MORE ON JESUS AND LOVING ENEMIES
|Ron Sider||Jul 6, 2019|
Two of my previous books are foundational for my new book (IF JESUS IS LORD; LOVING OUR ENEMIES IN AN AGE OF VIOLENCE) that Baker just published.
Before I wrote this book, I wanted to do two things: First of all, I wanted to know what the early church said and did on killing. Second, I wanted to explore the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance to evil and injustice.
To do the first, I published THE EARLY CHURCH ON KILLING; A COMPREHENSIVE SOURCEBOOK ON WAR, ABORTION AND CAPITAL PUNISHMENT (Baker 2012). In spite of hundreds and hundreds of articles and books on the topic, nobody had ever collected everything still in existence on what the early church wrote and did about killing. Many modern Christian authors try to suggest that the early Christian writers were not of one mind on killing. But I discovered that up until the time of Constantine who legalized Christianity in 313, every single extant early Christian writing which discusses killing says Christians must never do that-- whether in abortion, capital punishment or war. In every extant statement by Christian writers on this topic, they all say Christians must never kill. That is the unanimous teaching of all existing Christian writing on the topic up until Constantine.
In a second book, NONVIOLENT ACTION WHAT CHRISTIAN ETHICS DEMANDS BUT MOST CHRISTIANS HAVE NEVER REALLY TRIED (Baker 2015), I wanted to deal with what I consider the strongest argument against pacifism. It is regularly charged that pacifists refuse to oppose evil; that they stand passively aside and let rampant evil flourish; and that they prefer tyranny to injustice.
I agree that if there are only two options (to kill or to do nothing to defend neighbors from wicked people), then of course Christians must kill.
The problem with this critique is that there are never just two options. There is always a third option: nonviolent action to oppose evil. And the history of the last 100 years (especially the last 50) demonstrates that nonviolence is often very successful. My book, NONVIOLENT ACTION, tells the stories of many powerful successful nonviolent campaigns. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated that nonviolence works. Nonviolent movements have overthrown vicious dictators in the Philippines, Poland, Liberia and elsewhere. In fact, a recent scholarly book (WHY CIVIL RESISTANCE WORKS published by Columbia University Press) concludes that nonviolent campaigns have been about twice as likely to succeed as violent campaigns!
Pacifists (I prefer the title nonviolent activist) know that there is a highly successful nonviolent alternative to war. Of course, it does not always work. But neither does war.
So that brings me back to my basic question: “ Jesus, do you ever want your disciples to kill their enemies?”
That is the topic of my new book: IF JESUS IS LORD; LOVING OUR ENEMIES IN AN AGE OF VIOLENCE. In my next blog, I will summarize my key arguments.
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