God and Violence: An Introduction

This is not a blog about Pacifism or Just War, but it is a blog about the common life of the Christian community, a life that inevitably rubs shoulders with the ethical questions bubbling up to the surface of this broken world. And in a broken world, the Christian community is forced to deal with the question of violence.

“Bethlehem Wall Graffiti 2” by Photo: Pawel Ryszawa, Graffiti: The armoured dove by Banksy

Shane Claiborne opens his book, The Irresistible Revolution, by saying,

“While the voices of blockbuster movies and pop culture cry out for a life outside the matrix of numb efficiency, Christianity often has offered little to the world, other than the hope that things will be better in heaven . . . There is a pervasive sense that things are not right in the world, and the gentle suggestion that maybe they don’t have to stay this way.”

Shane is right. Things are not right in the world, and everyone knows it. Even now, police brutality and racial tensions in this country are on the rise, and Christians in the Middle East are on the run from radical Islam. We live our lives carried in the huge wakes left by 9/11 and Bush’s War on Terror, and the waves have washed up on the national front-lines such loaded terms as “peace” and “justice”. Meanwhile, as our boys go off to fight and die, tensions continue to fester in our own streets, with riots occurring almost monthly, shootings bi-weekly, and daily violence on almost every street corner.

In a world of wars and rumors of wars, the world has received a plethora of answers from Christendom, many of which have been confused, uninformed, divided, and often more violent than the problems. In the aftermath of 9/11, most Christians have swung the pendulum to one side or the other, calling out from a position of unwavering Pacifism or Militarized Faith, and, unfortunately, the most uninformed voices are often the loudest.

War is destructive. I don’t just mean Hollywood’s shiny version of guts and glory, but in reality. Innocent civilians are killed, homes are destroyed, lives are wrecked, and families are torn apart. And little wars are fought every day in the streets and in our homes, from gang violence and murder to robbery, rape, and barroom brawls; these wars are smaller, but nonetheless devastating. But what is the Christian response to the devastation? Certainly, we participate in reconstruction and comfort of the hurting. Certainly, we should give aid to the man on the Jericho Roadside, but what do we do when the robbers come for us or our family?

War Stuff
Battle of Ia Drang Valley

Easier than giving an answer to such questions would be ignoring the problems altogether, living in our own little Church Bubbles and walling ourselves off from the world. Christ called us to be in the world, and the world is not going to change for us. Logan Mehl-Laituri penned it well in his book, Reborn on the Fourth of July, when he wrote, “Evil is not passing away; it’s here to stay, and it calls us to action.” For the past two thousand years, Christians have dealt with the question of violence, and yet, it seems our answer is still too far off.

The purpose of this discussion is not to convince everyone of a “Pacifist” or “Just War” perspective. Rather, it is to call the church–pacifist or otherwise–back to a universal love for neighbor as for self, and to make that love the starting place in any conflict.

In order to do this, a series of blog posts will follow, walking through the chronological narrative of the Bible to discover God’s heart, and from it learning how to live in a world with atomic bombs, guns, and fists.

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