13 June 2011

Christian Non-Violence Explained

Christian non-violence is very easily explained: "Thou shalt not kill". Jesus wasn't kidding about all that "hippy stuff that he laid on pretty thick".

All killing is a sin. When Joe kills your brother, it's a sin and it's a sin when you kill Joe in retaliation. It's a sin when Protestant Northern Irish kill Catholics and a sin when Catholic Northern Irish kill Protestants. It's a sin when countries kill in war; killing done by a State doesn't automatically make killing alright and blessed by God.

And: Just because you think it's OK to kill a certain category of person and I don't think it's OK to kill that category of person, that doesn't mean that I hate you, and it doesn't mean that I think it's OK to kill people like you. All killing is wrong. Simples.

15 comments:

Ric said...

Pam, a person has a right to practise non-violence in their own life, to use that non-violent life as an example to others, and if necessary to accept martyrdom. That person does not have the right to criticize those who will not accept martyrdom, but instead fight back in self-defense, even killing their opponents if that is truly the only way to defend themselves. There is a line in 'The Captain' by Leonard Cohen: "Whatever makes a soldier sad will make a killer smile." Although as a Jew maybe I have no right to comment, I don't think it is impossible to be a good Christian and a soldier.

PamBG said...

That person does not have the right to criticize those who will not accept martyrdom,

ROTFL. I see. No free speech, then.

There is a line in 'The Captain' by Leonard Cohen: "Whatever makes a soldier sad will make a killer smile."

Great. I'm not a disciple of Leonard Cohen.

Although as a Jew maybe I have no right to comment,.

Um, yeah, see, you DO have a right to comment. And I won't even call you names because you disagree with me.

I don't think it is impossible to be a good Christian and a soldier.

I think that "Christians" have certainly proven that we're good soldiers. Look at the hundreds of millions of people we've managed to kill down through the centuries.

What I'm saying is that I don't believe that Jesus condones war.

Steve Hayes said...

Amen! Preach it, Sister!

Ric said...

Sneer at me, but not at Leonard Cohen, please. There is wisdom in his work.
I see we must continue to disagree and find no common ground. Ah well, never mind.

PamBG said...

Maybe part of the problem here is believing that disagreement equals "sneering" or that disagreement on one subject means that no common ground can be found anywhere.

J A Y B said...

Good words Pam. I do not follow any man, or woman, however much their wisdom may be admired - Jesus is where I am at.

If we ALL lived by the way of Jesus there would need no need for self-defense or indeed martyrdom, never mind being a good soldier to defend your country or other peoples rights in their country.

Alas mankind does not and uses every excuse he can think of to justify his violence. Let us not kid ourselves that sinfulness comes first and as Christians we have to adapt as best we can. Ric said that one could be a good Christian and a soldier. May I suggest we have two obligations, one to freedom and one to Christ.

If we believe we are fighting for Christ when we go to war then we are confused, if we believe we are fighting for our fellow men then we do it out of responsibility to them, not to Jesus, nor in Jesus' name. We are in this world but not of it, sometimes we have a duty and an obligation, always we have a choice. Christ would not have condoned violence. He hoped we would ALL learn to love our enemies not fight with anybody. Certainly not kill anybody. The life for a life rule of the OT went out with Jesus fulfilling the Law. As I said sin comes first - we do things even though we do know it is wrong to be doing it. 2000 years or more and we still have not learnt to love our neighbours as ourselves. So sad.

PamBG said...

Excellent words, JAYB

WomanistNTProf said...

Agree with you Pam. Although I would say a life for a life went out before Jesus. WE can see both theologies I believe in the OT-- that is a life/eye for an eye/life. It gets nuanced sometimes with adjustments for involuntary manslaughter and sometimes it is wrong regardless as in the ten commandments. But interestingly, the man to whom God gave the commandments had murdered a man (Moses). And I won't hate or dislike anyone who disagrees with that. Sometimes we as humans get caught up in fighting tooth and nail to be right. So much religious and Christian rhetoric is about having "the truth" and therefore being willing to die for "the truth," which often leads to hating those we view as opposing "the truth." And there is grist for that theological mill in the Bible too -- doesn't make it right or godly, in my humble opinion.

PamBG said...

Mitzi, far be it from me to disagree with a biblical scholar! And, like you, I don't want to hate, either.

There was a "hidden agenda" here which was the suggestion elsewhere that the Christian non-violence of "people like me" is not really about non-violence in all cases but rather a ruse for the destruction of a particular group of people in an on-going geo-political dispute.

My agenda was not so much to "prove" non-violence - probably very difficult if you consider Hebrew Scripture with certain hermenutics - as to state that I really mean it's wrong for both sides in any dispute to kill others.

Anonymous said...

What about violence (the use of physical force to apply a state to others contrary to their wishes) that is not murderous in nature? Are we as Christians commanded not to INITIATE any act of violence? Are we as Christians commanded not to COMMIT any act violence? Surely there are exceptions when dealing with those who are dependent on us like our children, but what about when dealing with everyday, adult individuals? If we are indeed commanded not to initiate any acts of violence, is it moral to support a state that takes the same actions (whether it be taxation, regulation, or any action that isn't a response to initiated violence)? If we are indeed commanded not to commit any acts of violence, is it moral to even support a state that engages in law enforcement? As you noted in your article, a violent action is not magically pacified when undertaken by a state. What about the threat of violence, how does that fit in?
Good questions, no?

PamBG said...

Anonymous, yes, some good questions that move on from the original post and introduce some nuances.

I'm not sure what your main concern is here or why you wish to remain entirely unidentified. I don't normally engage with Anonymous commentators because genuine human interaction requires some acknowledgement of mutual identity and personhood.

Is it possible to be against armed conflict and still understand that a society needs laws? Yes, it is possible. It's only impossible in a world of non-adult, black-and-white thinking.

Colin said...

I'm sorry Pam. I wasn't necessarily looking to engage in a full dialogue or challenge anything in particular that you said, but merely to put my ponderances related to this post forth; an actual response being a nice bonus, but not my complete goal. I didn't realize earlier that that was a rather selfish endeavor. That is why I decided to simply post anonymously. If you'd like to read from a more humanized voice, call me Colin.

As for what you've said, I agree that a society does appear to need enforceable laws to function at it's highest level, but ultimately that's a consequentialist answer to a moral ponderance about the implications of true pacifism; I'm sorry that that seems "non-adult" or "black-and-white". At the same time, proposing a completely lawless society as that society which arises from the lack of a violent (whether or not that violence was purely reactionary and defensive or initiated) state doesn't seem possible to me as demand for reactionary and defensive violence still exists in an anarchistic society and thus that demand is met in a way where the violators represent and violate in the name of only those who utilize their services, rather than everybody, including pacifists.
I would like to also note however that I'm neither an committed anarchist nor a committed pacifist, but simply someone who is constantly trying to better understand God's instructions to his children regarding violence as someone who is especially bothered by initiated violence, even when well intentioned and not involving killing or physically injuring.

PamBG said...

Colin:

When I wrote the post I was not intending to "ponder extreme non-violence". As the post says, I was intending to explain what I think the concept of Christian non-violence means.

This was a frustrated post in a larger conversation with a number of individuals who were arguing that Jesus didn't believe in non-violence. As you say, there is a consequence to non-violence and Jesus actually experienced that consequence - crucifixion. Therefore it seems reasonable to me to think that Jesus did believe in non-violence and that his actions were consistent with that belief.

I don't think laws and boundaries are "violent" in and of themselves. It's not violent for me to tell you that you can't hit me. If you persist in trying to hit me and I finally need to hit you back in order to defend myself then, in my mind, I should say. "I have just had to resort to violence in order to defend myself, because I exhausted all my other possibilities in maintaining my safety." The preferred argument for a lot of people, though, seems to be "I wasn't violent when I defended myself. If it's self-defense it's not violence."

tony c said...

Pam, If you're interested Tolstoy wrote a freely downloadable and short book on the topic of Christian non-violence. It's called The Law of Love and the Law of Violence. Really great. Tolstoy was an inspiration to Ghandi who himself was a great admirer of the Sermon of the Mount and Jesus.

I'm in the middle of wirting a series myself on the roots of violence in Christianity on my own blog.
Although I am a big Leonard Cohen fan I doubt he actually meant that quote to be his formal opinion on violence. You could find some great lines in his songs but I suspect "Don't go home with your hard on, it will only drive you insane" wasn't meant as actual advice either. :)

tony c said...

Pam, If you're interested Tolstoy wrote a freely downloadable and short book on the topic of Christian non-violence. It's called The Law of Love and the Law of Violence. Really great. Tolstoy was an inspiration to Ghandi who himself was a great admirer of the Sermon of the Mount and Jesus.

I'm in the middle of writing a series myself on the roots of violence in Christianity on my own blog.
Although I am a big Leonard Cohen fan I doubt he actually meant that quote to be his formal opinion on violence. You could find some great lines in his songs but I suspect "Don't go home with your hard on, it will only drive you insane" wasn't meant as actual advice either. :)