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.