Tag Archives | pacifism

The Peaceable Kingdom | Stanley Hauerwas

The cover of Hauerwas' The Peaceable KingdomWe often think of Christian ethics in response to a concrete problem. Did that politician abuse his power when he dated that intern? Is it ethical for a rape victim to have an abortion? Is it permissible to lie in order to serve the greater good? Where can we go to find the resources to answer these questions?

Many Christians, especially of evangelical stripe, go to the Bible—Hauerwas goes to church. It’s not that Hauerwas doesn’t value scripture, but he knows that scripture was written by and formed within the church. Scripture is best read together, within the context of the church. It is in the community of the baptized that believers grow in virtue. It is in the church that Christians learn their place in God’s story and have their imaginations freed to think truly and ethically.

The entire book centres around chapter 5, “Jesus: The Presence of the Peaceable Kingdom” (72-95). The story of Jesus (not Christological reflection) is “meant not only to display [Jesus’] life, but to train us to situate our lives in relation to that life” (74). The life of Jesus is characterized by nonviolent love.

Thus to be like Jesus is to join him in the journey through which we are trained to be a people claiming citizenship in God’s kingdom of nonviolent love—a love that would overcome the powers of this world, not through coercion and force, but through the power of this one man’s death. (76)

The church embodies an alternate reality—true to reality. The church the place where nonviolent love reigns and thus bears witness to the world that Christ is present. (Or at least it should be thus. Violence and disunity threaten the witness of the church to its core.)

When it’s time to make difficult moral and ethical decisions, we will have been apprenticed by the church into the life of Christ and will have become the sort of people capable of making those hard choices.

Hauerwas, Stanley. The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002 (1983).

The Myth of Righteous Violence | Daniel L. Smith-Christopher

There is no such thing as “righteous” violence, as if brutal actions are somehow transformed by calling them aspects of the struggle for justice. Such manipulation is as offensive in progressive circles as are the more nationalistic versions of justification of violence by using patriotic terms. Both sides only succeed in justifying violence.

—Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, “Daniel” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. VII, 96.

The Politics of Jesus | John Howard Yoder (Ch. 12)


Chapter 12: The War of the Lamb


1972: With our focus on Jesus and Paul, other biblical witnesses have been left out, notably Revelation. Christian social ethics is obsessed with discovering the meaning and direction of history. It turns out this is no easy task because of the plethora of free agents in play. Revelation provides a better solution that trying to decode history. John reminds us that “the cross and not the sword, suffering and not brute power determines the meaning of history” (232). Indeed, Jesus’ faithfulness to the enemy led him to give up his own handle on the meaning of history to be faithful to the will of God.

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The Politics of Jesus | John Howard Yoder (Ch. 1)

I have been curious about Christian pacifism since the aftermath of 9/11. “Just war theory” had always been my official view, although I had no real idea what that meant.

A few years ago the documentary, God of War, Prince of Peace was produced. (You can grab it for free on TheMovieBlog.com.) In it, Tony Campolo’s story about his inability to drop bombs while asking, “what would Jesus do” really struck me. Lately I’ve been reading Hauerwas, a pacifist theologian. (I didn’t know they made pacifists in Texas!) It turns out Hauerwas was a student of J. H. Yoder, a Mennonite theologian and popular thinker in the 20th century pacifist tradition

I’ll be honest: I want to be a pacifist. I can’t believe Jesus wants us to kill other people created in his image. Still, when I think of the rise of Hitler and the abuse of innocent people, I wonder whether Christian love doesn’t compel us to act violently against oppression. I’ve decided to study The Politics of Jesus and really consider what Yoder had to say on the topic. I’m using the second edition (1994), which is an update of the 1972 classic. Each chapter (12 total) will have its own post as I try my best to respond to Yoder’s logic and, with the help of the Spirit, form my own perspective on Christianity and war. I welcome any constructive—surely I can’t be the only Christian wrestling with this topic!

An now, on to “the simple rebound of a Christian pacifist commitment as it responds to the ways in which mainstream Christian theology has set aside the pacifist implications of the New Testament message” (x).

. . .

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Performing the Faith | Stanley Hauerwas

Hauerwas is always challenging and thought-provoking. This work on Bonhoeffer is no different.

In Performing the Faith, Hauerwas uses Bonhoeffer’s life to show how Christians can be creative in their practice of non-violence (of course, that’s an extremely reductive summary). Here are some examples of the sort of brilliance you’ll find:

No account of the Christian life is adequate that ignores the beauty of God’s creation as well as the beauty created in response to that creation we sometimes call art. (22)

Good performers of the Christian faith, like good musicians, are those who have refined the art of allowing themselves to be played by the work even as they perform it. (102)

The failure to live with humility, a failure common to Christian and non-Christian alike, results in a distorted understanding of the way things are. (127)

Insights, even about the human condition, are a dime a dozen. People seldom, and rightly so, are willing to risk their lives or even make a small sacrifice on the basis of an “insight.” (139)

I am a pacifist because I think nonviolence is the necessary condition for a politics not based on death. (201)

The most profound chapter in the book was his pacifist response to 9/11. For Hauerwas, the whole response to the terror attacks were derailed when President Bush first brought up the term “war”. That galvanized and misled the entire response to date.

I do have one major frustration with this book, though. It’s not about Bonhoeffer, and it’s not one logical unit. It’s a collection of essays of various levels of academic writing around the theme of non-violence. Bonhoeffer, whose picture and name grace the cover of the book, is only given a two-part essay comprising 39 pages.

Once you understand that, you can give your mind and heart a work-out with these incisive essays.

Deep Pacifism | Shane Claiborne

Teach us to drop the weapons we carry in our hands, in our hearts, and on our tongues. Enable us to be soldiers of your who destroy the weapons of our oppressors with your grace. Amen.

—Shane Claiborne, Common Prayer, July 4.

Peace and Violence | Robert Jenson

All humans hope for something that may be called peace. But most societies have interpreted peace as the success of violence. . . . The gospel makes peace a possibility by telling us that we do not have to defend ourselves, since our lives are hid with God in Christ.

—Robert Jenson, Systematic Theology, 2:210.

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