This past Monday (November 14, 2011), I posted an article titled “Patriotism and Veteran’s Day” and ruffled a few feathers. There were a couple of comments, but one begged for a more complete response than the comment section on Facebook allows, so I’m answering it here on my page. Here’s the full comment:
“I’ve lost family members in every war. This is not what the majority of vets think and understand that being a Christian does not define you as a pacifist..its the opposite if anything…Jesus beat the money changers out of the temple square. Read what he said about why he came and was it peace he came here to bring. Sick of people saying you have to take any of the crap sent your way because of a misinterpretation of what a Christian is. I doubt Jesus would have approved of Israel being over run with Muslims. I just dismissed this author as nothing more than someone that would rather America give up its sovereignty as long as some liberal socialist government takes us over or replaces patriotism with hate for all that defend this authors very right to spew their disgraceful disregard for individuals reasons for dying to defend this country’s right to defend itself and humanity anywhere. I know there are wars that was wrong …because of greed. This President we have now has flip flopped on nearly all he said he would do. So war is not a Republican flag waving event. Look at all the wars and tell me what party was in office when most all were started. If the left wing nuts would let our military make decisions instead of politicians telling your kid not to shoot unless shot at etc. Then the wars (conflicts) would end.”
This isn’t the first time the author of this comment and I have sparred. I know this person very well and have the utmost respect for him, that’s why I’m taking the time to answer what he said here. Let’s start with his contention that being a Christian is opposed to pacifism. To back up that idea, he mentions two events from the Gospel where the words or actions of Jesus seem to incite violence: Jesus and the money changers and Matthew 10:34. Let’s start with Jesus and the money changers. This is event is recorded in all four gospels, although the time frame differs when you get to John; the author puts it at the beginning of Jesus ministry instead of near the end. The Bible tells us that Jesus went to the temple and found people doing business there. This infuriated Him and, using a whip He made from ropes, He ran them out…, or does it? Depending on the translation you’re reading, it can look like He used the whip on the people selling things or that he used on the livestock present. I lean toward the latter because later in this passage, He tells some of these people “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” If He’d already run them out, how could He still be talking to them? The case for Jesus committing violence against anyone is rather weak when this story is looked at with some depth.
Next, we have Matthew 10:34, where Jesus says “Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword”. A cursory glance at this verse certainly seems to back up the idea that war and violence are a part of Jesus’ message. Just before this, as Jesus is preparing to send the disciples out to spread His word, He tells them that they will be persecuted for doing so. Just after He says this, He tells them, “I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 People’s enemies are members of their own households.” So, in reality, it’s not about violence, but about the division to be expected when people hear a radical, new message.
Using these two passages to say that Jesus was in favor of violence flies in the face of almost everything else he said. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Blessed are those who make peace“, “But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well and “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you.” When they came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter drew his sword and cut off one man’s ear. Jesus picked it up and put it back on, saying “Put the sword back into its place. All those who use the sword will die by the sword“. These are not the words of a man to whom violence is an acceptable practice. As the rest of the comment is more about politics than spiritual matters, I’m not addressing them here, except to say I don’t anyone; least of all, the men and women of the U. S. military.
I firmly believe that non-violence is the way of Jesus and I hope what I’ve said here shows that. While I am no longer the hawk I was a few years ago, I’m not a full-blown pacifist, either. I do believe that it is incumbent on anyone who follows Christ to, at the very least, work toward a world where “The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat“. Until that happens, human life, all human life, should be sacrosanct.