Declaring Independence from Violence on the 4th of July

Declaring Independence from Violence on the 4th of July July 4, 2016

Indepedence Day 4th July emblem with a blue stars bow and curly red and white ribbon to celebrate the Declaration of Independence of the Untited States of America

When confronted with problems, the United States has a history of bold ideas, of path-finding people, of those willing to suffer for the sake of their children. We are “can-do” folks — and this July 4, it’s time to start another revolution.

Historians tell us that more human beings were killed by other human beings in the 20th century than in all the proceeding centuries combined. The 21st century has not changed course. Financial instability across the world paired with nationalistic and religious zealotry have given anxious men reason to kill their neighbors in gruesome, expanding patterns.

Though our country has been part of the problem, our nation has an opportunity to lead and call the use of violence in our world what it is: impotent, cyclical and foolish. In celebrating the holiday this year, those of good faith ought to commit themselves to a new course. Let’s declare our independence from the demonstrably feeble methods of violence.

Globally, we have the resources to change how wars are fought. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent on drones and bullets continues to inflame our conflicts — but when we aggressively provide shelter to refugees, when we fight malnutrition and global debt, we assault the anger that exists toward the West. American medical and educational aid continues to be the best defense we can buy. Our military does fantastic work in creating spheres of stability for the oppressed, and we should use our physical force, not to kill aggressors, but to calm them.

Locally, we have a profound heritage to elevate. The United States is a land of immigrants whose identity is summed up by our national motto: E Pluribus Unum, “Out of the many, one.” If we live up to this motto, courageously embracing and cherishing those of other faiths in our community, we will showcase a better way to those globally and to our children. We can adopt those with different heritages as our brothers and sisters, and defend them when the misguided want to throw them out.

Personally, insisting on nonviolence requires profound courage. As a Christian, God invites me to reject the knee-jerk ways of both the tyrant and the coward and to instead embrace my identity as a child of God, clothed with Christ, dwelled within by God’s spirit.

Those in my tradition have often affirmed nonviolence as the way of freedom. An early Christian named Paul wrote that those who “confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God has raised him from the dead will be saved.” Often this is understood as a future hope — but Paul knew this salvation was offered now. Faith in Jesus saves me from the tyranny of fear, from my need to tear others apart, from my thirst to be proven right or superior. And the Lordship of Jesus saves me from the temptation to kill my enemies instead of obediently loving them through the power of God’s spirit, who alone can transform them.

Should we all be pacifists? Should we roll over every time someone attacks us? Are we to simply kneel to aggressors? Clearly not. Christians are to follow Jesus who aggressively targeted the toxin of sin in those who crucified him. Jesus gave his blood, not to crush his enemies, but to free them and make them alive.

Jesus knew that employing violence is ultimately suicidal (“those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”) As such, Jesus taught his followers to turn the other cheek, thereby exhibiting defiance and insisting on non-escalation. As a Christian, I know that though my enemy may strike me, I have the power of the living God within. I know Jesus is Lord. As such, I need not run nor retaliate. I may stand, risen in Christ and defeat the sin within my enemy with love.

America has much it can learn from Jesus. Our world has suffered for too long from its addiction to retaliatory violence and, whatever our tradition, July 4th can be a time to declare independence from this failed method.

The last 15 years has again shown us that seeking to destroy our enemies is ineffective. In the coming years, let’s insist on creativity — on re-humanizing, aggressive, nonviolent tactics, on loving those who are different than us because it is a better way to be human.

It’s a better way to be an American.

Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado and pastors Atlas Church in Greeley. He affirms non-violence but still enjoys watching Gladiator and is an avid boxing fan. You can connect with him on twitter @jeffvcook.


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  • I like this:
    …’an opportunity to lead and call the use of violence in our world what it is: impotent, cyclical and foolish.’
    & this:
    ‘Paul wrote that those who “confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God has raised him from the dead will be saved.” Often this is understood as a future hope — but Paul knew this salvation was offered now.’

    Yes I have experienced this in my life & can give affirmation:

    “Faith in Jesus saves
    [is saving me on a daily basis as a daily reprieve from an old addiction]
    me from the tyranny of fear, from my need to tear others apart, from my thirst to be proven right or superior.”

    This doesn’t seem quite right:
    “And the Lordship of Jesus saves me from the temptation to kill my enemies instead of obediently loving them through the power of God’s spirit, who alone can transform them.”

    …but i have to admit I’m kind of slow on the uptake. Don’t you mean;
    “And the Lordship of Jesus saves me from the temptation to kill my enemies… loving them through the power of God’s spirit, who alone can transform them.” ?☆~<}°●)

  • Michael Wilson

    Violence on the decline, even in the 20th century, the numbers OK killed were large only because of the vast growth of the population. As a percentage of the population the casualties were low.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-decline-of-violence/

  • jeffcook

    Yes.
    Typo :)

  • jeffcook

    Which do you think is worse:
    (A) 100 murdered in a world with only 200 people.
    (B) 100 million murdered in a world with 300 million people.

    Over all casualties seem the more important stat in my mind.

  • RonnyTX

    Jeff:
    Globally, we have the resources to change how wars are fought. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent on drones and bullets continues to inflame our conflicts — but when we aggressively provide shelter to refugees, when we fight malnutrition and global debt, we assault the anger that exists toward the West. American medical and educational aid continues to be the best defense we can buy. Our military does fantastic work in creating spheres of stability for the oppressed, and we should use our physical force, not to kill aggressors, but to calm them.

    Ronny to Jeff:
    Amen Jeff! I certainly agree with this. For we are well told in the bible, that we are to overcome evil with good.

    “9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
    For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”[b]
    21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:9,21

  • Michael Wilson

    Well I would rather live in a world where you only have a 1/3 chance of murder vs a 1/2 chance of being murdered. You focus on the sadness of 100 dying but forget the joy 200 million livtwing. The 20th century is a safer place to live than the centuries before and a population that blossomed as never before representing millions that lived long enough to have children and babies that lived to grow up. Basically many more people enjoying a more secure life. World wars are small price to pay vs endless murder and disease

  • Ron McPherson

    Amen. Beautifully written. Thy Kingdom Come

  • Realist1234

    Ben I know you didnt write this posting, but could you clarify “Are we all to be pacifists?…Clearly not.”

    Also “Our military does fantastic work in creating spheres of stability for the oppressed, and we should use our physical force, not to kill aggressors, but to calm them.”

    What does the author define as ‘physical force’? What does ‘calm them’ mean in practice? He seems to be arguing it is perfectly ok for the military to be weaponised, but on the other hand we should all be ‘non-violent’. Does he mean that a soldier, protecting a group of people from aggressors, can legitimately fire his gun at the crowd, as long as he doesnt kill anyone? Most people would describe that as ‘violence’.

    When reading this post, I was reminded of the slaughter in Rwanda, which happened because the so-called UN peacekeepers stood by and did nothing, and eventually left the victims to their fate. It is hard not to think if they had been authorised to use their weapons against the aggressors, even in a limited way, that massacre of 1,000,000 people would simply not have happened.

  • Matthew

    If we stop all military aggression and violence against our enemies and simply love them love as Jesus loved, would we then see a decrease in overall violence against us?

    If the U.S. changed its overall foreign policy, would that also decrease violence against the west?

    I believe the author thinks the answer to those two questions is a resounding “yes”, but I´m still left wondering. Although I see the real idealism with the pacifist argument, as I have said in other posts I´m simply not there yet.

  • Ron McPherson

    Those are valid questions but regardless it’s kind of hard to legitimize the claims of others that we’re a Christian nation until we do adopt such policies though.

  • Dean

    So are you basically saying that our repeated military interventions in the Middle East over the past 60 years has resulted in less violence than had not intervened? I’m not sure where you are getting your history from, but Iraq didn’t used to be the hell hole that it is now and we are directly responsible for that.

  • Dean

    “It is hard not to think if they had been authorised to use their weapons against the aggressors, even in a limited way, that massacre of 1,000,000 people would simply not have happened.”

    You know, I’m a little tired of these kinds of false choices. What you’re implying is that had we intervened, less people would have died. There is no way you can establish something like that. I think the Obama Doctrine is way more humble and practical than anyone gives it credit for. The premise is very simple, you should never assume that American military intervention can actually result in better outcomes for the country we are invading or for our own national security interests. Those kinds of assumptions need to be challenged. What I mean is this, you seem to think that if we intervene militarily and stop some people from killing each other, then we have “helped” them. Well, go to Iraq today and ask whether we’ve actually “helped” them. Honestly, I think people have had enough of our “help”. You can’t invade foreign countries, countries that we have very little knowledge of with regards to their politics and their culture and think that you can “fix” whatever problems they have, especially using military force. What makes you think you have any idea at all how to “help” anyone? There is very little historical precedence of this kind of foreign policy hubris that it shocks me that people still talk like this, particularly with the kind of sanctimony that your comment is dripping with.

  • Realist1234

    Not sure why you talk about Iraq, as I didnt mention it. I did give the Rwandan genocide as an example of where force by UN ‘peacekeepers’ (again I didnt mention the USA) could have prevented the slaughter of up to 1,000,000 Tutsi’s by the governing Hutu’s over just a 3 month period. Instead, the UN soldiers literally stood by whilst 100,000’s were raped and murdered. This was quite different from Iraq. There was no ‘invasion’ into Rwanda. The main reason for the Iraq war was the belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was a threat to the West, which it turned out was wrong on both counts.

    Rwanda was not a ‘false choice’. It was the choice to intervene to prevent the mass murder of 20% of a population, or stand by, close our eyes and ears, and let the slaughter continue until their blood-lust was satisfied. The UN should have chosen the former.

  • Bones

    American Imperialism won’t stop especially when it comes to safeguarding ‘national interest’

    Even if it means supporting genocide and dictators and putting down independence movements in other countries.

    Has anyone actually studied US atrocities dating back to the Philippine–American War?

  • Bones

    The UN should have but didn’t.

    And that was the quandary of peacekeeping leadership at the time.

    It isn’t the case now.

    Peacekeeping is totally different to full on invasion.

    “The main reason for the Iraq war was the belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was a threat to the West, which it turned out was wrong on both counts.”

    And no one has been made accountable for that.
    Edit:

    Well actually Tony Blair has been investigated and found to have exaggerated the reasons for going to war.

    The USA would never do anything like that unless a president lies about getting a blowie.

  • I know. Not one stone shall be left on top of the other! ☆~<}°●《

  • Matthew

    Hello Dean.

    You make a good point, and I´m inclined to agree with you, however some will argue that Iraq was indeed a hell hole while Saddam was in power as well.

    That said, I suppose my initial questions stem from another equally important question:

    Specifically focusing on extreme Islamist violence, if the violence is ideologically and religiously motivated and not the result of failed integration, poverty, etc. will a pacifist posture necessarily reduce, or altogether eliminate this violence?

  • Matthew

    Support a dictator — wrong choice.

    Support an independence movement — could also be a wrong choice if the masses wanting change are in support of a person or a regime that is equally dangerous. That said, should those who support global democracy stand in the way of any kind of independence movement?

    Come to think of it … didn´t the Egyptians soon after the revolution in 2011 decide to democratically elect an Islamist government?

    Could be wrong … have been before.

  • Bones

    “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
    ― Desmond Tutu

  • Bones

    What?

    You are aware that the CIA were using Islamist organisations against secular Arab countries..

  • Jencendiary

    “Islamist” is a highly problematic term. I’m wondering what you mean by that.

  • Bones

    How did Northern Ireland resolve their differences?

    When the main power broker (the British government) said they weren’t going to support the Protestant government anymore unless they resolved their differences.

    Islamic violence is fueled by outside influences. So you can blow ISIS up but know that there are a dozen other organisations being fueled by outside influences like such as the Saudis or Iran.

    One thing is for sure.

    Violence begets violence

  • Tim

    “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves” – Confucius

  • Matthew

    I should have been more specific. Thanks.

    I was specifically talking about those who use an extreme interpretation of Islam to justify horrific violence.

    I probably should not have used the word “Islamist” as an all encompassing term. I suppose there can be different shades of Islamists as well. I should have simply said something like extreme Muslim religious fundamentalist who supports violent jihad.

    I do think that most Muslims do not fall into this category.

    Hope that helps.

  • Matthew

    So how do you stop the outside influences? How do you end the violence then?

  • Matthew

    I think the CIA worked with such organisations in the 80´s in Afghanistan … no?

    The point is, though, I´m not making statements that either defend or reject U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East mainly. I´m just saying (to your point) that even independence movements sometimes don´t guarantee a good outcome for all those involved.

    If the masses reject and oust a dictator, but then freely elect another violent and oppressive person or regime, then what´s the point? If Assad (for example) ever gets ousted, is something better and more “democratic” necessarily guaranteed in Syria?

    FYI — I would raise this question in an American context as well.

  • jeffcook

    Notice the claims of the post. I’m not arguing that the 20th century is not better in *some* ways. I’m saying the amount of violence is historically ridiculously.

    On the value judgement of which is a better world. Given your argument, you would have to conclude that a world in which 4 people were murdered with an overall population of 8 is bettie than a world in which a trillion were murdered with an overall population of two trillion and one. That seems strange to me–but I respect the value judgment.

  • Bones

    It’s not up to you who a people elect.

    I have no say if the people of the USA decide to elect Donald Trump.

    That’s actually a major problem with Iraq which didn’t take into account sectarianism and revenge.

    Syria will be another example. Replace Assad with what and whom?

  • jeffcook

    Realist:
    By “Pacifist” I mean one who addresses problems pacifically. Jesus does not. He is aggressive with his non-violent tactics.

    On force. It seems to me, actively seeking to take ground or eliminate enemies fail as long term solutions in most conflicts. Using our military to actively defend cities. Exhibiting overwhelming posture of force so that smaller militias or pirates are not tempted to attack–can be a great good. We should establish beachheads in Syria, for example, for refugees to fill. And we should guard them and draw lines over which aggressors will not pass.

    You asked, “Does [Jeff] mean that a soldier, protecting a group of people from aggressors, can legitimately fire his gun at the crowd, as long as he doesnt kill anyone? Most people would describe that as ‘violence’.”

    I would conceive of this situation in the same way I do a police action at home. What should we desire from the good police officer in this situation?

    You made an argument from Rwanda. Notice, this was a situations in which Christians were killing Christians. My argument is about how Christians should understand the use of physical force.

    Now, should America have intervened in Rwanda during the month where thousands were being killed. It seems to me: (1) This seems to me to be a very reactive way of thinking about global conflicts. A better question is what prevents a Rwanda, because once the violence starts in the way it did, it may be too late. (2) I would advocate beachheads again. Creating pockets of stability and care in war zones.

    You wrote, “It is hard not to think if they had been authorised to use their weapons against the aggressors, even in a limited way, that massacre of 1,000,000 people would simply not have happened.”

    I’m not sure if this is correct.

  • jeffcook

    My claim is not to do nothing, but to aggressively act in defensive posture by, for example, target malnutrition and global debt around the world, by using our military to create spaces of safety fro refugees, by acting in ways that benefit the world economy and not seek to dominate it. These would be worthy activities from the US which I imagine would decrease the amount of aggression aimed our way.

  • Bones

    You can’t. But you sure as hell don’t support them.

    That’s the problem with trying to be the world’s policeman.

    The wars in Yemen and Syria are really proxy Saudi-Iran wars.

  • Matthew

    So … democracy can even fail us then?

  • Matthew

    Then shouldn´t something be done to reduce or eliminate the influence of these two actors?

  • Matthew

    They are certainly very worthy activities, but would such activities stop ISIS for example?

  • Bones

    Democracy is what the people decide.

    You either support that or you don’t eg the USA’s support of coups against Latin American countries such as Chile, Nicaragua.

    Obama doesn’t get out of this either.

    He supported the coup in Honduras where an elected government was replaced by a regime which has had a deplorable human rights record not unlike El Salvador in the 80s – but Honduras has a large US base.

  • Matthew

    Operation AJAX as well in Iran … no?

    You are right Bones, but what does all this say about democracy as a political system? Is it as reliable as we in the west think it is?

  • Bones

    They are as bad as each other though I would argue the Saudis are worse….but they’re a key US ally.

    It’s all about breaking the Hezbollah/Syrian/Iranian alliance.

    That’s why Israel has been leaving AL Qaeda groups like El Nusra and even IS IS alone and attacking Hezbollah – who are fighting ISIS and El Nusra

  • Bones

    Not without a constitution guaranteeing rights for all.

  • Bones

    The people who need to stop ISIS are the local Arab countries.

    Some are reluctant to do so because they see Assad and Iraq as the greater evils.

    We’re seeing that IS IS is now being pushed back from key areas in Iraq by the Iraqi forces.

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much Bones.

  • Matthew

    Can they do it themselves?

  • Matthew

    Good point. My hope is that even as democratic movements trickle through the Arab world they will also keep this in mind.

  • jeffcook

    We’re not the globes police force, but we should insist on creating safe havens for the innocent in times of strife.

  • Matthew

    Thanks jeffcook.

    I understand the world policeman argument, but isn’t the threat of ISIS also an American problem (though I do see Bones’ point about ISIS being an Arab issue)?

  • Michael Wilson

    Jeff, thanks for your response. It seems strange because we are talking mass but again, we cannot discount those that are alive if we think being alive is good. A place with without people may have 0 murders but we can’t say it’s a better place because no one experiences it. France has more murders per year than Chigago but that doesn’t mean Chigago has less of a problem with murder. It has much fewer people!

    The violence of the 20th century is only ridiculous because of the vast numbers of people living make for a greater number of people to die, but if rates of murder and deaths from war in the 20th century matched the previous centuries, the number killed would be far higher.

    This is important because it means we are already well on our way of reducing violence. The 20th century is a victory in the fight against violence, not a set back. The institutions that have been at work are making the world less violent. People often read the wrong message by focusing on an event like WWI or WWII, these are not proofs of a system in disarray when compared to the rest of the history of the 20th century.

    You say we are part of the problem, but what you say is a problem is not a problem, it is a solution and we are part of it. Change could cause problem. If a cure for aids saves 1 million lives but kills 100 it is nuts to say we gotta fix this problem by taking this drug off the market.

    It simply isn’t true that the way before has been cyclical or foolish. If we change our direction we cannot know that we will get an even better response. It could cause even more deaths than what we have witnessed. But we know what we have been doing is working, contrary to your opinion.

  • Bones

    ISIS are only successful in countries that are torn apart eg Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya….

    When they’ve encountered well trained regular forces such as the Lebanese army they were torn to pieces.

    The question is do the other Arab countries want to stop them??

    Especially given the way the Arab Coalition is blowing up Houthis in Yemen (yet leaving ISIS alone)…..

    (Let’s not forget the Turks have a hand in this as well – they are anti-Kurdish and many ISIS fighters come through Turkey)

  • Bones

    That’s why we should be supporting countries like Tunisia and ensuring they do not end up as failed secular states ripe for the Islamic extremist’s picking.

  • Matthew

    I think you are right, although even Tunisia was subjected to an extermist attack on that beach where the western tourists were. One attack, however, is not the same as large parts of the country being controlled by ISIS.

    Your approach to the problem seems logical and pragmatic. Don´t the powers that be (like the U.S.) see the sincere problems with their current approach? Also … where is Israel in all this? Don´t they have a dog in the fight too?

    I suppose it does boil down to the Arab states and others in the region having enough gumption and incentive to take on ISIS full force. There is also the hope that many of these states can really work toward fair, all inclusive democracies — but that is certainly a high hope based on my personal observation over the years.

  • Matthew

    ..

  • Bones

    You don’t understand.

    Some of these countries including Israel see ISIS as doing them a favor by taking on Hezbollah and the Iranian -Syrian alliance. ISIS is a sunni organisation and is at war with Shia and other Muslims including the Kurds.

  • Matthew

    I get it now. Thanks.

    The Kurdish part is also a bit baffling. The U.S. wants to use the Kurds to help defeat ISIS, yet Erdogan is against the Kurds, yet Turkey is in NATO, etc.

    What a puzzle and a mess. The horrific violence that is being committed should trump national interests … no? But then again empire will always be empire.

  • Realist1234

    Jeff – thanks for this, though Im still rather confused. I am trying to understand the pacifist position, in practical terms, both on a personal level and a state/government level.

    In your posting, you say we are not all to be pacifists. Does ‘all’ mean Christians or simply all people. If Christians, then you seem to be advocating non-pacifist ways of dealing with violent aggression for some Christians. If you meant ‘all people’, then I would ask why it is ok for some non-Christians not to be pacifist? Could you clarify.

    “It seems to me, actively seeking to take ground or eliminate enemies fail as long term solutions in most conflicts. Using our military to actively defend cities. Exhibiting overwhelming posture of force so that smaller militias or pirates are not tempted to attack–can be a great good. We should establish beachheads in Syria, for example, for refugees to fill. And we should guard them and draw lines over which aggressors will not pass.”

    I am not sure how viable that is, given that IS is spread throughout different areas and cities, and have infiltrated the local populace. Though you seem to be advocating USA and other troops on the ground in Syria to defend genuine refugees. Even if they did that, I am not convinced it would particularly bother the likes of IS, if the allied forces simply stayed in fixed ‘beachheads’. They would just spread out to all the remaining areas outside of those protected areas.

    Your comment “And we should guard them and draw lines over which aggressors will not pass” clearly anticipates the use of weapons against any IS militia who would try to cross those lines, as how else would soldiers etc stop such crossing?

    In the example I gave of a soldier defending people from a violent crowd, unfortunately you answered it by asking a question! So can I ask you to answer your own question re the police officer. What, indeed, would the ‘good’ police officer do?

    In discussing Rwanda, you state that this was a case of ‘Christians killing Christians’. Whilst Rwanda is predominantly Roman Catholic, I dont think you can describe this event as ‘Christians’ killing each other, certainly not the people with machetes in their hands. I live in Belfast, and whilst the outside world tends to view the ‘troubles’ as a religious conflict, in reality few if any involved in violence were Christians (protestant or catholic), and wouldn’t have called themselves that. Indeed, it was often Christian clergy who were continually calling for peace. The Uk, for example, is a nominally Christian country, but noone believes that the majority of people living here are really Christians, ie followers of Jesus. Indeed only a minority are. So for Rwanda, I dont think its appropriate to describe the slaughter as Christian infighting, but rather it was one ethnic tribe trying to wipe out another minor ethnic tribe.

    I think everyone would agree if violent conflict could be avoided in the first place, that is the ideal scenario, but in reality violence often erupts despite the best efforts of locals and international communities alike. In the case of Rwanda, the genocide was triggered by the killing of the Rwandan President, by shooting down his plane. Noone really knows who was responsible for that, whether Hutu or Tutsi. However a peace accord had already been agreed between the relevant parties a few months before, but once the President was killed, the extreme violence erupted. And of course it cannot be forgotten that decades, if not centuries, of conflict between the two tribes preceded that killing. I doubt if creating beachheads would have been viable in the Rwandan genocide – neighbours were literally murdering neighbours in the street. Many Tutsi’s did flee to a local school, which was initially protected by UN forces, but they then left and all the people there were murdered. In my opinion, if those soldiers had been authorised to use their weapons against the aggressors, thousands of lives would have been saved.

  • Realist1234

    Chicago murder rate: 20 per 100,000. France murder rate 1 per 100,000. I know where Id rather live!

  • Bones

    Another black man shot by police…….and on and on it goes.

  • Bones

    BTW if you think drone strikes sanitizes war than watch the movie The Good Kill.

    Lots of issues to work with there.

  • Bones

    And on and on and on………

    Where are the peacemakers????

  • Dean

    “…some will argue that Iraq was indeed a hell hole while Saddam was in power as well.”

    Someone made a similar point on another blog, I guess my response is, how is this hubris justified? On what basis do you believe that the United States can fix regional conflicts and conflicts in societies which have been going on for millennia? Why is it that your expectation is that the United States has either the resources, the competence, mutual shared interests, or even responsibility in resolving conflicts in other societies when people who live there don’t even have the answers? Why isn’t it Canada’s responsibility? Or the United Kingdoms’ responsibility or China’s responsibility? Does American exceptionalism extend to solving all the world’s problems and fulfilling all the world’s fantasies about peaceful co-existence?

    Regarding the causes of Islamist violence, I think it’s clear that there a multiple causes, which is why everyone is so confused as to how to fix it. There’s probably no simple fix, if there was, someone would have thought of it. But I can assure you, the solution cannot possibly come from the United States, before we invaded Iraq the first time, our leaders didn’t even know the difference between Sunni and Shia, but be bombed the country to the stone age anyway because that’s what we do best.

    Regarding a pacific posture as the most appropriate one for a Christians, I guess I would just respond by saying that I don’t know any of Jesus’ teachings that had anything to do with “results”, certainly not as we think about the word. Jesus was concerned about the Kingdom of Heaven, not about the kingdoms of men. I think his fate and the fate of his initial followers make clear that the expectation in facing violence with non-violence is for you to die. But he also said, if you lose your life, you will find it. It’s not a namby pamby pacifism, it’s an in your face speak truth to power non-violence, the kind that has the potential to change the world, like oh, say the advent of this thing we call Christianity.

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much Dean. Very helpful.

    I´ll admit I don´t have all the answers either.

    My only other question is:

    Is it ever acceptable to use military force to overcome evil?

  • Dean

    Honestly, I don’t really see how a Christian can advocate for the use of military force in any context. I hate scripture mining, but this verse is clear about who the true struggle is with from a Christian context:

    “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

    The only reason that Christians don’t have the kind of conviction to confront evil with non-violent means is that we don’t really believe in the promise of life after death. If you did, then getting killed for proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ wouldn’t faze you. In fact, people getting killed by evil people wouldn’t faze you either because you know that God is just and that vengeance is his. There is verse after verse after verse in the Bible, Jesus’ entire ministry, how he died, how the apostles died, how the early Church responded to violence, etc., that supports this perspective. I’m absolutely not saying I can live up to this call, but what I am saying is that in my opinion, the case for non-violence in the Bible is pretty unequivocal. Where violence-advocates go is usually the OT and the Book of Revelation, but very very weak arguments in my opinion, just a couple quick retorts, (1) “You’ve heard it said an eye of an eye…” and (2) the sword that Jesus wields in Revelations comes out of his mouth, it’s not a literal sword, it’s the Word of God. Super clear signs that Jesus would never never never advocate his followers to use violence to solve any problem. It’s a poor argument from silence and ambiguity. If Jesus wanted us to use violence to fight evil he could have said so, Muhammad had no problems with it, you’d think Jesus could have just laid it out for us like that, but oh, instead he gives us a saying after saying for just the opposite.

    At some point, people just need to admit that the desire to engage in violence is at the core of the human condition and that this evangelical obsession with the most mundane and banal “personal” moral failings is a pathetic abdication of the true call of Jesus Christ.

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much Dean for the comprehensive response.

    I understand the argument, but I´m simply not there yet. I think where I stand is:

    Military intervention as the absolute last resort — in places where the injustice is so great that to not act would also be unjust.

    I´m thinking Rwanda and of course Europe in WWII as quick examples.

  • Dean

    I get it, I’m not saying it’s a popular or easy teaching. Maybe I just put it back to you, if we are going to say the Bible, and the gospels in particular, reveals to us how Christ wants us to live, maybe you can give me some examples or verses that you would use in support of Christians using violence in self-defense and/or the defense of others. It might help if you also provided a self-assessment as to why you think those passages or concepts are particularly strong or weak in support of your argument. Like I’ve said, I’ve heard a bunch, the most popular are (i) extensive use of the OT, (ii) Jesus’ enigmatic two swords passage, (iii) Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, (iv) Revelations, and we can talk about the strengths and weaknesses of all those passages. If you just think we need to engage in violence because pragmatically speaking, there is no other alternative living in this world, then I am right there with you. I just don’t like it when people want to drag the Jesus and Bible into it because I happen to think they stand on the other side of that position.

  • Matthew

    Fair enough Dean. I won´t swing the Bible around like a hammer regarding this topic, although I think one might (I emphasize “might”) be able to argue for state sanctioned military violence (as opposed to church sanctioned military violence) from in and around Romans 13.

    Maybe the church and it´s believers shouldn´t meet violence with more violence, but the secular state? Maybe I´m making the problem too simple, but what if Hilter was never met with military opposition as an example? Didn´t Desmond Tutu say something like if one doesn´t do something in the face of injustice then one is on the side of the oppressor?

  • Bones

    Please.

    Desmond Tutu is a pacifist and a great man whom I have had the privilege of meeting.

    He abhors all violence. Even against those who persecuted him.

    Btw using anything by Paul to justify state power is on pretty shaking ground when we know what supposedly happened to Paul during the Nero persecutions.

  • Matthew

    Well … that´s how I interpreted his quote Bones. Thanks for the clarification.

    Maybe not re: Paul, but I still contend that allowing Hitler and his cronies to continue their onslaught might very well have been more of an injustice than actually participating in war against them.

    How do you interpret the words in and around Romans 13 then?

  • Bones

    It has to be read in the context of the First Jewish Revolt…..where Jewish Christians were pressured into fighting for Jewish insurgents against Rome.

    “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”

    CONTEXT…CONTEXT….CONTEXT…..

  • Matthew
  • Bones

    Your article agrees with me, Matthew……

    It’s Paul’s way of saying ‘be careful what you get into’.

    So Paul is writing to Jewish Christians in Rome at a time of Jewish nationalist insurgency……

    Don’t get involved in it…..

    Mark 13 echoes the same …..

    “See to it that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.”

    “21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; 22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.”

    eg
    read about the First Jewish Revolt and how the Jewish leader Simon Bar Giora had messianic similarities.

    Fascinating stuff.

    See also Theudas who was considered a messiah and led a short-lived Jewish revolt around 46CE.

  • Matthew

    I had no idea really that such an interpretation of Romans 13 even existed. Thanks so much Bones. More food for thought and more homework to do.

  • Bones

    Yes it’s interesting the way Romans 13 is used and abused when it is taken out of its context.

  • Matthew

    Interesting how new discoveries bring on new questions.

    About context ….

    The Romans 13 understanding that you embrace and that the article I linked to talks about seems to indicate that Paul´s words in Romans 13 were temporary, for the church at Rome then, not words that point to a “for all time” manifesto about church-state relations.

    If that is so, then how does one decide what context trumps what context? I mean, we cannot simply just say out of the blue that this stuff was for then, that stuff is for now, etc. We need to say why such is so.

  • Bones

    Do you need to be told what to do about everything?

    Think about Bonhoeffer, Tutu, Mandela, King….you don’t need a book….

  • Matthew

    So .. are you suggesting I should just read what they say about life, living, ethics, etc? I’m not sure about Mandela, but I’m rather certain the others you mention were/are grounded in biblical principles. Shouldn’t Christians be guided by biblical principles (rightly interpreted) found in scripture?

  • Bones

    I’m saying look to others not just Paul especially with regard to dealing with unjust governments.

    His word is not the final nor only word on the matter.

  • Matthew

    Thanks again Bones. Fair enough. I´m not sure you attempted to answer my question about “that was for then this is for now” context though.

  • Bones

    I wonder if Paul thought the same thing as he was getting his head cut off.

    Me thinks he may well have played a different tune by then.

  • Matthew

    ???

  • Bones

    That is that all governments are given by God as they were lopping his head off.

  • Matthew

    Thanks for the clarification Bones.

  • Whiteguy

    Substitute
    “worthless killer “