflects what he wants us to do (be willing to die innocently loving our enemies and not harming them), Christians don’t have the right to choose who they will and won’t love, will and won’t show loving action toward. Continue reading →
Chapter 6 is a message easier for me to accept up front, and is a conclusion I have already drawn. Justin Bronson Barringer asks, “What About Those Men and Women Who Gave Up their Lives so You and I Could Be Free?” A question which he feels “seems an attempt to shame the one to whom it is directed as one who dishonors soldiers.” As if to say that the people who don’t love soldiers are the ones who want them to come home, not the ones who want to send them out to shoot and get shot on the sender’s behalf. Continue reading →
Chapter 5 deals with a question we might often overlook: “Must Christian Pacifists Reject Police Force?”
One reason it’s overlooked is that, until 200 years ago, military and police weren’t really seen as separate entities in most of the world. They are both government agents authorized to use force, and even violence, if necessary. The distinction remains important because, unlike war, police can truly “be accountable to legislative regulation” that “at least stands some chance of punishing only the guilty while protecting the innocent.”
In this chapter Schlabach first introduces the concept of nonviolent policing, which some people may regard as a joke. How are police effective if they don’t use force? But the same question could be asked of soldiering, perhaps. Continue reading →
Chapter 3 leaps right into a very very difficult question: “What would you do if someone were attacking a loved one?”
I have a wife and a child. I love them and want to protect them from evil. Because of this, many things in this world are unsettling to me even more than they would be were I single and childless. Whatever I believe and do, I must live like Christ. Continue reading →
In chapter 2 D. Stephen Long deals with the difficult question “What About Protecting Third Party Innocents? Can we just let our neighbors die?”
Long doesn’t pretend all this is easy. He’s a reluctant pacifist who came from a military family. He doesn’t let us choose pacifism for some bogus reason. He rejects that liberal pacifism where we just say we hate war but perpetuate the conditions that make war “necessary”. He rejects the notion that war is bad because all soldiers are bloodthirsty savages. Many soldiers are and have been decent, loving, exceptional, faithful people who seem to be incapable of harboring hate, and what we call good soldiering requires “self sacrifice, disciplined community, and moral attentiveness.” He rejects the notion that pacifists are better because they don’t like war and everyone else does. Practically nobody loves war (except immature American boys who play Call of Duty all day and think war would be fun). Even the most battle-hardened want to avoid it, with few exceptions. So we can’t reject violence for cheap reasons. Continue reading →
When you think of people who believe in nonviolence, what image comes to mind? Is it someone you find distaste in? Is something about them other than their commitment making you dislike them? Now picture someone who is like you or someone you admire in every way. Then imagine them truly believing in nonviolence. Would you call them a sissy? Coward?
In my last post I introduced the chapter-by-chapter review of A Faith Not Worth Fighting For, a collection of essays on Christian nonviolence, specifically questions often asked about it by skeptics, or just curious seekers.
The first chapter opens with a common misconception worded in this question: “Isn’t Pacifism Passive?”
We come to see that this argument against peacemaking has not roots in logic or theology, but comes from what I’ve found is a mixture of semantic misunderstanding and aesthetic distaste. In her essay C. Rosalee Velloso Ewell addresses this question very well.
[note: for the sake of clarification when I speak of pacifism I will speak of it in broad terms, meaning a commitment to nonviolence, which we will see is based on the word for “passion”. Whether that means a decision never to use violence ever, we shall see as we read along.]
As with the rest of the book, Ewell leads the discussion based on five assumptions for Christians:
1) Jesus and his story are real
2) We are to be witnesses of Jesus
3) We “see thru a glass dimly” (1 Cor. 13:12), but “we do see Jesus” (Heb. 2:9)
4) Faith is a journey in which we question ourselves and shine our light for others
5) It all goes back to the life (and death, and re-life) of Jesus Continue reading →