Tag Archives: Nonviolence

“Kill them all, and let God sort them out” – Why Evangelicals’ Reaction to 9/11 Went so Wrong

20 years ago, Al Qaida killed 3,000 civilians through terror and fire. That was a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.

In response, the USA started two wars that have killed 70,000 civilians in Afghanistan and 200,000 (!) in Iraq. Thousands of them were children.

That was also a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.

Shane Claiborne is an activist and theologian who had wise things to say concerning the violent aftermath of 9/11. From his book The Irresistible Revolution (2nd edition, pp. 185-187):

When Kingdoms Collide

Shortly after September 11th, I traveled to speak to a large congregation in the Midwest. (And no, it wasn’t Willow Creek.) Before I got up to preach, a military color guard presented the US flagat the altar. The choir filed in one-by-one, dressed in red white, and blue, with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” playing in the background. I knew I was in big trouble. The congregation pledged allegiance to the flag, and I wished it were all a dream. It wasn’t. I got up to speak, thankful I was standing behind a large podium lest anyone try to pelt me with a pew Bible. I went forward to preach the truth in love with my knees knocking and managed to make it out okay with a bunch of hugs and a few feisty letters.

This is a dramatic (though painfully true) illustration of the messy collision of Christianity and patriotism that has rippled across our land. I thought this was an exceptional and dramatic example, but l’ve had same zingers since this. I spoke at a military academy where they had a full-on procession of military vehicles and weaponry. They fired cannons and saluted the flag, and then I got up to speak. I felt compelled to speak on the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control), the things Scripture says God is like and we should hope to be more like.

I talked about how the fruit of the Spirit take training and discipline and are not always cultivated by the culture around us. Afterward, one young soldier came up to me, nearly in tears, and told me that as he heard the list of the fruit of the Spirit, it became clear to him that these were not the things he was being trained to become. We prayed together, and I think of him often. I know that young man is not alone.

I saw a banner hanging next to city hall in downtown Philadelphia that read, “Kill them all, and let God sort them out.” A bumper sticker read, “God will judge evildoers, We just have to get them to him.” I saw a T-shirt on a sold’ that said, “US Air Force … we don’t die; we just go to hell to regroup.” Others were less dramatic-red, white, and blue billboards saying, “God bless our troops.” “God bless America” became a marketing strategy. One store hung an ad in their window that said, “God bless America–$1 burgers.”

Patriotism was everywhere, including in our altars and church buildings. In the aftermath of September 11th, most Christian bookstores had a section with books on the event, calendars, devotionals, buttons, all decorated in the colors of America, draped in stars and stripes, and sprinkled with golden eagles.

This burst of nationalism reveals the deep longing we all have for community, a natural thirst for intimacy that liberals and progressive Christians would have done much better to acknowledge. September 11th shattered the self-sufficient, autonomous individual, and we saw a country of broken fragile people who longed for community–for people to cry with, be angry with, to suffer with. People did not want to be alone in their sorrow, rage, and fear.

But what happened after September 11th broke my heart. Conservative Christians rallied around the drums of war. Liberal Christians took to the streets … Many Christians missed the opportunity to validate both the horror of September 11th and outrage at war as a response to September 11th.

In the aftermath of September 11th, many congregations missed the chance to bear witness of God’s concern for the victims of the attack and God’s concern for the victims of the imminent war. Many of us hunkered down into familiar camps rather than finding a more creative way of standing with all who suffer. Many of the antiwar activists would do well to visit the memorial in NYC. And many of the war hawks would do well to visit the Ameriyah shelter in West Baghdad. Every life lost is reason for grief and outrage.

The cross was smothered by the flag and trampled under the feet of angry protesters. The church community was lost, so the many hungry seekers found community in the civic religion of American patriotism. People were hurting and crying out for healing, for salvation in the best sense of the word, as in the salve with which you dress a wound.

A people longing for a savior placed their faith in the fragile hands of human logic and military strength, which have always let us down. They have always fallen short of the glory of God.

Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President. His newest book is Executing Grace: Why It is Time to Put the Death Penalty to Death.

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Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Will Jesus Wage a Literal War According to Revelation?

By Greg Boyd, originally published on his blog ReKnew.

In an interview several years ago for Relevant Magazine, Mark Driscoll (well known pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle) said,

“In Revelation, Jesus is a pride-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” (You can find the original interview here).

I frankly have trouble understanding how a follower of Jesus could find himself unable to worship a guy he could “beat up” when he already crucified him. I also fail to see what is so worshipful about someone carrying a sword with “a commitment make someone bleed.”  But this aside, I’m not at all surprised Driscoll believes the book of Revelation portrays Jesus as a “pride fighter.”  This violent picture of Jesus, rooted in a literalistic interpretation of Revelation, is very common among conservative Christians, made especially popular by the remarkably violent Left Behind series.

The most unfortunate aspect of this misreading, as Driscoll’s comment graphically reveals, is that the “pride fighter” portrait of Jesus easily subverts the Jesus of the Gospels who out of love chooses to die for enemies rather than use his power against them and who commands his followers to do the same (see e.g. Mt 5:43-45Lk 6:27-36). In fact, if you read these passages carefully you’ll notice that Jesus makes loving enemies and refusing all violence the prerequisite  for being considered a child of God! Loving enemies like Jesus commands (and like the rest of the NT teaches, e.g. Rom. 12: 1417-211 Pet 2:21-23) requires that we crucify our fallen impulse to resort to violence, while the model of Jesus as a “pride fighter” with a “commitment to make someone bleed” allows us to indulge it. If we can dismiss the peace-loving Jesus as a “hippie, diaper, halo Christ,” then we’re free to wish and even inflict vengeance on our enemies all we like — and feel righteous about it!

Continue reading Will Jesus Wage a Literal War According to Revelation?

Stop Treating the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Like a Sports Event

Once again, the Holy Land has been struck by war.

I feel compelled to write something that I wish nobody should have to write, something that should be obvious to everyone but which for some ill-conceived reason can be controversial to state in certain contexts:

War is awful.

Hamas firing on and killing the Israeli civilian population is awful.

The counterattacks by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) killing Palestinian civilians are awful.

War has no winners, there is no one to “cheer” on as if it were a sports event, there is no victory in war that does not come at the price of hating, tormenting and killing your fellow human beings.

Take a look at these pictures.

The upper image shows an apartment in Israel that was hit by one of Hamas’ rockets a few weeks ago. Five-year-old Ido Avigal, pictured to the right, lived in that apartment. He died immediately.

The picture below shows a girl being rescued by medical personnel after an Israeli attack in Gaza. The attack destroyed nine buildings and killed 43 people, including eight children.

In total, 68 children have been killed in the Holy Land these last couple of weeks. 66 of them were Palestinian.

All of this is awful. It’s sickening.

Continue reading Stop Treating the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Like a Sports Event

The Two Walls of Israel

(a thought, and a prayer, by Ramone Romero)

If only…

I was thinking

If only all the prayers in that wall

The Western Wall

Were put into the West Bank Barrier instead

If only all those prayers

At the ruins of the temple

Were put into the lives of people

Who live among ruins

In the West Bank

In Gaza

Whose homes and lives

Have been left in ruins

If only

If only the wishes that the temple still stood

Were put into seeing the temples of people

Who are standing next door

If only their temples could be rebuilt

In lives

As living stones

If only the temples where we seek God

Were the temples of our neighbors

If only we saw

That the holy temple of God

Is people

Is one another

And our prayers were changed

Into a desire to see them blessed

If only our devotion to religion

Was a devotion to one another

To loving our neighbor

Instead of putting walls between us

If only

Think of what a holy place it could be

When our neighbor is as sacred to us

As the holiest temple of God

If only

I thought, and I pray, in hope

“If only.”

Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?

The topic of the pacifism in the early church is something I have written about before for PCPJ. However, in our world it often needs repeating and restating. The Church has often fallen into the temptations of politics and militarism. This is clearly seen in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement, which leaned towards pacifism in its early years, but became tolerant towards nationalism and militarism within only a few decades.

In the United States, we are in the midst of two events that make the topic of Christian pacifism relevant: 1. We are in the midst of a very brutal election season, and 2. We are approaching the 19th anniversary of the War on Terror, specifically the war in Afghanistan (which officially began October 7, 2001). It is the longest war in American history. Of course, PCPJ is an international organization, just as the Church is an international organization, but I think these are universal issues, and the war in Afghanistan includes many countries (including all of NATO). Additionally, PCPJ was founded in that time and context.

Considering that we have been in constant war for almost 20 years, I think it is time for Christians in the West to look back to our roots again and to not be seduced by politics or nationalism. What would Jesus say and do if He was here today? What would He say to a supposedly “Christian nation”? What would the prophets, apostles, and church fathers say in this time? Specifically, we should look at the early church. After all, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity is primarily about revival – an attempt at recovering the Christianity of the apostolic age. Continue reading Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?

Three Biblical Methods for Handling Conflict

We are called by Jesus to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), resolving conflicts as we go forth to spread the Gospel about his love. Peace is always dependent on at least two parties, which is why we might experience conflict even when our intention is peace.

This is why Paul writes “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18). We try our best on our part, and pray that the other respond constructively.

What does this look like in practice? God seems to be very concerned with us asking that question, since the Bible provides us with several practical tools for conflict resolution and peacemaking.

1. Breaking the cycle of hostility

The first tool is given to us by Paul right after he says that we should seek to live at peace with everyone. He continues: Continue reading Three Biblical Methods for Handling Conflict

God’s Non-Violent Ideal in the Old Testament

By Greg Boyd, originally published on his blog ReKnew.

While God condescended to working within the violent-prone, fallen framework of his people in the Old Testament (OT)—as I argue in Crucifixion of the Warrior God—the OT is also full of references to how God worked to preserve his non-violent ideal as much as possible. He did this by continually reminding his people not to place any trust in the sword, but to rather place all their trust him.

For example, as Judah was facing impending doom, the Lord told Hosea that he would save them “not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I the LORD their God will save them” (Hos 1:7).

So too, through the Psalmist the Lord encourages his people by saying:

        Do not put your trust in princes,

        in human beings, who cannot save.

        When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;

        on that very day their plans come to nothing.

        Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

        whose hope is in the LORD their God (Ps. 146:3-5).

Continue reading God’s Non-Violent Ideal in the Old Testament

Pacifism’s Hardest Choice and the Doctor’s Dilemma

If a violent man attacked your family, what would you do? Probably every Christian pacifist has been confronted with this question. The purpose of the question is to make the pacifist realize that violence is sometimes necessary: no matter how much you want to love your enemies, you may face situations in which refusal to use violence will lead to the harm or even death of people you love.

As John Howard Yoder points out in his book What Would You Do?, the questions is emotional. The attacker is always an anonymous man, and when the family members are specified, they are almost always a mother, daughter or wife. The one posing the question wants as little emotional bonds to the attacker as possible, while the opposite is true for the one being attacked.

Reality, of course, is not as simplistic. Most violence against women is conducted by people they know well. Questions that have even more relevance to what we might actually experience in life would be: what would you do if your son attacked his wife? Or what would you do if your mentally sick friend attacked an innocent stranger? But of course, these questions cannot easily be solved with “I use violence and everything become alright!” and so are left out of the picture. Continue reading Pacifism’s Hardest Choice and the Doctor’s Dilemma

Should Christians Kill Each Other?

I talked to a brother the other day who was a conscientious objector in the 1960’s. I asked him why he refused to do military service.

“Because I don’t want to kill a Christian brother. And it would be unreasonable to first run and ask an enemy soldier what he believes before you eventually kill him. So I can’t kill anyone.”

I found this argument for pacifism very interesting. Now, I think it’s clear that Jesus doesn’t want me to kill anyone, regardless of their faith. He wants me to love my enemies (Mt 5:44) and not use weapons of war (2 Cor 10:3).

But obviously, other Christians disagree. They think that we are sometimes warranted to kill others. But do they seriously think that we should kill other Christians?

Did Jesus envision his disciples to ever kill each other?

I think the answer is obviously no. But I was curious if my non-pacifist sisters and brothers think differently. And so I asked them on Facebook:

If Jesus envisioned his disciples to sometimes kill each other, why didn’t he talk about it?

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So far, I have received hundreds of comments, and not a single one addresses why Jesus doesn’t talk about his disciples killing each other if he really envisioned it. Most people have asked me questions instead, of how I would stop Hitler or a murderer attacking my family etc. Interesting questions for sure, but this time I wanted an answer from them.

Some did address when they found it appropriate for Christians to kill other Christians. It was when a Christian is defending themself from an attacking Christian. This scenario is of course hard to identify. Most people who are “attacking” others do it in perceived self-defense, be it a preemptive strike or due to a perceived threat.

What’s worse for this theory of just fratricide is that it is completely detached from the Bible. Not only is Jesus silent on the matter of disciple-killing, but the rest of the New Testament also abstains from discussing it. It is as if the early Christians only expected them to love and care for one another rather than taking each other’s lives.

Contrary to popular belief, the Bible doesn’t even talk much about self-defense. The two views on violence one can reasonably deduce from the biblical text, is that it is either OK when a political leader demands it, or that Christians should be pacifists. The Just War theory that distinguishes between different kinds of wars originated with the pagan Cicero and was later adopted by church father Augustine without much input from the Scriptures. Before him, most church leaders were pacifists.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jesus doesn’t want his followers to slaughter one another. I find it even harder to imagine that he wants us to kill non-Christians, condemning them to eternal punishment. And so, I think that when he asks us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek, he really means that we should not kill anyone.

Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author and editor for PCPJ.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Why Did Jesus Tell Violent Parables?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted in 2016 at his website ReKnew.

Some try to argue that Jesus did not make loving enemies and refraining from violence an absolute mandate. They make their case on the basis of several passages from the Gospels. The first concerns the cleansing of the temple which we addressed here, while the second is about how Jesus spoke harsh words to the Pharisees, which was covered here.

A third argument cites several eschatological parables of Jesus to argue that he believed God would act violently in the final judgment. A classic example is the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt 18:21-35). Jesus begins this parable by comparing “the kingdom of heaven” to “a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants” (v. 23). One servant owed him “ten thousand bags of gold” (talents, v. 24), and it’s helpful to note that each talent was the equivalent of what a servant would typically earn over twenty years.

The servant of course could not pay the king, so the king intended to sell off everything the servant owned and to sell his family into servitude. Yet the servant pleaded with the king for “patience,” promising to eventually “pay back everything” (vv. 25-6). As a result, this king “took pity on him” and not only postponed payment, but “canceled the debt” altogether (vv. 27). Continue reading Why Did Jesus Tell Violent Parables?