Monday, December 27, 2010

Recreating Christ in the Image of Caesar, Part II

In the documentary Hanged on a Twisted Cross: The Life, Convictions and Martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer the young theologian's relationship to Nazism and the subsequent Nazification of the German Church is chronicled. This portion of the film was particularly striking:

In September of 1933, in church elections, Hitler's nominee, Ludwig Müller was elected to lead the German Christian Church. As the Reichbishop of the Reich Church, Müller desired to accelerate the Nazification of the German church.

Müller nationalized the Sermon on the Mount, rewriting the Beatitudes. The beatitude of the meek became "Blessed is the one who is a good comrade at all times, he will get on well in the world."

"Wanting to serve both Caesar and Christ, the Reich church finally shaped its Christ in the image of the Caesar."

Recreating Christ in the Image of Caesar, Part I

According to various church traditions, Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (aka Constantine "the Great" or even "Saint Constantine"), accepted Christianity as his religion after gaining victory over Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge—where the would-be emperor allegedly had a vision of the Chi (X) Rho (P), the first two letters in the Greek word christos, meaning Christ. Eusebius, an early church historian, wrote one of the only description of this story. In his account, Constantine saw a vision in the heavens of the cross along with the words In Hoc Signo Vinces meaning "In this sign, you will conquer."

Constantine is claimed to be the first "Christian Emperor" due to his issuance of the Edict of Milan in 313—mandating religious tolerance—and effectively "legalizing" Christianity (along with all other religions). However, much of the evidence that Constantine was "Christian" is highly suspect, if not plainly inconclusive. For example, the closest historic link we have to Constantine, his triumphal arch in Rome, erected to commemorate his victory over Maxentius—the one he supposedly attributed to Christ's power—contains not one, single Christian symbol. Instead, the arch is adorned by several reliefs with depictions of Apollo, Hercules, Diana, Silvanus. In fact, the shields and standards of Constantine's soldiers do not even display the Chi (X) that Eusebius tells was commanded in a dream the night before. Constantine even continued to accept the title of Potifex Maximus, head of the Roman pagan priesthood, after his alleged conversion.

Prior to Constantine, from the time of Christ to the reign of Marcus Aurelius (160-181AD), there is no historical account of Christians serving in the Roman military. In contrast, the early church theologian Origen (185-251AD), in his six-part treatise Against Celsus, conceded the charge of Celsus, a pagan philosopher, that Christians do not "hold public office, fight in the army, or swear the oaths of allegiance to the state."

Nevertheless, by the fourth century, the Constantinian Shift was complete. The Constantinian Shift is the historical-theological transition from the nonviolent, Kingdom ethic of Jesus and his early followers to the violent, triumphalist ethic of "Christendom." This term was coined by renowned Anabaptist theologian John Howard Yoder.

The mosaic pictured above is one of the more blatant examples of this shift. Its is from the Byzantine period, and is featured in the Archepiscopal Palace in Ravenna—the then capital of Roman Empire. It was commissioned by Bishop Pietro II in 494-495. The mosaic depicts Christ as a Roman Legionary and wearing a purple tunic, the symbol of royalty. Unlike a Jewish Rabbi, Christ is pictured beardless like a Roman emperor. Far from the Hebrew peasant born under Roman occupation and crucified on a Roman cross, Christ is here recreated in the image of the emperor.

In part 2 of this post, I will show how the Reich Church of Nazi Germany recreated Christ in the image of the "Fuhrer."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Living Out the Sermon on the Mount

Jesus taught his disciples saying,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." (Mt. 5.38-42)

Julio Diaz loves his mugger and wins him over with the power of love.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

yoder quotes

one of the books i read during my 40 day media fast was the original revolution by john howard yoder, a collection of essays discussing the topic of christian pacifism. **everyone must read this book**

i wrote down some of my favorite quotes and thought i'd share them with the blogosphere. enjoy...

"jesus will therefore be describing a morality of repentance or of conversion; not a prescription of what Every Man can and should do to be happy; not a meditation on how best to guide society, but a description of how a person behaves whose life has been transformed by meeting jesus."

"this (christian pacifism) is not a set of moral standards to be posed on everyone or on the unconvinced."

"the ethics of discipleship is not guided by the goals it seeks to reach, but by the Lord it seeks to reflect."

"what jesus meant by fulfillment was thus a quite literal filling full, a carrying on to full accomplishment of the intent of the earlier moral guides."

"nonresistance is right, in the deepest sense, not because it works, but because it anticipates the triumph of the lamb that was slain."

"here we must point out that this attitude, leaving evil free to be evil, leaving the sinner free to separate himself from God and sin against man, is a part of the nature of agape itself, as revealed already in creation."

"God's love begins right at the point where he permits sin against himself and against man, without crushing the rebel under his own rebellion."

regarding the new covenant..."once all men are seen as potential partakers of the covenant, then the outside can no longer be perceived as less than human or as an object for sacrificing."

read the book for yourself. it's brilliant.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nonviolence: A Matter of Forgiveness; A Gift of the Holy Spirit

Today we went to church with one of the guys we're living with at Casa San Dimas here in San Francisco. The sermon was on Mark 2:1-12, the story of the paralytic who is lowered through the roof in Capernaum. The twist of the story is that when the man is lowered in front of Jesus, instead of healing him right away, Jesus says the following crazy thing (don't worry, he heals him afterwards! ;-) :

“Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”

-Mark 2:8-11

I had left our house this morning to head to church after reading a book on nonviolence titled, "Is There No Other Way" and, needless to say, had the topic of Christian nonviolence on my mind when we walked into church. The passage from Mark that was being preached on brought back to me a memory of another thing Jesus said long after the healing of the paralytic and shortly after his resurrection. Bear with me here I swear this'll make sense in a minute:

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

- John 20:19-23

This must have resounded with the disciples and perhaps would have been difficult to hear, for earlier in Jesus teachings, when he taught them how to pray he had said:

(Following the Lord's prayer) For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

- Matthew 6:14

And perhaps they had remembered what he had said to his enemies while dying on the cross days before:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

- Luke 23:33-34

People have been asking me over the last few months as I have explored the issue of Jesus and non-violence, "What got you so interested in this issue? Why do you think it's so important? Shouldn't you be focusing more of your attention on more 'doctrinal' issues like salvation, sanctification, etc?" These are valid concerns, and were my focus strictly on "non-violence" itself, perhaps these concerns would be justified. Yet I feel that non-violence strikes at the heart of a much deeper issue that has more to do with how we respond to God's forgiveness, Jesus cross, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit than it does with nonviolence as a stand-alone ethic.

I've heard it preached, and I can't remember from where, that the one thing that Jesus asks us to share with him in is His cross. Jesus tells his disciples to , "take up their cross and follow me" and after he was taken up to heaven many of his disciples literally did so under persecution from Rome. At the essence of what it means to be a disciple is emulation of the teacher. Over and over again at church we are told we should become more like Jesus. The WWJD movement said it well with their simple reasoning for situational ethics, "What would Jesus do?" Many Christians are willing to do this when it comes to healing the sick, clothing the naked, and visiting those in prison yet they stop where Jesus words are perhaps the strongest and most difficult: "If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld." Here in John 20, not only has Jesus given us the power (through the Holy Spirit) to heal the broken but he has given us the power to forgive sins. Over and over again throughout his teaching ministry Jesus reminds us of the importance of our forgiveness of others (including our enemies) and how this forgiveness we offer is balanced spiritually to how God forgives us. This is why the gift Jesus offers to his disciples of the ability to forgive sins must be complimented with the teaching that, "If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses." To put it bluntly: "You have been forgiven your sins and I am bestowing onto you the ability to forgive others their sins as well as the ability not to. Yet if you choose not to forgive others their sins, neither will I forgive you yours." Jesus reinforces this dynamic in the parable of the ungrateful servant (Mat. 18:21-35) and perhaps more importantly (if we're discussing how a disciple should be like his teacher) we see this radical forgiveness exemplified in its fullest in Jesus death on the cross for even his enemies as we see in Luke 23.

And so to put it simply, the reason why I feel that non-violence is vitally important to the Christian life has less to do with nonviolence per se and has much more to do with what Jesus taught concerning his forgiveness and our God-given spiritual gift and obligation to forgive others in response. If we have been forgiven much than how much more should we be willing to forgive our enemies even when they take our lives and the lives of our families? Non-violence and forgiveness as a response to violence is a scriptural value, important not only as a Christian ethic, but also as a response of the Christ-changed heart showing the fruits of the Spirit.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Lord's Prayer, Community, and Non-Violence

This morning our team gathered for prayer, scripture, and communion. One of the girls on our team, Nettie, prefaced the communion with a short reflection on The Lord's Prayer, which we had just recited. She pointed out that when Jesus taught us to pray he taught us to pray as a community sprinkling the prayer with words like "us", "we", "our" instead of "me", "I", etc. In regards to the communion, this is a relevant reminder of our unity when we gather around the Lord's table and it reminds us that our actions have consequences to the whole and effect the community, not just the self. When we eat, we eat together so that all are provided for (give us this day our daily bread), when we sin, we are forgiven in the same measure we forgive others (forgive us our trespasses), and we ask God to keep us from temptation (not just to protect the self from temptation).

One of the most common arguments/disclaimers I hear made by opponents of Christian pacifism/non-violence is that "Jesus clearly wasn't speaking to nations (communities) when he told us to love and forgive our enemies, he was only speaking of the individual Christian's responsibility." The Lord's Prayer offers us perhaps the best defense against this argument. Contrary to what opponents to Christian pacifism say, Jesus always meant for his teachings to be carried out in the context of community. They were never meant to be understood strictly as personal moral teachings. The Lord's Prayer emphasizes this when it teaches us to ask God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This section of the prayer compliments the ethic of loving our enemies that is taught in Matthew 5.

In a previous post of quotations I have stumbled across as of late I left something that St. Augustine had said about loving our enemies. Augustine goes as far as to say that "your sins will not be forgiven if you do not offer them with mercy (toward those who have sinned against you)." Next time you gather with your community, remember what the Lord's Prayer calls us to do and ask yourself, "Are we (my community, my church, my nation) forgiving others their trespasses? Are we loving our enemies?"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Also... on capital punishment and the early church

Also of note: This is a section of a piece Athenagoras (133-190) wrote in defense of the Christian faith. The context is that Athenagoras is defending Christianity against the claims the Romans were making that Christians were cannibals (because of the Eucharist). His argument is to show that Christians in fact hold life in extreme regard, even abstaining from capital punishment and abortion.

"What man of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers? For we cannot eat human flesh till we have killed some one. The former charge, therefore, being false, if any one should ask them in regard to the second, whether they have seen what they assert, not one of them would be so barefaced as to say that he had. And yet we have slaves, some more and some fewer, by whom we could not help being seen; but even of these, not one has been found to invent even such things against us. For when they know that we cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly; who of them can accuse us of murder or cannibalism? Who does not reckon among the things of greatest interest the contests of gladiators and wild beasts, especially those which are given by you? But we, deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles. How, then, when we do not even look on, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death? And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fœtus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it. But we are in all things always alike and the same, submitting ourselves to reason, and not ruling over it."

Athenagoras, A Plea For The Christians, Chapter XXXV

So many quotes....

I have a million things to post in here but no time to comment on them.

From the Holy Scripture:

"I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete."

- 2 Corinthians 10:2-6

" Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant [7] of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

- Matthew 26:50-54

"So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

- John 18:33-36

From early Christianity:

"But now inquiry is made about this point, whether a believer may turn himself unto military service, and whether the military may be admitted unto the faith, even the rank and file, or each inferior grade, to whom there is no necessity for taking part in sacrifices or capital punishments. There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot be due to two masters—God and Cæsar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John (Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier. No dress is lawful among us, if assigned to any unlawful action."

-Tertullian, Concerning Military Service

"You are a debtor to Him who cannot be deceived. You also have a debtor. God says to you: You are my debtor and he is your debtor. I do for you, my debtor, what you do for your debtor. You offer me a gift when you spare your debtor. You ask me for mercy: then do not be slow in showing mercy. Listen to what scripture says: I desire mercy more than sacrifice. Do not offer sacrifice without mercy, for your sins will not be forgiven unless you offer them with mercy."

- Augustine, Sermon 386 on Matthew 5 "Love your enemies"

Saturday, June 5, 2010

killing with integrity

i saw this sign on a church yesterday: "do you remember them? do you remember jesus?"

at first, since i'm a little dense, i had no idea what the sign was saying. then, my lovely and brilliant wife explained to me that it must have something to do with memorial day.

the sign reminded me of a question that i was recently asked by a fellow peace-seeking friend of mine from school (tim c). he asked me if killing another human being could ever be done with integrity. what do you presume i said??? probably not what you think. i said, "sure it can. adhering to a sense of morality doesn't necessarily mean it's christian morality." he was thinking the same thing.

i believe it is most certainly honorable to fight and die for something you believe in with all of your heart. many people who have given their lives in the name of political or economic freedom throughout the centuries have done so for the sake of others, and we have certainly benefited from their sacrifice. however, is this the same morality that we have been called to as people carrying our crosses? in my opinion, the answer is an emphatic NO!

christian ethics have an entirely upside-down way about them. which is why following christ, oftentimes, seems strange and even wrong to folks who claim jesus as lord. think about it. when someone takes my jacket i should give them my pants? if someone pushes me around i should willingly offer them a clean shot at my face? this sounds ridiculous. but it is at the center of what it means to be a disciple of jesus christ.

can we really talk about the sacrifice of soldiers in the same breath as the sacrifice of christ? is wielding a weapon of war against an enemy in any way like christ's self-sacrificing death for his enemies on the cross? we may be able to affirm the integrity of a man or woman fighting and dying for a cause in a kingdom of this world sort of reality, but integrity and honor look quite the opposite in kingdom of God reality.

one more gripe. i've often been called liberal or even cowardly for having these views. i hate to think that jesus was cowardly when he taught and lived this way, and would really like to know how taking jesus seriously and at his word lends itself to having a liberal view of scripture. just a thought.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More thoughts from Jean Lasserre

This seemed profound to me. I thought I should share it with the group:

"In the New Testament, in fact, there is no duality between the good which concerns civil society and the good which concerns the Christian's so-called 'private' life: one's difficulty in finding adequate terms is in itself significant. No, there is only a single Christian morality, only a single good in the eyes of the God of Jesus Christ; and the ultimate norm of that good is that it glorifies God in Jesus Christ. There is no good which denies Jesus Christ, contradicts Him, or even leaves Him out of account.

Christians cannot have a split personality. It would be superfluous to say this, if so very many of them did not implicitly accept such 'schizophrenia', finding it quite normal to kill and lie when the State requires it, or seems to require it, while protesting virtuously that the would never perform such acts in their 'private life'. This schizophrenia is surely, in the last resort, the most serious consequence of the Constantinian heresy. The true Christian life implies a tension between different aspects of man's personality, not its disintegration.

The idea of a dual morality would mean that Christians were constantly on the wrack between contradictory duties: that God asks me as French citizen to kill the soldiers who invade my country, and at the same time as member of the Church to welcome them by proclaiming the Gospel to them. This is plainly impossible, I can only choose, according to my lights and my courage, to be either death-giver or life-giver; I must give up being either a soldier or witness of Jesus Christ."

- Jean Lasserre, War and the Gospel

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Crucifixion of the Warrior God

Pastor, theologian, and prolific author Greg Boyd recently presented an outline of his upcoming book which attempts to make sense of Old Testament violence from a christological perspective. In this video, pastor Boyd shares the principles that guide the book and which, taken together, offer a coherent understanding of Scripture's word on war and violence. I encourage you to check out the video as well as the book due to come out soon.

The book was originally going to be called Jesus vs. Jehovah, but may now be titled The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Meeting Tonight: Lasserre on the OT

Just posting a note up here last minute: We'll be meeting tonight from 7-9 PM at the Cheers bar downtown. Hope to see some of you there!

I'll be reading a short excerpt for group discussion from a book by Jean Lasserre titled, "War and the Gospel". It's an older, originally french, work that is perhaps one of the best defenses of non-violence as a Christian ethic I have EVER read. Please go purchase it… it's worth every cent.

In this passage, Lasserre is confronting arguments opposed to pacifism which have an old testament basis:

— "Yet from one end of His ministry to the other it remained the great temptation for Him (Jesus), all the more terrible because by resisting it He was carving out an entirely new road. This is how all the Biblical scholars interpret the third temptation (Matt 4:8-10), when the Devil offers Him the conquest of the world 'if thou will fall down and worship me,' that is to say, if Jesus will agree to Satan's means, including violence, to conquer the world. Then there is the plot whereby the crowd try to take him away by force to make Him King (John 6:15), that is, to compel Him to be a military king. There is the entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday when Jesus deliberately chooses to ride an ass instead of the horse of a political chieftain. There is the agony at Gethsemane where He must accept the need to be conquered without resistance. Several sentences He lets slip during his Passion help one to guess the inward drama developing in His heart, because right to the end He is still tempted by the use of violence: 'Thinkest thou,' He says to Peter, who has just brandished a sword, 'that I cannot pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?' (Matt 26:53). And Pilate is treated to the same echo of his inner conflict: 'If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight that I should be delivered from the Jews…' (John 18:36). Finally of course, the temptation reaches its paroxysm at the Crucifixion when the crowd mock Him: 'He saved others, let Him save Himself, if he be Christ…' (Luke 23:35). But He stands firm, faithful to the line of conduct He has set Himself, however disastrous it may appear: 'Father forgive them for the know not what they do.'

The whole Gospel drama cannot be reduced, of course, to this question of violence. But I think it will be agreed that the stubborn rejection of violence is a positive and illuminating factor in the development in Jesus ministry. His independent attitude in this, compared with the tradition of violence emanating from the Jewish Scriptures, is found again among the writers of the New Testament and the Fathers of the Church. They too were brought up on the Old Testament, with all its glorifications of nationalism and militarism; they saw in it the Word of God in its full sense; yet they were unanimous in following Jesus on the road of non-violence.

And the Christians who so readily invoke the Old Testament to justify war a little presumptuous, since they are thereby claiming to know and interpret the Old Testament better than the Christians of the first three centuries did, including the apostles and Christ himself.

Let us fall neither into the Marcionite heresy or the Constantinian. Let us keep the Old Testament because Jesus and the Gospel were nurtured on it and because it is orientated towards the Messiah's coming. It remains for us the Word of God, even though some of its ordinances are superseded because of the Gospel. But let us keep also the non-violences of the Gospels, because its new note compared with the Old Testament is evidently a personal and original affirmation by Jesus Himself. To muffle this note by linking the Church once again with the use of violence seems to be a betrayal of the Master's thought and intention, which He expressed clearly and forcibly enough, and for which He certainly paid a heavy enough price. It has always been the Church's temptation to construct a theology of glory which dispenses with the Cross (1 Cor. 2:2)" ---

Please comment! I want to know what you think.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Charles McCarthy on Non-Violence and Seminaries

You should all go check this out right now: McCarthy on Non-Violence

The essay is about how important it is that non-violence be taught at the seminary level as a principle tenet of Christianity's ethical teaching. I found it particularly awesome that he quotes Jacques Ellul, who is both a pacifist and an anarchist. Needless to say, the content is fascinating.

You should also go read whats available on the website for the Center for Christian Non-Violence. The site has some great stuff on non-violence as taught from a Catholic tradition.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I've been thinking a lot lately about the fact that many of our churches have been calling for Christians to take a stronger role in matters of "social justice". I've realized that it's undeniable that our call as a group to spreading the message of non-violence is tied together in some way or another with this new movement of Christians who "are thirsty for God's justice." For the most part I am very pleased with this change of heart. I think I can speak for several of us when I say that this has been something that the church has needed for a very long time, and I am very excited about where it might lead us. However, I desire for this movement to be Christlike and so I want to propose something that I think "stirs up the waters" a little bit when it comes to God and justice. Here it is:

I'm not convinced that we follow a God of "justice", at least not as we know "justice" today.

One of the things I've learned in talking to fellow pacifists and contrasting their views with those who are more "pro-military" is that one must not deny that there is a sense of "honor" in the duty a soldier performs when that duty is done to protect the weak and innocent. As pacifists and as people who choose non-violence its important that we do not dismiss this. The idea of protecting the innocent through whatever force is necessary is as close to the world can get to knowing Godly justice. HOWEVER, what Christ calls us to in his "sermon on the mount" is a new ethic which goes beyond the old "eye for an eye" sense of justice to something completely different which calls us to love even our enemies and to bless them when they persecute us.

What I fear is that the new cry for "social justice" in the Church, if not tempered by a constant reflection on the non-violent ethic of Jesus Christ, will gradually resort to a worldy "soldiering" kind of justice.

I believe (as I think many Christians do) that we are called as Christians to follow in Christ's footsteps and because of this I believe it is our responsibility as His disciples to "incarnate" him as best we can in today's world. When I look at the cross and when I look at the way Jesus spoke to the sinners and enemies he was surrounded by I do not see "justice", I see great "injustice". Christ's sacrificial death on the cross was certainly not an act of true legal "justice" as we know it. We know that Christ was innocent but that he died on our behalf, even when we were still a part of the mob calling for his death. We also know that loving our enemies and blessing them as Christ has taught us to do, when lived out, certainly does not look like the kind of "justice" we see revolutionaries and politicians calling for in today's world. The God we follow came as a sacrificial lamb, pure and blameless:

And so I want to suggest that perhaps how we are really called to live is more of a lifestyle of holy "injustice". For if God had meted out "justice" to us fairly, as we deserve it, we would have no salvation and Christ would never have gone to the cross.

As is written in Luke 12: "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more."

Go out and forgive unjustly, as your father in heaven has forgiven you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Statement from the Mennonite Brethren

In my quest for a US denomination which claims to be both "evangelical" and "pacifist" I've spent the last two days reading up on the Anabaptist (particularly Mennonite) movement. Churches with origins in the Anabaptist tradition seem to be among the few Christian movements today that still hold on to non-violence as a key value of the Christian life. I would encourage you all to go do some reading up on the history of the Mennonites. I think many of us would find that we hold many values in common with church denominations such as the Mennonite Church USA and the Mennonite Brethren. In particular I find myself drawn to the Mennonite Brethren church in the US, which seems to have a strong evangelical understanding of salvation while also maintaining a statement in their confession for non-violence as a central teaching of Christ's. You can read more about them HERE. Perhaps most interesting is article 13 in their detailed confession of faith which I took the liberty of posting below. Enjoy!:

"Article 13: Love and Nonresistance

God’s Community of Peace
— Believers believe that God in Christ reconciles people to himself and to one another, making peace through the cross. The
church is a fellowship of redeemed people living by love. Our bond with other believers of Jesus transcends all racial, social and national barriers.

Christian Peacemaking
— We seek to be agents of reconciliation in all relationships, to practice love of enemies as taught by Christ, to be
peacemakers in all situations. We view violence in its many different forms as contradictory to the new nature of the
Christian. We believe that the evil and inhumane nature of violence is contrary to the gospel of love and peace. In times of
national conscription or war, we believe we are called to give alternative service where possible. Alleviating suffering, reducing strife, and promoting justice are ways of demonstrating Christ’s love.

Exodus 20:1-17; Matthew 5:17-28, 38-48; Romans 12:9-21; Romans 13:8-10; I Peter 2:19-23."

I thought it would be good also to post the documentary we watched last week, "Prince of Peace, God of War" for those who were unable to join us last Saturday. It's a pretty good documentary, although we all agreed that it would have been made better by a more diverse collection of interviewees. I think it does a great job at explaining the historical basis for the churches rejection of Christ's teachings on peace as well as doing a great job at respectfully explaining arguments from both sides of this discussion.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Evidence of the Transformational Power of Peace: A Bishop Who Stood in the Way

Last night, the Tanks to Tractors Christian peace group met for the third time. Tim and Alice Colegrove were wonderful enough to allow our motley crew to converge on their beautiful home. THANK YOU TIM AND ALICE!!!

For the first time in our extremely brief history, we implemented a very important part of our reason for existence: Prayer. We all agreed that prayer must play a central role in how and why we gather. In particular, I was moved by Libby's prayer for the group that we be protected from self-righteousness and continue to 'walk humbly with our God.' This is certainly a real danger for Christians who hold the Peace position. We can easily give way to judgement of others who do not share our convictions. I am thankful that our group is already cognizant of this potential source of sin and is taking preemptive steps of resistance.

We also viewed a documentary film entitled "Prince of Peace, God of War" (which can be downloaded for free) by director John Campea. The film is made up mostly of short clips from interviews the director conducted with Christian scholars, that unfortunately did not represent the diverse Body of Christ, but hold to either the Peace position or Just War theory. Among the scholars interviewed was Dr. Tony Campolo. In his interview, he recounts a moving story of the power of peace. He tells of an Orthodox priest (Metropolitan Kirill) in Bulgaria during WWII who so identified with the Jews Nazi soldiers were rounding up to be transported to concentration camps, that he joined them in their confinement and proclaimed the words of Ruth, "Wherever you go, I will go. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God." When the SS saw that this demonstration was attracting a crowd too formidable to fend off, they abandoned the mission and none of the Jews in that Bulgarian town were killed.

I was so moved by this story, I wanted to seek out confirmation of its historicity. A few quick web searches returned overwhelming support. It seems this small town in Bulgarian was not alone. The Orthodox church in Bulgaria seems to have unanimously opposed cooperation with the Nazis and refused to hand over Bulgarians that happened to be Jewish. It also appears the Jewish community remembers this event well and has honored Bishop Kirill for it. I found an account of this story that is nearly identical to the one Campolo tells on the website of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship.

A detail they include that Campolo omits is even additionally inspirational. It is said in multiple locations I found, that Bishop Kirill and his followers threatened to lay down on the train tracks should the Nazi attempt to transport their Jewish neighbors out of the town.

This is truly the Christian witness that we are called to be.

Grace and peace

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Power of the Curse

Alice and I watched "Penelope" last night and although I didn't think it was an amazing movie, the moral of the story and the conclusion of the film was provocative to me. The film is about a rich girl (Penelope) who is born with a pig's nose because of a fairy tale curse on her family. Her mother spends the majority of the film trying to break the curse by finding her a rich young man to marry her in the hopes that the marriage would break the curse. The conclusion of the film is that she finds out that the only way to break the curse is for her to come to terms with herself and like herself for who she is, and at that point in the film her pig nose magically disappears. The film ends with her telling her fairy tale to a crowd of children who she then asks what the moral of the story is and the last child to answer her question says, "It's not the power of the curse, it's the power you give the curse." This line really stood out to me and I think captures well the churches condition here in America when it comes to our views of pacifism and social justice. The church in America has been lied to and told that "good theology" confesses that we are too weak to "fight the curse" of social injustice, sin, death, and war. This lie gives the enemy far too much power and in saying that we believe that we are helpless, we give power to the curse! What we need to do is to realize that where we were once helpless we are now strong enough in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to fight the curse and win. Not on our own, but as a part of His body. I have heard too many Christians, when presented with the pacifist stance that Jesus Christ teaches, tell me that my understanding of Christ's teachings is impractical and impossible to actually live out. They believe that we are unable to "love our enemies" and that therefore we can only do what we know how to do: fight evil through war. Again, I think in saying this these individuals are granting power to the curse: the curse that Jesus Christ broke at the cross and which we are not supposed to live under anymore. The Church today is like Penelope: It has an ugly pig nose and is only going to be able to rid itself of it when it stops giving power to the curse and starts to live out the gospel of the peaceable kingdom.

I had a dream several years ago that I think is relevant: In the dream I am worshipping with a small group of Christians in a small congregational church building. As we finish our liturgy and wait for the pastor to stand up and deliver the sermon, the side door to the front of the church opens and a man walks in and walks up to the front of the church. The man is extremely deformed and has no face, no arms, and is extremely overweight. He is covered in writing (tattoos?) and I can sense that his presence disgusts us and that we feel uncomfortable that he has taken the pulpit. He walks to the center of the front of the church and begins to make noises as if preaching, but we can't understand him and are revolted by him. We want to tell him to leave but don't know how. Thus the dream ends.

For the longest time I was convinced that the meaning of the dream had something to do with our judgement of the deformed man; that perhaps the dream was about how exclusive the church had become and how we needed to begin to accept people as they were. This interpretation however, had seemed unsatisfactory to me as it didn't quite capture the emotions I felt in the dream. So for the past several years I had been unaware of its real meaning until I recently narrated it to my wife and she wisely and tearfully pointed out to me what it meant: The deformed man in the dream IS the Church; we're supposed to be the beautiful body of Christ to the world but instead we are ugly, hypocritical, and deformed by hatred and sin: no face for people to recognize Jesus in, no arms to serve the poor, no voice to preach the gospel of peace with. We have become fat, ugly, and revolting to the world we were told to love and serve in Christ's name. The Christ we show people today is nothing like the loving, healing, and self sacrificing Christ of the gospels.

So friends, stop giving power to the curse of sin and death! Start looking and acting like Christ who is the head of the church. If we have a beautiful head to follow, we can and will have a beautiful body.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

God's Battles

Another thing I have learned these past few days: We serve the same God who caused the armies of Israel to win in battle and therefore any peace we are able to win here on this side of the cross will be won because of our reliance on God bringing about the victory. The minute we start thinking that it is US and OUR EFFORTS that bring about peace in the face of seemingly unstoppable violence it will mean that we have stopped pursuing the kingdom of God and that we are simply pursuing peace on our own terms, on the terms of the kingdom of men. If God is King then it will be Him bringing about the peace we so need. Not us.

A quote from Vernard Eller's "King Jesus' Arms for the Armless that I think drives home this point:

"If the war to establish the peaceable kingdom (the kingdom of God, which is the only truly peaceable kingdom) is fought on the basis of our numbers, our resources, our wisdom, our strategies, our good intentions, our peacemaking abilities, then it will fail; is is as simple as that. If, however, it is fought by God himself and by people who have put themselves totally under his command, then it does not make a great deal of difference what are our numbers, resources, etc.; there is no possible way the war can fail. The issue is not our ability but our obedience. Our success depends not upon the vision of what we can or will do but upon our faith that there is a God who already has given the victory into our hands if we are willing to accept it on his terms. Joshua's statement of the matter cannot be improved: 'Take very good care to love Yahweh your God.'"

Last night I had an intense exchange with a friend about the practicality of Jesus teachings (a topic which I have already written about) and something I need to continue to address is that Christ offers us a difficult task when he tells us to love our enemies, not because he knows we will fail, but because he knows we will need Him to lead the way and win this battle for us and alongside us. Are Christ's teachings practical? No. Are they possible without Him leading us in our doing it? No! Love is never easy and we cannot do it alone. God must be within it or our strivings for redemption and reconciliation with each other will fail.

Christianity and Practicality

These last few days I have had several eye-opening discussions with other Christians about war and peace. These conversations have left me for the most part discouraged… although they have certainly given me a greater sense of the scope of the task at hand. It has come to my attention that one of the most widespread objections to pacifism as a obligatory way of life for the Christ-follower is often the sense that pacifism is "unreasonable" or "impractical" in dealing with evil in our world. To this objection I offer two thoughts.

To start, I would suggest that the Christian is not called to a "reasonable" or "practical" life. Jesus never suggested that following Him would be easy or painless. The Christ-like life entails the carrying of our crosses and the sharing of each-others burdens. The Christ-like life entails dying for our enemies and asking that God would bless and forgive them (as Jesus did when he was put to death). The Christ-like life entails the giving away of possessions and a deep sacrificial love. The Christ-like life requires that we do not judge "lest we be judged". The Christ-like life requires of us that we seek "first the Kingdom of God" and not the kingdom of the world. Jesus does not offer us "practical" wisdom where "practical" is defined as "easy" and "common sense", he offers us Truth which when practiced, yields the good fruits of the kingdom. I have heard some say that pacifism is a "cop-out" and that pacifism is cowardly. To those that offer this view I would humbly suggest that in doing so they are calling Jesus a coward. Choosing to love our enemies though they spit on us, insult us, and nail us to a cross is not the way of the coward. It is the way of Godlike love.

The second thing I feel the need to point out is that "pacifism" does not imply "passive-ism". We are not simply called to a life of peacemaking but also to a life of love. Love is not passive. Love does not simply stand by while evil is done. Love does not take the side of the oppressor by staying silent while harm is done to the innocent. This is not the God that we follow either. If Jesus were teaching "passive"-ness he would have finished his teachings and died an old man, having neglected to save us from our sins. What Jesus teaches us is that "love" instead of violence is what puts an end to evil in our world. Those who say that the life of radical non-violence is an ineffective way of fighting evil have simply to look to the power of the cross to be proved wrong. History has shown that violence begets more violence and that killing our enemies only brings about further death.

On the 6th we will be meeting in the Cesar Chavez room at the Democracy Center. I would encourage you all to examine the life and actions of Chavez in order to see a good example of how non-violence can accomplish great good under great adversity. I will leave you with the following quote from him:

“Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak... Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win.”

seeking the kingdom of God,

Monday, March 1, 2010

guns and God

check out this article, written by shane claiborne, that i found on sojourners. no commentary is necessary...


Friday, February 26, 2010

Where Does The Church's Error Lie?

I've been having a fascinating correspondence with the brother of a co-worker. He is a classic evangelical in regards to his views on war and violence and the Christian's response to them. He would say that it is sometimes justified and even sometimes holy for us to kill our enemies and that sometimes violence is our only course of action. The conversations we've been having have often been focused on his use of the Old Testament to defend "just war" and how we differ in regards to our interpretation of the Christian's position in regards to the Old Testament law and way of life. I would like to post my response to his last correspondence below for the groups examination so that I can be sure that my defense is strong and not in error. The second half of the email is in response to some practical questions he had for me in regards to pacifism as a way of life. Please leave your thoughts.

++below is the email response++

I believe that your use of the Old Testament to defend your ideas of a just war and justified violence point to the root reason for our differences. This conversation stems from differences in how we understand God's response to sin and how we understand "justice" and the law of God in light of the cross.

Let me explain my understanding of our position in regards to the law in as succinct a way as possible. In the time before Christ, followers of God were instructed (by God Himself) that the proper response to sin was to remove it from their midst and to destroy it. We can't ignore that there was a time in human history when it appeared that the only way to effectively stop evil from happening in our communities was to fight it violently, and God instructed us on how to do this in the Torah laws. It's interesting to note that this idea of justice (the idea that retribution is a fair system of law) is not only how the Israelites operated judicially but also how other nations throughout history have operated. It's a common, almost natural, response within mankind to resist evil by destroying those who perpetrate it. We currently live in a governmental system where this is true. If I kill a man, I run the risk of being killed by the state as a "fair" response. God gave Israel a set of laws which they were to follow in order to effectively fight against evil, often these used "violent" means. This cannot be denied. It also can't be denied that throughout the Old Testament, God leads the Israelites to destroy evil nations around them and that God used natural events (violently) to destroy evil men (the Flood). In the Old Testament we are given a picture of what it is that makes God angry and what is against his nature. In the Old Testament we learn what sin is.

Now I would suggest that we probably agree on the above paragraph but what follows is probably where we differ. I believe, as you probably believe, that Jesus ultimately paid for the sins of the world in his death on the cross. I believe that Jesus death on the cross represents to us a new way in which God deals with sin. In Christ's sacrificial death, he shows us not only the way in which we would all be saved (by God loving his enemies and dying for them) but also the way by which his followers were to live (by loving their enemies and dying for them). This is not to say that sin is no longer sin (as it is still repugnant to God and God hates it), as Christ says "not an iota will pass away from the Law", but it is to say that our RESPONSE to sin needs to change. The cross changes everything. It's not just a spiritual truth that we believe in and which saves us, its a practical response to sin that we live out every day. Hence why Christ tells us to carry our cross and to follow Him. Following Jesus implies US dying to give THEM life, not THEM dying to give US life. Non-violence is an essential doctrine because an understanding of it is the LIFE of the Gospel and what makes Christians uniquely different than the world. To believe that we must still follow the "eye for an eye" way of dealing with sin in our world (demanding justice through the destruction of our enemies) is to live under the way of the old testament and not in the new Gospel of Jesus. When we kill our enemies and sue our oppressors in court, we are essentially denying Christ's death for them on the cross. Saying that Christians sometimes must kill their enemies and that death is still a just way for Christians to deal with their enemies is to neuter the Gospel.

I hope the above explanation gives you a more holistic understanding of why I believe what I believe. Now let me answer your questions:

You asked whether a Christian could be pleasing to God as a soldier, police officer, or a judge: No. I do not believe these professions are Christian. In the case of the soldier or the police officer, their profession would require of them to potentially kill another human being. This is not how Christ has treated us. We are now obligated to forgive as we have been forgiven. God righteously should have destroyed us for our sin. He doesn't do this because of Jesus, neither should we do this to others. In the case of the judge I would say that it probably depends on the nature of the state under which the judge was working. If the state would obligate the judge (under the rule of law) to condemn prisoners to death or to have them tortured or to have violence committed against them , then no. If a state could exist which did not obligate the judge to do these kinds of things, then perhaps Christians could be judges. Given that this kind of state is unlikely, I would say it is unlikely that Christians could ever be judges. Their administration of "justice", given their Christian propensity towards forgiveness, would probably not be looked upon favorably by the state. In the same vein, I don't believe that Christians can serve on jury's (as your religious obligation toward the love and forgiveness of your enemies would cause you to be rejected during the selection process).

You asked whether I would use violence to protect my child from physical harm: This is, undeniably, where the rubber meets the road. To answer simply: No. I would not use violence. However, this is clearly not an easy thing to do. To clarify: I don't believe that God calls us to "passivity" in how we deal with violence. There are loving ways to resist evil. Perhaps in the kind of circumstance you describe I would choose to stand in between the offender and my child. Perhaps I would be able to come up with a way to explain to this man how much God loves him and how much he has been forgiven. Perhaps in suffering the blows that would be set against me and not hitting back I would change that man's heart. There is no way for me to know the future of a man's heart and I cannot, in taking his life or hurting him in response, trump God from being the judge and protector of my family. I am called to be like Christ.

Iran and World War II make for an interesting defense of my pacifism. Iran seeks nuclear weapons as a reaction to our oppression of the Middle East. This is a long ongoing struggle where many lives have been lost and represents an unending cycle of violence. It is hard to know who started it at this point. Violence as a method of the "restraint of our enemies" has been attempted time and time again without any success: people continue to die. The only way to end this conflict is for the oppressed to choose non-violent resistance and love their enemies.

World War II is often cited in these types of discussions. I find it interesting that people think the conclusion of World War II was a success. The results of World War II and the division of Europe and the middle East generated several more wars in its wake. Without World War II we wouldn't have the Cold War, Vietnam, the war in the Pacific (nagasaki, hiroshima), and the conflict in Israel. Perhaps if men had chosen radical non-violent means of resistance to show their enemies their humanity and love, we would have been able to avoid a war of that magnitude. Unfortunately, what's been done has been done. We are given an opportunity now to offer the world something different in Jesus.

I hope this lengthy email clarifies some things. Looking back on my last email I feel that my explanation of my understanding of the Old Testament, War, and God's wrath, was weak and not very well developed. I would offer this as my more well thought out response.

seeking first His kingdom,

++ end of email correspondence ++

I was telling my father about this correspondence last night and we got around to talking about Emperor Constantine and how the Church gave in to the authority of Rome. We were talking about the early witness of the martyrs and how willing they were to go to death in order to live out and profess the good news and how the witness of the martyrs would have been completely irrelevant if they had not gone willingly (even joyfully!) to their deaths in the face of a tyrannical empire. We forget that their words were unnecessary… their willingness to die for their enemies and to die joyfully for God without hate in their hearts for their persecutors was testimony enough to the power of Christ in them.

Also… I will leave you with these somewhat unrelated but awesome words from Walter Wink:

"I submit that the ultimate religious question today is no longer the Reformation's 'How can I find a gracious God?' It is instead, 'How can I find God in my enemy?' What guilt was for Luther, the enemy has become for us: the goad that can drive us to God. What has formerly been a purely private affair—justification by faith through grace—has now, in our age, grown to embrace the world. As John Stoner comments, we can no more save ourselves from our enemies than we can save ourselves from sin, but God's amazing grace offers to save us from both. There is, in fact, no other way to God for our time but through our enemy, for loving the enemy has become the key both to human survival in the age of terror and to personal transformation. Either we find the God who causes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, or we may have no more sunrises."

-Walter Wink, Jesus and Nonresistance

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Whence Cometh My Vindication? A Thought on Justice, Sacrifice, Church and State from I Cor. 5.1-6.11

It appears from Paul's letter, the church in Corinth was a mess. Factions had formed, sexual sin was left unchecked. At one point, Paul keys in on a particularly shameful situation: a man living in adultery with this father's wife. Some of the Paul's instructions to the church in this matter are fascinating. In particular, what I find interesting are comments Paul makes that seem more like postscript or subscript--not directly relating to the adulterous man. In the process of reminding the Corinthians that he has already instructed them not to associate with the sexually immoral, he adds, "…not at all meaning the people of this world… In that case you would have to leave this world." Paul quickly prevents any misunderstanding of this words. He does not intend to prescribe separatism from the very people Christ has called his disciples to evangelize. Paul is well aware that the unregenerate will be sinful. It is the church who Paul expects sanctification among.

That's not all! Paul's fascinating asides just get better and better. Not only does Paul have different expectations for believers and unbelievers, he says the sin of unbelievers isn't his business! "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside." Paul expects to see sin outside the church and recognizes the Holy Spirit's role to bring conviction to hearts---to convince them of sin, judgment and the law.

Furthermore, he rebukes the Corinthians that appeal to the courts of the State saying, "If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?"

"Ungodly"?? Paul. Hold on there brother. Who said anything about the courts of our land being ungodly? Surely this only applies to Roman courts, right? Paul's words can't have application for Christians in twenty-first century America. Our courts are godly, right?

Many modern American Christians believe that there is no fundamental distinction between Christian justice and the justice meted out by the State. For Paul, the justice system of the State was not a legitimate source of justice for Christians. For Paul, appealing to the State for justice would be absurd since true justice is found only in Christ. Does a wealthy man ask a bankrupt man for a loan? Why would the ambassadors of God's reconciliation look to the unreconciled for reconciliation? Why would those liberated by Christ look to those still in bondage for freedom from temporal constraints?

"…and this in front of unbelievers!"

Seeking justice from outside Christ is not only absurd for Paul, but also destructive to the kingdom. By our love for one another do we witness God's love to the world. How can the world see God's love reflected in Christ's church if it is obscured by the quarreling of Christians? For Paul, this is of utmost importance. Christ's love, that is supposed to be on display in his church, is the only hope for the world. There is no grievance so valuable it rivals the witness of the church's loving unity. He makes his point as sharp as possible: "Why not rather by wronged? Why not rather be cheated?"

Paul's questions hit me at a particularly sensitive place. It requires me to ask myself: Is my desire for instant retribution worth sacrificing the witness of my love for my brothers and sisters in Christ before unbelievers? Is my need for justice greater than their need for redemption? Or could I lay down my rights for their sake? Could I release my claim to embrace the cross?

I must also ask myself: Am I greater than my Master? Are my rights more worthy of claim than were his? When I committed to following Jesus, I accepted self-denial and a cross. Sacrifice hurts. I don't want to let go. I've been wronged and my soul demands vindication. But then I hear the voice of the Spirit saying, "Trust me. I am your Vindicator and your vindication."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Interview with Daniel Berrigan

I just read a great interview in Sojourners with Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan. You can read it HERE. I particularly like the last question of the interview, which I feel could be particularly relevant as we continue to gather. I will paste it below:

"What insight or experience would you share with young activists seeking to engage in today’s peace and justice initiatives?"

"I can only trust the movement that is producing art, whether it’s poetry, or visual art, or dance, or music—it doesn’t make any difference. But there has to be that overflow that says, “We are on the move. We have enough to give and we’re going to give it. We have more than enough and we can give it.” So when my turn came for me and my friends to go to jail, we still wrote poetry and recited it to one another. We would meet on Sunday morning in the yard, and we said a poem we had memorized or written that week. We had Bible study going too. I don’t know where all that came from. As I look back, it was a very important and beautiful period together. It said, in effect, “They don’t own us. We’re not here on their terms. We have enough to give this to one another.” And that’s what we did.
You can really trust the movement that is producing that kind of overflow of the vessel—it’s getting tipped and there’s enough for everybody. And we call it art. We call it joy. The joy can’t be mandated, it’s just there or it isn’t there. And if the community is growing and deepening, it will be there. I’m convinced, it will be there."

-Daniel Berrigan

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Justice

"You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers,h what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

-Matthew 5:38-48

Christians…. why don't we seem to take these words seriously? It's pretty simple stuff and it has stunning implications. If we are told not to resist one who is evil then Christians should take no part in the military. Jesus teachings about loving our neighbor, turning our cheek, or walking the extra mile, imply that Christians should have no part in a court of law which seeks recompense or even the lives of an evil person.

I'm convinced that the implications of these teachings are what should set the Christian apart from the world. Our refusal to take part in the world's "eye for an eye" mentality needs to be central to the Christian life. If Christ has died for us and has ultimately paid for us, his enemies, what part do we have in the judgement of others? Another parable gives us an example of this truth:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. [8] 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. [9] 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant [10] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, [11] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, [12] until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

-Matthew 18:23-35

The Church today has become a wicked servant.

Declaration of Sentiments

Organizations and society's have traditionally adopted a declaration of sentiments or, as you may be more familiar with it, a "vision statement". These documents help to clarify the purpose and beliefs of the group of people behind it, help to maintain unity around a cause, as well as allowing the public to understand better what you are and are not endorsing.

The document we are currently reading as a group is the "vision statement" of the original New England Non-Resistance Society as it was written by William Lloyd Garrison and his collaborators in 1838. As the moderator for last week's discussion I thought it would be a good place for us to start, as it is concise and could prove helpful to us as we begin to consider what our own purpose and beliefs are.

I would like to encourage us all to consider what we would like to see in our own groups "declaration of sentiments" and have included a link below to Oberlin Non-Resistance Society's Constitution to use in the formation of our own ideas. I realize that it is probably too early for us to write and adopt a declaration anytime soon but I thought it would be good for us to begin to think about it as I think it will make us a stronger group as we push forward.

I would love all of your thoughts and comments about our own adoption of a "declaration" type document.. feel free to leave them below. What might you like to see in our statement?

Oberlin Non-Resistance Society's Constitution

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New England Society for Non-resistance - Reading

In the spirit of William Lloyd Garrison's group founded in 1838, a new group is forming in New England once again to proclaim the peace-making love of Jesus. The New England Society for Non-resistance is currently reading the Declaration of Sentiments written by Garrison and adopted by the Peace Convention. We welcome you to read along with us and post your comments here.

~T. C.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Peace-Making-Kingdom People

I'm very excited to report that earlier this evening I was privileged to meet with a group of Jesus-followers who want to seek ways together to express their faith in Jesus through nonviolence and non-resistence here in Boston. The group was gathered together by Tim and Alice Colegrove and is inspired by the "New England Non-resistance Society" founded by William Lloyd Garrison. The group has not yet chosen a name, but has already discussed expectations for the group's purpose and ways to take action on our convictions.

With Rod's blessing, I have offered as a virtual bulletin board for the posting of announcements, information, events, updates, etc. pertaining to the group. For all those interested, please check back soon as we hope to have more frequent postings.

I have attached to this post the logo of The Liberator, the newspaper William Lloyd Garrison edited here in New England because of how much it amazed me. Christ is pictured in the center between an African slave and a white soldier. Over Christ's head it reads, "I come to break the bonds of the oppressor." And the banner that stretches across and behind the title reads, "You shall love thy neighbor as thy self."

Amazing! Amen! And AMEN!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Protest of Jesus-followers

This evening I had a stimulating conversation with my friend Tim Colegrove. Of late, Tim has been reading about and reflecting on the Christian's call to nonviolence. From his reading and reflecting, Tim has been energized to action. He knows that Christian faith is not just a set of tenets we intellectually affirm, but is the life of God lived out in us. Therefore, he called to invite me to a reading/discussion group around these issues where we can encourage one another and discuss ways this subject can be brought to bear in our daily lives.

As we were talking and thinking through the planing stages of this group, the issue of protest come up. As we discussed protest, some interesting thoughts were shared which Tim admonished me to record for posterity on this neglected nonviolence blog. It was a wise and needful admonition that I appreciate.

For context's sake, the subject of protest arose in our conversation after I recounted a painful experience I had recently involving me sharing my nonviolent conviction with a respected mentor, only to be rebuffed with extreme prejudice. In this particular situation, Jesus' clearing of the temple was used to support the idea that violence isn't merely permitted for Christians, but perhaps beneficial in some cases. The person making this argument actually went so far as to say that the account clearly details that Jesus specifically whips people. (I'm still amazed by this assertion... but I digress).

Now, the unequivocal rejection and debunking of that misinterpretation would certainly make for an interesting, if a little defensive, blogpost. However, that is not my aim with this entry. Rather, what I'd like to propose instead are some thoughts that surfaced in light of this account around Christians and their relationship to protest.

Discussion of the temple-clearing brought to Tim's mind a series of articles and essays he'd recently read by a Catholic priest who protested the Vietnam War draft by breaking into draft offices and destroying draft data in dramatic fashion----pouring blood on it and burning it. While this sort of protest is certainly provocative and frankly badass, I suggested that it might from be misplaced. Jesus' tirade in the temple was definitely a dramatic and provocative protest. However, it is important to note who Jesus' audience was. Jesus did not call to account Roman officials like Caesar or even Herod Antipas. Instead, Jesus reserved his outrage and judgment solely for God's covenant people. I believe this should give pause to Christians who intend to use Jesus' example to justify protest of the State.

Nevertheless, I think Jesus' life and ministry example are instructive on this subject in at least two ways:

1) Jesus Prophetically Called God's People to Account

As followers of Jesus, we should take serious Jesus' example as a prophetic witness against corruption in God's covenant people. When we see the pure Gospel of God's love demonstrated in Christ's sacrifice desecrated by idolatrous nationalism and war-mongering, we are called to stand up and call it sin!

2) Jesus Exposed Injustice though Service

Though this episode gets a lot of attention due to its dramatic nature, Jesus' life and ministry continually protested against the demonic powers that feed corrupt cultural forces. By demonstrating extravagant love towards the outcast, alienated, dejected of society, Jesus protested the status quo set up by religious and political "authorities." Jesus' radical service of the least exposed the oppression and injustice society sought to mask and secretly support. Our call as Christians is to protest like our Master---through lives of dramatic, compassionate service to the least.

~T. C.

PS - On his page,, Mr. Glenn Miller brings up some very good points about the over-simplification and flat misinterpretation of the temple-clearing: