Posted by: sean | December 17, 2007

Christianity, Violence, and War

Tom Lock, founder of nonresistance.org, starts with a dramatic reading of Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book followed by an analysis of the four Christian views towards war. He is articulate, passionate, and very biblical. The entire length of this sermon is 82:24 minutes.

click here to download the mp3, Christianity, Violence, & War by Tom Lock.

Here is an abbreviated version of the speaker’s journey to pacifism (you can read the full version here).

For me and for a while, peace and social justice concerns went to the back burner, replaced by my career, church involvement, raising children, home remodeling, and family problems. The church lost its Christian community aspect and became larger, less personal, and more mainstream American Protestant, right-wing, and George-Bush-can-do-no-wrong Republican. But while the church was slowly turning away from its roots, I was slowly turning back to mine.

Both turnings accelerated after the 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center. I saw that what was touted as “compassionate conservatism” turned out to be lip service, with the rich continuing to get richer at the expense of the poor and middle class. The country became accepting of, even obsessed with, militarism to a degree I had not seen even during the Viet Nam War. America and a coalition of those it duped invaded Iraq on the flimsiest of excuses (just where are those much hyped weapons of mass destruction?), directly leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians. Not what I would consider following in the footsteps of Christ, and yet my fellow church members made excuses for it all. I became more outspoken.

Our differences finally came to a head during the presidential election campaign of 2004. (At that time the senior pastor, without subsequent disclosure or apology, gave the congregation political information that originated from the Republican National Committee, claiming that it was unbiased and nonpartisan.) Several church members and I attended one of many conferences held by a large national Christian men’s organization. The conference leaders highly praised the troops and expressed their wholehearted support for the war, and a (supposedly) Christian comedian ridiculed the French for refusing to sanction or support the war. The only thing that kept me from trying to shout down the speaker was the realization that, in a large stadium filled with thousands of people, I could not hope to be successful.

In church the next day, when we were invited to tell the congregation about the conference, I got up and went to the microphone. I read Matthew 5:38-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you, do not resist an evil person… You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” I read it, tore the page out of my Bible, wadded it up, and threw it on the floor. I read Luke 6:27-36: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” I read it, tore the page out of my Bible, wadded it up, and threw it on the floor. I read Romans 12:14-21: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… Never pay back evil for evil to anyone… Never take your own revenge… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” I read it, tore the page out of my Bible, wadded it up, and threw it on the floor. I read 1st Peter 3:8-9: “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead…” I read it, tore the page out of my Bible, wadded it up, and threw it on the floor. And then I continued, telling them how ashamed I was of the American church and why.

…That incident at church got me into a whole lot of trouble. I apologized the next week for scaring the children, but I am still ashamed that the American church – and that congregation – have abused the scriptures in a way that is far worse than me. They may as well tear those pages out and throw them away, for all the care, attention, and obedience they pay to them – which was, after all, my whole point. At any rate, that was pretty much the end of that church for me, and the end of me for them. I was permitted to conduct two or three poorly attended Sunday school classes on nonresistance after that but was not permitted to preach a sermon, even though no one was able to show my views to be Biblically incorrect. (The church had previously been relatively open to non-clergy delivering sermons.)

…Most Christians would rather politely ignore the topic than face their own spiritual poverty and admit that the Just War doctrine is just wrong. And I was inspired – what could I do to break the conspiracy of silence? I could start by making as much of the literature as possible as available as possible. Garrison, Ballou, and others inspired Tolstoy. Tolstoy inspired Gandhi, Gandhi inspired Martin Luther King, and King inspired a whole new generation. Perhaps there is another Tolstoy, Gandhi, or King out there, just waiting to be inspired. I hope so.

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Responses

  1. Wow and Amen. You are already inspiring a new generation.


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