Recently a Christian theologian was demoted for preaching non-violence to students at a Nazarene University in Kansas. Here are some excerpts from his message:
“I am just talking to those who would be followers of Jesus. This is not for those who don’t care about being a Christ follower. I am extremely troubled. I have been for a long time and I have hesitated to address this subject publicly, but I cannot keep silent about it any longer. Something happened recently that has really disturbed me.
As you know two movies came out recently. Selma, the story of one of the 20th century most influential Christian leaders, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who led a non-violent movement that changed the course of American History forever.
And American Sniper, the story of the most deadly Navy SEAL sniper in American history. Selma has made 29-30 million so far. American Sniper made over 103 million in the first 4 days. Gives you an idea about who our heroes are.
I don’t think it is an under-statement to say that our culture is addicted to violence, guns, war, revenge and retaliation.
Unfortunately, so are a lot of Christians…
We have to be very careful about equating patriotism with Christianity. We never say God and…anything. God is above all, everything else is underneath.
I love my country and am thankful for freedom.
But the earliest Christian creed was very politically incorrect and dangerous.
Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.
We have put “our way of life”/freedom on the top rung.
If you mess with it I’ll blow your head off.
For a Christian what is on the top rung? Love for all.”
I think we do have a problem, when our answer for every manifestation of evil around the world is violence. When our loyalty is to Americans first, and everyone else second, I think we have a problem. ISIS is one of the few instances, where you have pure, unambiguous evil. They have mutilated people, destroyed lives, without even a second thought. A couple weeks ago, they put to death 21 coptic Christians. Our response should be completely counterintuitive. It should be to bless the persecutor, to pray for them, to love them, to turn the other cheek, and return evil with good and forgive. Instead, we wish to bomb and kill. I am in the military, but that doesn’t mean I think that our answer should always be the bomb. Polls show more and more Americans want to use even ground forces to reinvade Iraq to destroy ISIS. I am sympathetic. But Christians are called to follow a King who allowed his enemies to kill him rather than fight back. I really wrestle with this. It’s hard to follow a way of non-violence, but to me, it seems like it is the way of the cross, the cruciform life. It’s a paradoxical life, but it is the one Jesus called us to live when he said “come, follow me.”
Before anyone asks, I don’t know what I would have done in World War II. I am not a pacifist. I think nations do have the right to go to war to defend themselves and follow their interests. If someone put a gun to my family and I had a firearm at hand, I’m not sure I wouldn’t shoot to protect my family. I’m just trying to work out what it means to follow Jesus, and it seems to be that the Church has been called to non-violence.
I am more than willing to be wrong about this, but I can’t shake that most evangelical Christians place being an American higher than being a Christian. That we equate being a conservative, patriotic American, with following Jesus, and the two couldn’t be more different.