Frequently Asked Questions
What do you do with all of the War & Violence in the Old Testament?
This is one of the most common questions that is asked of me. And for good reason. The Old Testament contains some pretty graphic scenes; some of which are said to have been approved and ordained by God. A strict adherence to nonviolence seems to ignore these parts of the bible, especially when many who may hold to nonviolence fail to address these passages, or simply shoo them away as if they were a pest. I do not desire to do that, and though my answers will not be completely satisfying, what answers can be when there is so much violence in the Old Testament, and such peaceful teachings of Christ in the New?
In short, I believe that God has complete rights to kill those he wills to, for His purposes. I believe that God worked through the Israelites, as well as the pagan nations that held them in captivity, to carry out His will. However, there are specific instances in which the Israelites entered battle without the Lord’s blessing/command, and they were punished. Even in their ancient tribal, and later civilized, society, violence against another was not permitted unless allowed by God. Therefore, it is important to note that drawing a comparison between what was permitted for believers governed under the true Theocracy of Israel, and any modern government today, possibly using Romans 13 as a justifier, is a completely unfounded comparison.
My question back to this question would be, “What do you do with the nonviolence as taught and exemplified by Christ? When God himself teaches something directly, why not follow it?”
For more on the Old Testament, please refer to Chapter Two. For more on the New Testament, please read chapters Three and Four.
What do you do with Romans 13, and Capital Punishment?
I’m not scared of Romans 13 because Romans 12 precedes it. Romans 12 and 13 are meant to be read together with the overall theme of “How do we respond to those around us, on different levels”. Romans 13 starts with what the Government is able to do, and how we are to view said government. Romans 12 teaches Christians to love all, to never avenge yourselves, never repay evil for evil, to live peaceably with all men, and leave vengeance up to the Lord. I don’t think that those requirements to the believers are somehow made void when their government tells them to do something contrary to those requirements. For more on this, please refer to Chapter Five.
How important is this issue, really?
Sometimes, this issue prompts some to ask me if this issue is really all that important to be unified on when there has been disagreements on this issue for hundreds, and thousands of years.
For those who believe that a Christian can kill if they are ordered by their government to do so, I understand this question. Why should I make such a big deal about it – it’s just my opinion.
But it’s more than just an opinion to those on the nonviolent side of things. To us, it’s literally a matter of life and death because we place equal value in all human life, and it’s also a matter of following the Lord’s will. I don’t mean to say that I judge those who disagree with me – as they obviously do not believe nonviolence is a command of God, like I do…but I think that if people are unwilling to consider the argument of nonviolence, and jump to situational ethics questions as a first defense, I think something is wrong there. We need to be seeking the Lord in ALL things…even when it is uncomfortable.
If Christ taught nonviolence, or even if we can all agree that he preached that nonviolence is the IDEAL, why wouldn’t we strive for nonviolence and seek to avoid violence? Why would be willfully enter a fight, or a position in government, that requires violence, when we can easily avoid these things?
If Church fathers before Constantine took such a bold stand against violence, and then after Constantine the Church was wrapped up with the State…why would we not look back to their understanding of this issue before the church and the state were One?
For more on this, please read Chapters Six and Seven.
How do you view those who serve in the military, or police? Do you judge them?
First, I respect all people, and second, no I do not judge them. But I believe this is the hardest hurdle to get past in this discussion. On a personal level, the Nonviolence advocating Christian is often placed in a box along with secular soldier-hating and police-hating hippies. So sometimes, it’s even hard for us to know how to view soldiers and the police, especially when they are Christian, when our position would say that a Christian shouldn’t even become a soldier or join the police if they can help it because the role of the job may conflict with their faith.
I do not judge non-christians in these positions because the morality of nonviolence is not a religious calling to them. I do not judge Christians in these positions because the teaching of nonviolence was obviously not made known to them, or at least the argument was not made well; therefore, they are not willfully going against what I would see as the Will of God.
But here’s the hard part…
Though I do not judge them for being in these positions, I would like for the teaching of nonviolence to lead them to either vowing to not kill in their positions, possibly requesting a change in role, or to not re-enlist when their time of service is complete. That is a LOT to ask, and I know that, but if I am being faithful to my convictions as if they mattered, this would be the desire of my heart for Christians in these positions.
I think it is always important for those on the Christian nonviolence side of things to always remember to respect ALL people. I’ve always supported veterans by dropping a few dollars in the bucket at VFW drives outside of a walmart, and I’d never trash them, active duty soldiers, or the police. Advocating for nonviolence necessitates a belief that all life is unconditionally valuable because it IS life. If men and women put their lives on hold, and/or put their lives at risk in a public service manner, no matter if we agree with the validity of the wars we are in, they deserve the people’s respect. They deserve Our respect.
Therefore, the tension is holding a position that is potentially completely offensive to them, while at the same time making them aware that you still respect them. And that respect is complicated – it’s a respect of the man or woman, your sibling in Christ, and not in what their position may require them to do. Tension will be there, but love need to eclipse that tension.
What would you do if someone broke into your house and threatened your wife and/or family?
This question is asked so much that it deserves its own section. Please follow this blog to see when the next section that will answer this question goes up.