Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Conversion to Christian Nonviolence

Greetings in the name of our LORD and Savior Jesus the Messiah!
I would like to take my first post on the Tanks to Tractors blog to describe one of my many conversions during my spiritual journey. I originally was “saved” when I was eight years old when I accepted Jesus the Messiah as the LORD of my life in a Baptist church one Sunday morning. However, there are times, in the Christian life, where one reads Scripture, hears the Holy Spirit all the while the environment and circumstances in one’s life changes, and God is able to transform a person from an old creation to something completely new. Let me say, that from a young age, I was a committed political pacifist, accepting the secular arguments for pacifism and peacemaking and international cooperation and then, reading that political stance into my interpretation of Scripture. The revelation of Jesus the Messiah in his death on a cross was irrelevant to my political views. Even when during the first days of the Iraq invasion, I was loud in my maverick stance of not watching the news when it was showed in the hallways of the university’s student center. People came up to me and asked me why would I not stop to watch the news, and I told them all, with George W. Bush’s 80% approval rating and all, that I would not support this war because I was committed to peace. My friends ridiculed me for attending Amnesty International meetings where two to three people would show up and we would have conversations about our disgust over how the student population was apathetic and blindly pro-war. I had not yet developed the theological skills or the lexicon of postcolonialism, but I still knew what imperialism looked like. I was fed up with George W. Bush and his God-talk about liberation for the Iraqis as well as the na├»ve, condescending attitudes of the liberal establishment who praised Bush for bringing democracy to the Middle East (as if America was created as a democracy itself).
My discontent was caused by my religion being divorced completely from my politics. I had essentially been taught (implicitly) that it was okay to hold to orthodox Christian doctrines while at the same time adhere to a political belief system without reflecting on the political implications of Christian doctrine, i.e., to the exclusion of orthopraxy—a word we never hear in Baptist churches, let alone evangelical and conservative congregations. I eventually came across Roman Catholic moral teaching while taking an undergraduate Religious Studies course on Vatican II. After reading his work, The Gift of Peace, I became obsessed with the teaching of the late Joseph Cardinal Bernadine, who taught the seamless garb, or the interconnectedness of all of life. He took very strong public stances against abortion, poverty, reckless nuclear war, euthanasia, and capital punishment. Here, for me was my first real example of someone preferring to allow her/his theological preferences dictate her/his political stances. Then, I started to look back at the life of Jesus Christ, and the meaning of the Gospel, and trying to find the center of the GOOD News and what the Triune God required of me, as an individual Christian. Four years later, I read John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus for the first time. I had already read many of Stanley Hauerwas’ works, which dealt with Christian nonviolence and the separation of church and state. After I read TPOJ, my conversion to Christian nonviolence had begun. It was not the words of Yoder, per se, or the book itself, but the fact that Yoder’s book made me go back to the Bible to realize that is the crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah that stands front and center of all Christian social and personal action. Jesus’ victory on the tree at Golgatha paved the way for us to live free, to govern ourselves by the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2). All righteousness comes from the Lamb that was slain, and so does any Christian moral reasoning for taking action within the world. By making the crucifixion my starting point for my ethic of Christian nonviolence, there was no question about why do I do what I do because I now know why: the cross of Jesus the Messiah, the Wisdom of God, foolishness to the wise of the world, but unto us, it is the power of God.


  1. I too read Bernardin, Nouwen, and Hauerwas! And Gandhi and King. And Jesus. My blog is called Peaceworks and is at http://xanskinner.blogspot.com

  2. Well written and fun to read. I'm poking around a little and find what you have to say quite thought provoking. Thanks for the posts!

    Soli Deo Gloria,

    Jon Noyes