In anticipation of recording a TNT (Theology Nerd Throw-Down) tomorrow afternoon in which Tripp and I will deal with J.R. Daniel Kirk’s blog post about violence and the gospel, I thought it would be good to put all my cards on the table.
Kirk is one of our favorite New Testament scholars and one of our favorite bloggers. He is a masterful HomeBrewer and an Academic of renown. This week he had the opportunity to catch up on his podcasts and one our TNT was one his selected listens.
He had concerns about some of the content and in his post he said:
“What about those passages that make Jesus himself look more “violent” than selections in the Sermon might? E.g., what about the Jesus of the narrow way and crashing house from the end of the Sermon? But then there is also the question of what comes before and what comes after. There is judgment. In the OT there is war and destruction. In Revelation there is a lake of fire.”
I thought it would be good to put forward my thoughts 24 hours ahead of our recording to see what the deacons had to say.
I am not a pacifist. That label has come to mean ‘passive’ and my reading of the gospel does not allow for one to be passive in their engagement in the world.
I am not into non-violence. While I appreciate that long and astounding history of those who promote non-violence, I do not subscribe to the theory of non-violence. As a post-Colonial scholar I reserve the right of oppressed minorities to both defend themselves and to aggressively pursue their own liberation and freedom.
I do not believe that God is violent. I am resigned to the fact that humans are violent and that humans project the validation for their violence on their deity – whoever who he or she might be. Jesus shows us a different way.
So there are three ideas presented in the negative. Here are my three convictions in the positive.
- I am under the impression that Jesus is the highest revelation of God. As a Christian, I hold that God was uniquely present in Jesus and that Jesus shows us what God is really like (image of the invisible God and all that).
- I am a radical peace maker. I take the sermon on the mount very seriously and I am under the impression that we should be aggressive in our pursuit of peace, reconciliation and restoration.
- I am convicted that violence begets more violence. While I am not a pacifist nor into non-violence (per se) I am deeply convinced that the problem with violence is that it begets more violence. This is why contemporary debates about war and American foreign policy are nothing more than drivel and posturing. Violence begets more violence. [ I don’t have enough time to go into how both Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden are products of US foreign creation}
With that in mind, I would like to acknowledge an issue raised by Dr. Kirk’s.
Jesus flipped over tables. To quote the late Chris Farley “well ladi freakin’ da!” So what? Is that what you want to do? Flip over tables at church? Well go ahead – with my blessing! But let’s be honest – Jesus turning over tables opens the door for you to justify invading foreign counties and dropping bombs on civilians who might be enemy-combatants. Seems like a leap eh? Listen to christian radio, christian TV, or Fox News. Apparently it is not that big of a jump. If all you wanted to do (with God’s blessing) is to flip over tables at church – this would be a non-issue.
Yes, the story of Joshua is a violent one. Tomorrow on TNT we will address the issue that God told the Israelites to invade Canaan and kill all the inhabitants – as well as that that damned Lake of Fire in the New Testament.
I’m looking forward to having that conversation.
On a different note …
I have been having the conversation for almost 20 years. It almost always goes the exact same way.
Me: Jesus told us to love one another and to turn the other cheek. He also modeled it when he was ‘led like a lamb to slaughter’.
Guy: Are you telling my that if somebody broke into your house you would just let him rape your wife?
(I’m not kidding, that it almost always the first objection)
Me: No. I would not stand by and let someone rape my wife.
Guy: I thought you were a pacifist.
Me: That doesn’t mean being passive. There are many ways to resist, restrain and deter that kind of violence.
Guy: I would kill him. I would shoot him in the face.
Me: … I think there are alternatives beside killing.
Guy: You are lying if you say that you would not kill him too. And if the Americans didn’t get involved in WWII then we would all be speaking German right now!
(Hitler is almost always the second objection)
In the end, I am not a pacifist because it is an ideology that one subscribes to that takes options off the table. I am not into non-violence because it limits the response of oppressed communities. I also am not a big fan of defining yourself in the negative.
What I am into into is aggressive peacemaking. I am against preemptive war and I believe that violence begets more violence.
I would love your thoughts as we prepare for tomorrow’s show.