Deliberations and Resources on Radical Christianity

Reclaiming the Faith

I was having a think about some of the big names in the realm of Christian Nonviolence, and it occured to me that very few of them actually held what one might consider to be a “traditional” view of Christianity. Adin Ballou, one of the great preachers of Nonresistance in a Christ-centred context, was a minister for the Unitarian Universalist wing. Leo Tolstoy, whom Ballou inspired, became so disillusioned by the Orthodox Church that he abandoned the spiritual side of Christianity altogether and divorced them from Jesus’ teachings, which he considered to be of far greater importance. Mahatma Gandhi, as most of us are aware, remained a devout Hindu even in spite of basing much of his revolution upon Jesus’ words.

Now I must add this, that these men can hardly be blamed for their rejection of Christianity’s Orthodoxy, given the majority attitude of its proponents at the time (an attitude which still finds its prevalence today in many Christian circles). Tolstoy saw many churches focus more on legalistic rituals and sacraments rather than what he passionately believed were the most important principles of Christ’s teaching. Gandhi, eager to worship in a church, was turned away by “Christians” who would not allow him there on the basis of his race. How sad that these men of influence were confronted all too often with the frail human side of the people who claimed Christ’s name. So goes Gandhi’s famous quote, “I love your Christ. It’s just that you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Amen to that.

No doubt I am thankful that people such as these were able to see the light of Christ in some small sense even past the ridiculous portrayal given of Him by the indulgents of hypocrisy, and I certainly do not dismiss that we may learn from them. If anything, I am more frustrated at the attitudes of many in the broader church that lead people to view the spiritual nature of Christianity as having little to no worth.

Undoubtedly there has been a growing movement of Christians in recent times – some writing excellent literature on the matter – who have seen the marriage of the Son of God back to the example of nonviolent resistance and the struggle against corrupt power He gave us. It is my prayer that this movement only goes from strength to strength, and that the attitudes of Christian peacemakers around the world will continue to be an influence in the Church at large; dare I say it? I pray for a new reformation. It may sound ambitious, but what else is faith good for but to rely on the strength God grants us to reach for lofty goals?

I wish to reclaim Christian Orthodoxy back from its corruption by powers, and to reintegrate it into the example of the early Church fathers and of the vocal minority since who have been struggling against Empire. I wish this world to know that Christians can stand against the forces of darkness with the spiritual weapons of warfare rather than the carnal weapons of hateful destruction, and that we stand this way under the crucified God, whose death and resurrection signified nothing less than victory for those who belong to Him. I want this world to know that Christianity is far more than spending the week spreading the word and talking about how great Jesus is. And let’s not forget the importance of those things either, let’s just reintegrate them back into the powerful countercultural resistance of Biblical theology! Let us witness that faith and action can and must cooperate together.

People who know me well are aware that I am a major fan of Martin Luther King Jr. Sometimes I feel like I drop his name far too much, but if I do then it is only because he is one of the more prominent figures in recent history who was not afraid to marry his passion for nonviolent resistance to a deep commitment to the Christian faith. This Trinitarian resistance is majorly important, I feel, for knowing that the ressurection of our tortured God is the power which drives the universe into being on the side of divine justice. If we are to face this decaying world with any hope in our Christ-centred efforts, we must remain true to the roots of our faith. We can only face the war against darkness if we remember that glorious day when God conquered these forces for all time with the weapon of the cross.

Their time is running out. We just need to stand firm and have faith.


6 responses

  1. I tried to comment on this post, but it showed up under another post! Sorry! 😉

    What scriptural basis do you use to support your claims of non-violence?

    I personally am not a violent person, nor do I think it should be the focus. I think that christians have historically borne the sword in vain, but not always.

    Isn’t there a time for everything. A time for peace, and a time for war?

    March 6, 2007 at 3:55 pm

  2. Hello friend. Don’t worry about the mess-ups with trying to reply, I’m still not used to these confusing blog controls myself!

    I’ve made a couple of posts which might help you to see where I am coming from with regards to Christian Nonviolence:

    The first one is a bit long, so feel free to skim it. My perspective is more or less that the kind of love Jesus spoke of (Agapé) in Matthew 5 is sacrificial and reconciliatory. That is, this love seeks the good of its recipient, even if they happen to be our enemy. Paul speaks of this kind of love as well, in 1 Corinthians 13, and given the definition and exposition of agapé love, I do not feel that its expression can ever result in fatal physical violence. The type of nonviolent resistance Jesus speaks of in Matthew 5:38-48 is that of turning the other cheek; not resisting the evildoer with violence, but resisting him with aggressive love. To turn the other cheek is to forgo fighting back with violence, but at the same time not standing down either.

    Other scriptures I feel are relevant to Christian Nonviolence are the whole of Romans 12, where Paul speaks of always overcoming evil with good, and never taking it upon ourselves to perform the vengeance which belongs to God alone. Ephesians 6:12 states that our war is not with flesh and blood, but rather against the powers of darkness in this world. Nonviolent resistance is a direct attack upon the demonic, and an expression of love toward the ones oppressed by those forces.

    Jesus certainly never condoned violence. He became aggressive in the Temple toward the moneychangers, and He did chastise them, but He never harmed them physically. In my second linked post above, I argue that Jesus’ teaching to His disciples to combat this kind of oppression was to stand in faith, forgiveness, and prayer. Also note that when Jesus was captured in the Garden of Gethsemene, His instruction to Peter (who fought against the soldiers) was: “Put your sword back in its place. Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.”

    If we are to say “war is always wrong,” then we may well be contradicting scripture. I do not seek to judge whether war was a correct course of action in Old Testament times, for the covenant and setting were far different. God’s people no longer occupy one nation, but encompass the entire world. The “time for war,” I believe, has passed since God revealed Himself in fullness to us within the person of Jesus Christ. If we are to live as He lived, and love as He love, then we cannot return violence with violence. Christ’s love was sacrificial even to the very end, upon that cross. If we are to “take up our cross” and follow Him, then it means we walk as He did, showing love to neighbour and enemy alike. Love, subsequently, does not perform harm.

    March 6, 2007 at 5:09 pm

  3. I don’t disagree with most of what you’ve said. And I’m not trying to argue for violence, but I don’t feel as though we should categorically reject it as evil. I’m not sure you’re doing that.

    What about the revolutionary war? What is your take on it? I’ve heard some sermons recently where it stated that the war was led by the preachers. That was a new one to me? But seemed to be historically accurate. Were those men wrong for picking up arms against the crown?

    I don’t think they were. If so, then our country was founded in sin. Everything that Americans hold dear is contrary to the Gospel. I don’t have a problem fighting to defend oneself or our rights. Perhaps I should say, if it came to my family I would become a violent man (I think?) in order to protect them.

    What I have a problem with is something like the crusades. Where christians thought that the scriptures taught to extinguish non-followers of Christ.


    March 6, 2007 at 5:57 pm

  4. Well, first of all I am British… hehe. I’m not saying I don’t care about your country at all, I care about it as much as I do all nations. What that means, however, is that I do not feel as passionately about the founding of your nation as you might.

    I think Christians reach a very precarious (and dangerous) point when they try to justify any war as either necessary or good, because we as people of the Spirit ought never to crave bloodshed. I know that is not what you are suggesting at all, and many Christians do indeed feel the same way as you; that war should only be employed as a last resort after all other options have been exhausted.

    I would suppose that my answer to your question is yes. I am categorically denouncing the use of fatal violence completely for the time we live in, that is, the endtimes between Christ’s first and second coming. Jesus evidently gave us a new covenant, and in Matthew 5 He unquestionably overturns the ancient way of thinking that mandated “eye for an eye” enforcement.

    I don’t suggest that good cannot come out of war. That is no different, however, to my belief that God can use any form of immorality or human sin to work out for the purposes of His ultimate good. Jesus Himself told us that there would continue to be wars and rumours of wars even until the very end of the age, but that these occurrences should not trouble us. We know that wars and violence will continue to rage, but we Christians have been called to a different path; everything about the person of Jesus and the New Testament tells me that this is the path of active nonviolence.

    Nonviolence isn’t passive, and definitely not for the coward. Nonviolence is not about running away, it is about standing up the the evildoer and resisting his violence with every ounce of divine love. It is about returning the attack upon the forces of darkness.

    I realise that I probably cannot change your mind, and I am not necessarily endeavouring to do so; rather, I am pointing out scripture as I personally see it. I would ask, however, that you at least be opening to question your view of the necessity of violence in this current age. Search the scriptures, especially those to which I have point you, and pray on the matter that God might guide you Himself rather than taking my word for it. An open heart will eventually be led to the truth, not as humans dispense it.

    If we as Christians are to denounce the use of violence on a small scale, then I would have to ask why we are able to justify it so readily on larger ones. In effect, do we love our enemies by killing them? Does love result in intentional death?

    Just some food for thought, hopefully.


    March 7, 2007 at 3:56 am

  5. Oh, and by the way, I forgot about your question on revolutionary war… I fervently believe that Jesus spoke of revolution against rich oppressors and corruptive powers, but not once did He ever instruct His disciples to use force against them. His revolution was one of nonviolence, and I can’t help but think that if every genuinely-believing Christian on the planet were to take this spiritual method to heart, we might start seeing a good portion of this revolution visibly taking place.

    March 7, 2007 at 3:59 am

  6. Well, first of all I am British… hehe. I’m not saying I don’t care about your country at all, I care about it as much as I do all nations. What that means, however, is that I do not feel as passionately about the founding of your nation as you might.

    That’s just about the funniest thing I’ve read all day! 🙂

    BTW – I don’t feel as passionately about my country as most. My citizenship is found in the Kingdom. No, not your’s! (the UK). In the Kingdom of God! 🙂

    I’ll have to give thought to the rest of what you’ve said!

    Blessings! 😉

    March 7, 2007 at 4:02 pm

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