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.