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Jesus And War By John W. Whitehead


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Jesus and War

by John W. Whitehead

 

“Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

~ Jesus

 

With President Bush’s veto of the recent spending bill, fighting in the Middle East will continue indefinitely – wars not only waged by an avowed Christian president but also backed by the evangelical Christian Right. Rev. Jerry Falwell, in speaking of terrorists, epitomizes the Bush Administration’s stance: “I’m for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them away in the name of the Lord.” In this way, Christianity is joined with the state and its war machine.

 

However, what would Jesus think about this in light of his teachings against the use of violence – war, of course, being organized, systematic violence?

 

One can only imagine that he would be horrified. After all, many who strive to follow Jesus’ teachings find it impossible to do so and still participate in war. Indeed, leaders in the early church adopted Jesus’ attitude of nonviolence. Tertullian (born about AD 160), one of the giants of the early church, stated very clearly that confessing “Jesus as Lord” means taking the teachings of Jesus seriously. Just as Caesar commanded men to kill their enemies, Jesus commanded them to love their enemies. Caesar made use of chains and torture, in much the same way as governments do today. Jesus, on the other hand, taught Christians to forgive and to sacrifice power for servanthood.

 

In fact, Tertullian had pithy advice for soldiers who converted to Christianity: quit the army or be martyred for refusing to fight. Tertullian was not alone in his thinking. “For three centuries,” writes biblical scholar Walter Wink in The Powers That Be (1998), “no Christian author to our knowledge approved of Christian participation in battle.” This, of course, changed in the third century when the church was institutionalized and became an integral part of the warring Roman Empire.

 

Jesus’ apostles never advocated violence. Rather, they urged their followers to suffer, forgive and trust God for the outcome rather than take matters into their own hands. And while they may have talked about warfare and fighting, it was not through the use of conventional weapons. For example, the Apostle Paul wrote: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.”

 

Christ’s crucifixion was a radical repudiation of the use of violent force. And the cross, which was the Roman tool of execution, was reserved especially for leaders of rebellions. “Anyone proclaiming a rival kingdom to the kingdom of Caesar would be a prime candidate for crucifixion,” writes Brian McLaren in The Secret Message of Jesus (2006). “This is exactly what Jesus proclaimed, and this is exactly what he offered.” But Jesus’ kingdom was one of peace. Among other things, he proclaimed, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also.” Consequently, Jesus ordered Peter not to use the sword, even to protect him.

 

The so-called Roman peace (Pax Romana) was made possible by the cross. That is, people so feared crucifixion that many opted not to challenge the emperor rather than face the possibility of death on the cross. Why then would early Christians choose the cross – an instrument of torture, domination, fear, intimidation and death – as their primary symbol? What could this possibly mean?

 

For early Christians, “it apparently meant that the kingdom of God would triumph not by inflicting violence but by enduring it,” notes McLaren, “not by making others suffer but by willingly enduring suffering for the sake of justice – not by coercing or humiliating others but by enduring their humiliation with gentle dignity.” Jesus, they believed, had taken the empire’s instrument of torture and transformed it into God’s symbol of the repudiation of violence. The message? Love, not violence, is the most powerful force in the universe.

 

Not surprisingly, the early Christians were not crusaders or warriors but martyrs – men and women with the faith and courage to face the lions. Like Jesus, they chose to suffer rather than inflict violence.

 

When Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers,” exhorting his followers to turn the other cheek and give freely, he was telling us that active peacemaking is the way to end war. Can you imagine what the world would be like if every church adopted that attitude and focused its energies on active peacemaking?

 

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who vocally opposed the Vietnam War, took to heart Jesus’ teachings about peacemaking. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, King proclaimed:

 

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say “we must not wage war.” It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace.

 

This is not to say that Jesus was a pacifist. The opposite is true. He spoke truth to power and engaged in active resistance to injustice. In my opinion, Jesus would have intervened to defend someone being violently mistreated, and I believe we must do the same. But he would never have engaged in violence as the means to an end.

 

One has to wonder what Jesus would say about war being waged in his name today. As Gary Wills writes in What Jesus Meant (2006), “If people want to do battle for God, they cannot claim Jesus has called them to this task, since he told Pilate that his ministers would not do that.” In fact, as Wills notes, Jesus “never accepted violence as justified.”

 

 

May 10, 2007

 

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead [send him mail] is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute.

 

Copyright © 2007 The Rutherford Institute

 

 

Links referenced within this article

 

John W. Whitehead

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig8/mailto:johnw@rutherford.org

DIGG THIS

http://digg.com/submit?phase=2&url=htt...amp;title=Jesus and War&topic=political_opinion

The Powers That Be

http://www.amazon.com/Powers-That-Be-Power...25/lewrockwell/

The Secret Message of Jesus

http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Message-Jesus...28/lewrockwell/

What Jesus Meant

http://www.amazon.com/What-Jesus-Meant-Gar...0X/lewrockwell/

send him mail

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig8/mailto:johnw@rutherford.org

The Rutherford Institute

http://www.rutherford.org

 

Find this article at:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig8/whitehead1.html

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“If people want to do battle for God, they cannot claim Jesus has called them to this task, since he told Pilate that his ministers would not do that.” In fact, as Wills notes, Jesus “never accepted violence as justified.”

 

Umm... Okay! :mellow:

 

...he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one (Luke 22.36) For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me (Luke 22.37). He that is not with me is against me (Luke 11.23, Matt 12.30). But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me (Luke 19.27). I am come to send fire on the earth (Luke 19.49). Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division (Luke 12.51). For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three (Luke 12.52). The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law (Luke 12.53). Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword (Matt 10.34) For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law (Matt 10.35) And a man's foes shall be they of his own household (Matt 10.36).
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As seems to be the case with most Christians, Brother Whitehead doesn't know what is in his own Bible (because he hasn't read it) and he apparently isn't aware of what his own Lord had to say:

 

But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. (Luke 19:27) - Jesus, Prince of Peace

 

Isn't He Wonderful? Glory!

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The Christians also fought and killed eachother with abandon under the Romans... the rent-a-mob that 'resolved' the Arian heresy was quickly assembeld and needed no support from the Romans...

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Jebus clearly seemed to advocate non-violence, even pacifism, according to most of the New Testament. However, there is one troubling verse, which is from Luke if my memory serves:

 

19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

 

This comes at the end of a parable, but isn't part of the parable, as so many people claim. Clearly, this was meant to explain the overall point of said parable, that being that Jebus is God and has the right to demand absolute loyalty from us or he'll have his lackeys kill us. The plain text of the passage makes this quite clear.

 

I also cannot help but recall all the relevant Old Testament passages where Yahooweh ordered the deaths of this tribe or that at the hands of his Israelite thugs, or every instance where he is depicted as having killed people (such as the Red Sea, or the worldwide flood). Now, since Jebus and the Holy Farter are one (according to John 10:30), Jebus is one and the same as Yahooweh, which makes him equally guilty of the atrocities of the OT. By his own words, he condemns himself.

 

What is left to conclude that Jebus' "meek and mild" path is pacifism and submission in all aspects of life, except where religion is involved, in which case you may use all the violence you wish to defend or spread The Faith™? :jerkit:

 

Hell, if W's primary purpose in the Middle East is to spread Xianity, then I'd think Jebus would be right on board with him, if he existed to begin with :vent:

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