Category: Nonviolence

Medieval Sword

3 Bad Arguments for Christian Violence

In a comment discussion on another blog, I was given three really bad arguments in favour of Christian violence, so I’m going to take a minute to answer them here just in case others have heard similar. To be clear, I have heard better arguments. I’m not dismissing genuine proponents of Just War Theory as not really Christians or anything like that. But these particular arguments are really bad.

God Judges

The first was the parable of the tenant farmers in Matthew 21:33-45. Short version: God is landowner but rents it out. Tenants refuse to pay for the land, so God sends messengers (prophets) who they kill, until he sends his son (Jesus) who they also kill. God will “totally destroy” (CEB) those farmers.

Medieval Sword

Not Peace but a Sword

If you claim, as Anabaptists do, that Jesus taught nonviolence, somebody will inevitably point out that Jesus said this:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34 NIV)

Seems pretty clear-cut out of context, doesn’t it? The first question I would ask to anybody using this verse to defend violence is what they think Jesus meant by the “sword” here? Do you think he means a literal sword or something metaphorical? Presumably they think a literal sword – translatable to guns or bombs today – if they are using it to defend enacting violence. The second question would be who is it that is using the sword here, to which I imagine they would respond the disciples.

If We Burn, You Burn With Us

If We Burn, You Burn With Us

In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Katniss delivers a powerful line:

If We Burn, You Burn With Us

We could take this at a simple level of a threat, like “We aren’t going down without a fight.” In the context of the greater themes of the series, though, I don’t think we should read it that simply.

ISIS and Hitler

If you say you’re a pacifist, you’ll usually get two questions right away: “but what about Hitler?” and “you wouldn’t protect your family if somebody broke into your house to rape and kill them?” I’m going to ignore the second and focus on the first because there is a strong parallel to how people are responding to ISIS.

How Will Canada Respond?

Yesterday much of Canada – and a lot of the rest of the world – watched as shootings occurred at our Parliament building in Ottawa. To summarize for anyone who wasn’t aware: one soldier, who was unarmed as it was a ceremonial position, was killed; a couple of others went to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries; the whole downtown area was on lockdown basically the whole day unsure if there was a second shooter or not; the shooter was a radicalized Muslim with some ties to ISIS.

I’ve seen three common streams of responses, with of course some being somewhere in the middle.

Freedom Riders and Ferguson

On Saturday night Emily and I watched a PBS documentary on the Civil Rights Freedom Riders. I had a vague knowledge of the history (Emily had quite a bit more) but not many of the details. It really is an inspiring story on many fronts.

Beyond general inspiration, though, I couldn’t help but draw a lot of parallels with the events in Ferguson.

How Long, O Lord?

I haven’t blogged much this summer. One of the big reasons: I really am starting to hate being at the computer absorbing so much bad news. It really has seemed like much more than usual this summer. If case you’ve missed out, it’s all rather depressing: war with borderline genocide in Gaza, extremists killing everyone not like them in Iraq, Mark Driscoll’s latest abuses coming to light and his continued refusal to get help, the suicide of Robin Williams and the many harmful things said by some Christians in response.

Technology - Bible and Headphones

Violent Videogames

Micah Murray recently wrote for Convergent Books about how he has stopped playing violent video games. It’s a great piece about how he didn’t feel it made him a violent person or anything like that, but it was weird for him to set aside his convictions for an hour or two for the sake of entertainment. He doesn’t condemn any Christians who still play violent games, but says that he can’t anymore. I think of it like Paul’s teaching on eating meat sacrificed to idols, personally: not a clear right or wrong, but listen to your own conscience and if you do say yes for yourself, also respect those who say no.

Israel, Palestine, and the Myth of Just War

I’ve gotten myself in trouble a couple of times with one of my Twitter followers in the past couple of days for retweeting a couple of things related to the current war (aka genocide) in Israel/Palestine. The first, to paraphrase, asked why people are surprised that Palestinians are fighting back – unsuccessfully for the most part – against their oppressors. The second tried to be a bit more humorous and suggested that the Israeli mindset was “do unto others as the Nazis did unto you.” Of course, I know that as soon as you compare somebody to the Nazis, you’ve lost the argument. I am familiar with that rule of the Internet, so maybe I shouldn’t have retweeted that one, but I do still think it makes a good point.

The point of both tweets from my perspective: both Israel and Hamas are operating on the same framework that the way they achieve peace is through wiping out all of your enemies. And yes, it was the same framework as the Nazis and really the same framework of most people and most nations. It was the basis of the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace: peace through victory.

Isaiah’s Suffering Servant

2nd Isaiah is probably most famous for the poems to the suffering servant. This servant figure isn’t named, so our first instinct is usually to guess who it is referring to. Some scholars suggest that it was meant to be Isaiah himself. Others suggest that it was to be a representation of all of Israel or another individual who was instrumental in achieving the return from Exile. The earliest Christians applied these to Jesus – there’s no doubt of the parallels. In any case, this figure had a unique and essential role as a martyr.

At the heart of this martyr’s witness we see that this Servant gives himself over to government oppression but in doing so frees his people, a statement that would not have sat well with the Persian leadership: