Posts Tagged ‘bible’

I think I’m turning into a pacifist…

February 18, 2009

Yesterday’s church history class opened up with our professor telling us that we would be covering all that was wrong with the Medieval period of Christianity. We then trudged through the inquisition, rival popes, and the crusades.

There is no need to talk about how bad the crusades were. It did, however, encourage me to think a little bit more about what I think about violence.

I don’t think it is hard to come up with a Biblical argument for non aggression. Personal aggression, that is. There seems to be little or no interpretation room to think that we ought to be a bunch of bullies, pushing each other around. Feel free to prove me otherwise, but I am not sure that citing Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek is proof-texting. I think it is pretty clear that the way of Christ is not one laden with physical attacks.

In fact, even the cross (often used to cite that the Christian God is an angry, violent God) is an argument for personal non aggression. God, in his infinite wisdom, chose for the path to salvation for many to be sacrifice rather than siege. Christ’s victory is found in his submitting to his assailants instead of destroying them, and then raising from the dead showing their physical attacks to have been in vain.

So, enough preface, on to being a peacenik.

So where do we get a justification for war at all?

It is clear that God does not condemn the idea of war. The New Testament seems to allow for soldiers to remain in their occupation (although you could make the case that some Roman soldiers were just meant to keep internal peace rather than external, but I don’t think that argument holds up), and in the Old Testament God calls the people of Israel to war.

Luther made the argument for a just war based on the idea that governments have the right to protect their people – and have been given that charge from God. Romans 13 (among many other passages in the Epistles) makes it pretty clear that Christians are not supposed to try and overthrow the government, because God has given rulers their authority (we can talk about how that works with oppressive dictators another time). Therefore, as just war advocates say, governments have authority to use their power for governing their people, including their protection.

Other may dispute this, but practically it seems unthinkable that any country would not have an army or any system of defense. And whether or not you agree with the current war being waged, the logic of strike first is not completely flawed, nor is the idea that the big kid on the playground has a duty to look out for the little guy (a concept that would not be hard to draw out of the sundry commands in the OT prophets for Israel to watch out for the oppressed). You know, Uncle Ben “With great power comes great responsibility” business.

So what is my problem?

My problem is that when I over simplify the situation, I believe that killing someone else to stop them from killing you is not right. It is more than possible that this has different implications in a war setting, (God did not allow murder in Israel, but did allow for war), but it is still a mental, ethical hurdle that I struggle with.

My problem is the fact that when I became a citizen of the United States, I pledged to take up arms to protect Constitution if necessary. And I have no idea if I could do that with singleness of mind. I understand that there are many brave, and honourable Christians who are part of the armed forces, and by no means do I think that what they do is wrong.

I do think that Christians (particularly Evangelicals) support sending missionaries to the 10/40 window and sending more troops to the middle east without ever thinking that there might be a contradiction in those efforts. This is an over simplification, but the internal struggle should be there.

I don’t have answers to this one. This is my personal, ethical gordian knot that I am working through. War may be a necessary evil, a product of a fallen world that still needs to be redeemed by Christ, an unfortunate last option when peace is not an option, but none of that changes the undeniable fact:

War is bad.



September 26, 2007

another post related to my experience from looking at episciopal blogs (particularly Father Jake’s  who, even though I disagree with him theologically, is a pretty level-headed guy I must say)

There is a lot of problems in the Anglican Communion. A lot. Because of the differences in theology between the conservative, global south and the liberal west (I think that is an accurate geographical split) who both consider the other to have strayed away from true Christianity, there may be a schism. Both sides are beginning to feel like staying in Communion with one another is not worth it anymore.

I will agree, the tension is definitely there, and perhaps there is legitimacy to seeing a brother who will not repent of their sins and leaving them. But I wonder how far the separation needs to go.

Do we ever excommunicate a brother and leave him to his own ways forever, or does there have to be some sort of general sense of communion to make sure that he knows that we still love him? I fear that an actual split between the factions will not help in our attempt at Christian unity, but instead take a step backwards.

I see far too many churches in the evangelical tradition splitting and starting up new churches for the most ridiculous of reasons. Church plants are one thing, but how many churches are there that have no accountability to anyone; no relationship with any other church? How is there any expectation of unity within the church when there are estimated to be over 20000 Christian denominations in the world? Add to that the number of churches which claim to not be part of any larger group. How do we teach about the universal Church,  when we make no attempts to make our church universal?

I am not saying everyone forsake their differences and hold hands and sing kum-bay-ya, but there has to be some sort of steps taken to unity. And sometimes that unity is going to require us to be in dialogue with people who believe very different things.

So would I be happy if the Anglican Communion split? I don’t know. I think the best opportunity is for there to be actual conversation between the sides, but I wonder if that ship has sailed.