Category: Nonviolence

Atonement - Cross

The Atonement of God by J.D. Myers

The Atonement of God by J.D. Myers (cover)A few years ago I was strongly considering writing a book. My premise was essentially a systematic theology but starting with the idea that God looks like Jesus, particularly when it comes to rejection of violence. The Atonement of God by J.D. Myers is the closest I’ve encountered to trying for the same goal, with a couple of significant differences:

  • It is not nearly as comprehensive as a systematic theology, sticking to topics that are directly related to a non-violent understanding of the atonement.
  • The starting point is a non-violent understanding of the atonement in particular, rather than a non-violent God in general.

Maybe that excitement biased me, but I felt like the book was only moderately successful.


My main complaints are related to the style, not the content. It feels sloppily written. It often gets very repetitive, which meant that although it was a short book, it probably could have been half the size. It doesn’t really do a good job explaining what is meant by some terms, such as pacifism (see below). It uses gendered language, and I don’t just mean some that are very understandable like male pronouns for God – I mean regularly using “man” to mean humanity.

Technology - Bible and Headphones

Pacifist Video Games

Fallout 4 cover artI just now came across a fascinating story from back in December about Kyle Hinckley who managed to beat the game Fallout 4 without killing a single person. Well, not really. He managed to avoid directly killing anybody, but he did do things like brainwashing non-playable characters into doing it for him.

Kyle said this to Kotaku:

I’d love to ask [the developers] why pacifism is so difficult in this Fallout … I’m a little disappointed in the lack of diplomatic solutions in this game, it’s a lonely departure from the rest of the Fallout series. My version of pacifism isn’t really diplomatic, it’s more exploitative of the game mechanics to achieve a zero-kill record. In other [Fallout] games, you had a lot of alternatives for bypassing the combat, whether it was with sneaking, speech checks, or a back door opened with lock-picking and hacking. In fact, in previous games (at least 3 and NV), your companion kills didn’t count towards your record either.

I don’t know much about the Fallout games at all, but this is a worrying trend in the video game industry in general. I’m not primarily talking about the long-running question of whether we become more violent by playing violent video games.

Howard Thurman

What Kind of Nonviolent Activist?

Across a few social media networks I began seeing people share their results from a quiz for “What kind of nonviolent activist are you?” made by Sojourners. I took it, and I’ll share my results at the end, but more important than that, I thought this was a great idea to educate people on nonviolent activism. Most people are generally familiar with Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., although usually in whitewashed forms that aren’t nearly as radical as they actually were. Beyond that, even proponents of nonviolent action like myself can’t name too many nonviolent activists. So I first just wanted to praise this quiz for that accomplishment.

Now, onto the questions:

Is violence ever permissible?

No. At least not for a Christian. Some violence I can be more sympathetic toward, specifically the oppressed feeling like they have no other choice, but I still don’t think even in those situations it is actually helpful or in line with Jesus’ life and teachings. I don’t really have any interest in debating what’s “permissible” for those who don’t hold themselves to Jesus’ teachings, but I would still say it is not helpful.

Movie Theatre

Mockingjay Part 2: Empires and Scapegoats

Mockingjay Part 2When I first heard that the last book of The Hunger Games series was going to be split into two movies, as is all the rage these days, I didn’t like the idea very much. It wasn’t even my favourite book of the series (that would be Catching Fire). But seeing how they handled the two movies differently I began to appreciate it. The first primarily dealt with the role of media in propaganda, holding up empires by convincing the average person to fight on their behalf. Part 2 was much more action-packed but dealt with a couple different angles on the broader themes of the series: the nature of empire and the scapegoat desire.

Spoilers will follow.

One Empire for Another

It would be tempting to see the rebels, led by Alma Coin (Julianne Moore, probably my favourite actress), as the obvious good guys. They’re standing up to the evils committed by the Capitol against those in the Districts, evils which extend beyond The Hunger Games and the more subtle approaches (many similar to real life) into outright obliteration of those who stand against them after the war starts.

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Season 5

Game of ThronesI recently caught up on this past season of Game of Thrones. The only time I’ve blogged about this before was in critisizing how often naked women appear really only as props. I’m not sure if this season was any better on that front – not worse, but probably still bad. But there were a few other themes I did enjoy that made this the most interesting season to me so far. Spoilers will follow.

Protect the Status Quo?

My favourite line of the season, and the show in general so far, came from Tyrion Lannister. This may be a slight paraphrase:

It’s easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is works out in your favour.

Canadian Flag

Engaging with the Political System

Canadian FlagWith less than a week to go until the election, I’m going to try to summarize my general approach to faith and the political system. For more specifics on topics that have come up throughout our election season, check out the tag elxn42. The caveats for this post:

  • I’m talking about my context of a developed Western world democracy, specifically in Canada but most of the ideas would carry over.
  • Defining “politics” gets tricky. In a broader sense it simply means enjoying with the world around you, which is definitely necessary. Here I’m talking specifically about engagement with our government structure, particularly during election season.

Participating in Empire

This is typically the main question for traditional Anabaptists: to what degree do you participate in a system that is inherently anti-Christ? Among other potential conflicts, our governments – even our better democratic ones – rely on using force to get their way. This disproportionately affects marginalized groups who are harmed by the status quo. To what degree, if any, can we be a part of such a system while claiming to follow Jesus who lived and taught in ways sometimes strictly opposed?

Canadian Flag

Jobs My Faith Wouldn’t Allow Me

There is lots of good commentary out there about why the whole Kim Davis story is ridiculous. She was elected to a government office that she wanted to fill, choosing to act as a representative of the government. She took an oath saying she would fulfill her duties without partiality, among other things. Now she has decided she doesn’t want to do her job. She doesn’t just resign, though. Instead, she insists that she gets to do her job her way instead of the way of her employer. The employer in this case is also the government, so by “their way” we really just mean “the law.” She thinks she is still entitled to the job that she refuses to do. Some Christians paint her as a martyr standing up for her religious freedom.

Let’s be clear here: there are no religious rights being violated. She hasn’t been told she can’t practice her religion. She hasn’t been told she can’t teach her religion to others. What she’s been told is that if she wants to keep her job, she has to keep actually doing her job. You know, like the conditions present for almost everybody else who has a job.

Muslim Girl

Islamophobia is Stupid

Recently, fellow MennoNerd Micael blogged about why Deport All Muslims Now is Stupid, Evil, and Unchristian. The last two really should be obvious if you’ve ever actually listened to Jesus’ teaching ideas like loving your enemy and doing good to those who hurt you. Many admit this but then fall back on “the only way to stop the tiny fraction of Muslims who are extremists is to just kill everybody.” In other words, they think it is smart even if they sort of acknowledge it is evil and unChristian.

Fighting Fire with Fire

N.T. Wright says this:

the real battle is against violence itself, against the normal human wickedness that shows itself in the desire for brute force to win the day. If you fight fire with fire, fire still wins. And Jesus has come to win the victory over fire itself, over the rule of the bullies and the power-brokers, in favour of the poor, the meek, the mourners, the pure in heart.

(Longer quote in this old blog post)

Selma movie poster

Thoughts on Selma

Selma movie posterI know I’m way behind on this one, but we finally went to see Selma. Best movie of the year for me, although I’ll reserve any comments on how big of an Oscar snub it was since the only of the Best Picture nominees I saw was Birdman (hated it) and part of Grand Budapest Hotel (I think I was way too tired that night to understand it).

No Whitewashed MLK

The overall aspect that I loved is how MLK was not whitewashed. He was not tamely petitioning for change the way most white people tell the story. He did not play well with the rules of respectability politics. He was firm in believing nonviolent resistance was the Jesus way and the most effective way, but he definitely stirred up a lot of trouble and was pretty unashamedly abrasive in getting his point across.

23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19

#ChapelHillShooting and Islamophobic Narrative

This is another example where I am glad to be a regular Twitter user. If not for Twitter, I may not have even heard about the shooting at Chapel Hill in North Carolina. Three young Muslim students (1 male, 2 female) were killed by a middle-aged, white, atheist man named Craig Stephen Hicks. The mainstream media (MSM) has been pretty much silent on it so far.

Do you remember the events of Charlie Hebdo in France? Muslim kills people. Story dominates the media for weeks. Reports constantly emphasized how the killer was Muslim and there was a lot of hype around rights of free speech even when that speech belittles others – a right I agree with, in case somebody misreads that. There were analyses about whether Islam is inherently dangerous (correct answer is a resounding “NO”). Everyone simply assumed motives, projecting their fears and thereby reinforcing that fear. World leaders were shunned if they didn’t drop everything to join France in mourning. We could do similar comparisons with the shooting in Ottawa or the siege in Sydney.