Lesson 4: What Do Christians Expect From Our Churches?

crusaderPerhaps it is time we recognize the Church is a peace movement. God comes to Father Abraham disgusted at the violence that has damaged his creation. Lamech epitomizes the brutality when he brags to his two wives that he has killed a man for wounding him and a young man for slapping him. After his failed attempt to start over with Noah, God decides to save his work by slowly overcoming evil with goodness.

The Torah Law represents the first stage in the movement when Moses teaches God’s people should respond to violence with justice, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Jesus goes even further, calling for forgiveness that returns good for evil, nonviolence for nonviolence.

Roland Baintan claims this peace movement has assumed three different stories throughout biblical and Christian history. The first is pacifism that practices nonviolence. Revelation only lists three ways Christians can oppose the violence of Rome: God’s Word, prayer, and martyrdom. It claims evil is self-destructive and if left alone will destroy itself. You can capture the power of this position when you realize we have no record of anyone suffering death rather than going to war before Christianity.

The second story is just war whose strategy is to impose rules on the ways wars are conducted. We listed the classic ones in the last lesson. The Church has primarily used these as stopgap measures in the peace movement. This attitude is evident in the Middle Ages when she declared more and more saints days, so the warrior had less and less periods they could fight.

The third is the crusade that uses military force to eliminate evil. Its strategy is all-out, no-holds-barred combat that decimates the enemy. Although people now castigate the medieval church for waging crusades, they fail to see all of our recent wars have been justified as crusades waged to destroy satanic forces of evil. It almost seems we are left with only the language of crusade if we abandon just war theory.

None of these classic stories seem to work completely for the Church in our modern world when technology is so speedy and powerful. Hannah Arendt warns it is almost impossible to resist modern violence because large, impersonal bureaucracies operating at tremendous speeds initiate it. By the time opposition can be organized, things are in place and any resistance is accused of failure to support our troops.

I began this study acknowledging my preparation left me with questions rather than answers. After trying to address these, I find I am left with even more questions: “What is our current national story?” “Does nonviolence work?” and “Where do we go from here?” I’ll examine these in the next three weeks.

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