exploring violence & peace: an interview with nonviolence trainer simon moyle (part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of this interview with nonviolence trainer Simon Moyle. If you haven’t already it might be worth reading Part 1.

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People often cite Hitler as an example of a historical case where violence was necessary to end greater suffering. Is this true; was violence necessary to stop a person like Hitler? Could there have been another way?

Hitler is too convenient a scapegoat I reckon. Now certainly, Hitler had some truly horrific ideas and did some terrible things. But Hitler was just one person. Average height, average weight, normal intelligence (some would say abnormal, but you know what I mean, he wasn’t a supergenius). How is it that one man carries the weight for an entire regime, and the evil it unleashed?

Well partly because we like to have a simple scapegoat, because once we begin to unravel the myth of Hitler as the solely responsible evil agent it asks some uncomfortable questions about ourselves. Because let’s face it, Hitler alone could not have been a murderous regime, started a war and killed six million Jews. He needed a whole bunch of people to help him. He also needed a whole bunch of people to stand passively by and do nothing to resist him.

But we have to understand the conditions which produced Hitler, which allowed him to be put into the position of Chancellor. And to do that we need to go back to World War 1 and the Treaty of Versailles and the way the Allies used it to crush Germany into the ground. It was the humiliation and privation the German people were made to suffer that allowed Hitler to rise to power. Most of the West saw that as a great triumph – but in retrospect, it was a massive mistake.

So when we ask “what about Hitler?” we’re really asking, “what about the whole Third Reich?” or “What about all of the Axis countries?” We’re talking about millions of Germans, Italians, Japanese, and others, many of whom supported the regimes by manufacturing food or munitions, or sat passively by while their countries perpetuated terrible evils. Which means when we’re talking about contemporary evil, we have to not just ask, “What about Ahmedinejad?” or “What about Obama?” but “what about me?” That is, what am I doing about the contemporary evils around me that I’m currently silent or passive about and thereby allowing to continue? This is the question we don’t really want to ask, because it’s much easier to ask abstract hypotheticals about Hitler.

The irony, of course, is that those who advocate war as a response to Hitler do so on the pretense of saving life, ignoring the fact that war is designed for one thing only; to end life and destroy property. If it’s saving life you’re after, you’re going to want another strategy – one which doesn’t perpetuate the cycle of deadly violence, but interrupts and transforms it.

So what we’re talking about here is not no response to Hitler but a nonviolent one. And that could have taken many forms, including the ones that Gene Sharp outlines in his taxonomy of 198 methods of nonviolent action.

When nonviolent resistance was used against the Nazis, it was often effective, and this without preparation, training or coordination.

Check out the stories of Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose movement, Franz Jäegerstätter, André and Magda Trocmé, the countries of Bulgaria, Norway and Denmark, all of whom engaged in nonviolent resistance to Nazism, albeit with mixed results (mostly positive). And no doubt there are many more instances of nonviolent resistance to Nazism which aren’t documented.

But the question I’m much more interested in is what are we doing about contemporary evils? What is the best thing to do right now?

At the other extreme to the Hitler scenario, people often ask how you could be nonviolent if a person came into your home intending to do harm to you or your family (abuse, murder, rape etc.). How could a person possibly act nonviolently in such a situation?

This is a hypothetical scenario that people ask about a lot. Unfortunately it’s a scenario which has so little detail or basis in reality that it functions as a blank canvas onto which people project their worst nightmares, even though their worst nightmares have no likelihood of coming true. When we’re thinking in that zone, we’re reacting totally out of fear rather than reason. So it’s a scenario which I like to walk through with people, to put faces feelings and flesh and onto it, to reduce that fear and think it through a little more rationally.

Firstly, who is this person who has come into your home? Certainly in the overwhelming majority of cases (up around 90%), people are not attacked by random strangers but by people they know. What this demonstrates is that usually there is a history and a reason behind why they’re attacking you – while it’s not justifiable that they do so, at least you a) have a sense of why they’re doing what they’re doing, b) an opportunity to treat your friends, family, etc. in ways that will reduce this possibility and c) have enough relationship with them to reason with them or call on their compassion. This increases the importance of nonviolence in your everyday relationships, in order to prevent conflicts escalating in this way. Either way, it’s not the random, sudden, anonymous threat the scenario envisages.

If it is the far less likely scenario of a random stranger, one possibility is that someone has invaded your home looking to steal things, and you or your family disturb them. In which case, the person is likely on edge, ready for such an eventuality and therefore a confrontation, but with no desire to have one. Giving them an opportunity to leave is far less likely to result in harm to anyone.

Or, let’s look at it another way. If your opponent is stronger, larger, and more prepared than you, what could possibly be gained by forcing a violent confrontation? Your best option is not to contest them in the areas they are strongest, but to reduce their reason for attacking you or your family. At the very least, your best option is to be smarter, more creative, more human, not try to outdo them with violence.

So the remaining alternative is a scenario where a totally deranged person who you don’t know who for no apparent reason has targeted you AND your family to harm or kill you, and is physically weaker and less prepared than you for a confrontation. This is such a farfetched scenario that I’m mystified as to why people even spend energy thinking about it. But let’s explore the options anyway.

Let’s assume the person is armed (because if they’re unarmed, there’s much better chance of you escaping unharmed). In this scenario, the person has a weapon and is ready to use it. Posing a threat to them in any way (such as reaching for a weapon) is not likely to end well for anyone.

So what can you do that’s nonviolent? Well, the options are endless (that’s the beauty of the creativity that opens up once we start thinking about it!). One friend of mine (Angie O’Gorman) asked an intruder for the time. This led to a conversation which humanised the other person to her, and vice versa (you can read a play of what happened here).

So I think the question we need to be asking isn’t, “Is it ever OK to be violent?” Rather the question is, “Am I going to be equipped with the right tools that will be most likely to keep me safe?” And the majority of people have only one tool in their toolbox, and it’s the one that is least likely to keep them safe.

All this talk about nonviolence is good and all, but for Christians the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, seems to portray God as rather violent. Such divine violence has been attacked, even ridiculed, by contemporary atheists who label Christianity as a violent and undesirable religion.
How do you deal with the Old Testament accounts of YHWH seemingly acting violently? How do you reconcile these accounts with the Gospels’ image of Jesus as peaceful and nonviolent?

This is where broad brushstrokes are not very helpful; you really need to do a proper, detailed exegesis of particular texts. Yes, the OT has been used to justify all sorts of horrific things.

Yet Gandhi insisted (and I agree) that Jesus was the most active practitioner of nonviolence in history – and the only people who don’t know it are Christians. If Jesus is the image of God, the embodiment of God, as his followers insist that he is, then we need to look at all claims about God in that light, including biblical claims.

I do think the Bible is more of a conversation – or even an argument – than an encyclopedia. That’s what makes it a living word, and is far more exciting and challenging than taking every word literally (as if that were possible or even desirable through our 21st Century Western lenses). So part of that ‘argument’ is the question of what God is like, a question which is at least partially settled by the Incarnation.

At the centre of it all stands the cross – what God does with our sin and shame and violence and domination. And it turns out he doesn’t destroy us, or punish us, or even hate us – he takes it all on himself, and exposes it for the sham that it is. More than that, he dies forgiving. But that’s not even the end! Christ’s victory is completed in resurrection – God’s triumph over our death-dealing and domination, not by greater violence or greater domination, but by love, life and vulnerability being stronger than the worst we can do. That’s pretty good news!

Of course, as people who call themselves Christians we haven’t done a very good job of following Christ – more often mirroring the world with a religious veneer. I think with the end of Christendom we stand a better chance of posing the kind of radical alternative to which God is constantly calling us, because we’re finally re-learning to separate what is Christ-like from the dominant culture.

You talk about how Christians should follow Christ in living out a radical alternative to the dominant culture. That raises an important question – can a Christian serve in the armed forces?

Badge of the Royal Australian Army Chaplains Department (Christian)

The question to me is, “Can I be unChristlike and be a Christian?” The answer, of course is yes and no – yes because of course none of us are entirely like Christ. But presumably if we’re committed to becoming like Christ we’re working by God’s grace to change that, so the answer is ‘no’ if we’re going to willfully persist in refusing to be like Christ, to love like Christ. Why would you want to call yourself a Christian if you’re going to ignore what Christ was like, what he said and did? This is the guy who defines discipleship by a cross, by the willingness to take suffering upon oneself rather than to defend oneself with violence (a choice vindicated in resurrection). Whose last message to the church before his death was, “Put down your sword.” Whose central teaching was the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest teaching on nonviolence in history. Who after defining discipleship as taking up our cross (rather than our sword/gun/Hellfire missile), says, “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake or the sake of the Kingdom will gain it.” Can you love your enemies while killing them or threatening their life?

The word ‘Christian’ isn’t an abstract identity. It’s a discipleship process, a lived out practice, an orientation in the world, based on a very concrete person in Jesus Christ. I ask my brothers and sisters keep me accountable to being Christlike in the same ways when I fall short.

Look out for  the third and final instalment of this interview on Friday.

Posted on January 25, 2012, in Conflict and Nonviolence, Q&R and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.

  1. Matt, enjoyed the first of this series, but the srgument of this post is week. Of course when people cite hitler they are referring to a regime. And of course hitler might have been stopped if the millions of Germans had taken a different course. But the world is full of good and evil, and hitlers regime did arise, and to suggest that the European non-participant nations provided an alternative response is simply absurd.

    Of course any individual or community might well take a passivist position, and in doing so they model an ideal to which nations should aspire. In the meantime, thank goodness for the sacrifice of soldiers prepared to make war on hitler’s regime and it’s ilk.

  2. Matt & Simon..


  3. Shane, I didn’t get that message from Simon. I heard that citizens (you and I) have a responsibility to keep our governments accountable and non-aggressive. Right now our government is fighting one war in Afghanistan, colluded last year with the bombing of Libya, and is likely to be dragged (by our US allies) into a war with Iran/Syria later this year. These actions are opposed by a majority of Australian citizens.

    Just as “Hitler” pointed to the Jews and Communists, our leaders point to “Moslem extremists” and “rogue” states. Fear and racism is used to justify atrocity.

    That suggests to me that WE are now in the position of German citizens in 1935. How do we learn from history, and create the conditions in which the machinery of war can be brought under control (dismantled even), and acts of aggression curtailed. How do we make our democracy function effectively?

    From the “enemy’s” point of view, WE are the unreasoning brutal invaders. (After all, our military is in their region and they are at home.)

    Is it possible that faith in God, and adherence to the Sermon on the Mount is required of us now in order to avert catastrophe?

    Is it possible that our own society needs to be restored in humanity, compassion and love?

  4. Simon, I’m intrigued by your citing Denmark, Norway and Bulgaria as exponents of non violence during World War II.

    Certainly I see that Bulgaria as an axis power was truly remarkable in not exporting Jews to death camps by form of public will and protest, however estimates suggest that up to 1% of the Bulgarian population was lost during WWII. In one protracted episode alone during the revenge and when the Bulgarian communists took power with the strong support of the Soviets – losses? Some sources report that communists killed 40000 people in Bulgaria. All up it is estimated that Bulgaria took 61000 military and civilian casualties as a result of World War II.

    In a similar regard, Denmark spent little on defense during the 1930s and when the German Army invaded on 9th April 1940 the armed forces were defeated on the first day. It is my opinion that Denmark did not adopt non violence as a moral choice, they adopted it simply because of their complete lack of preparedness to resist an evil empire. That being said I think it’s unfortunate that by citing Denmark in reference you don’t allude to the possible reasons they adopted such a position.

    It is also fair to say that both Bulgaria and Denmark by method, will and protest saved thousands upon thousands of Jewish from despicable demise at the hands of the Nazi’s in death camps. I remain unconvinced though that Denmark had it been more prepared would have adopted non violence as it’s official line. It’s also fair to say that during the latter part of 1942 through to the end of hostilities, many many Danes took up armed resistance and sabotage against Axis forces in Denmark. Can we therefore say that Denmark did adopt non violence or were they merely subjugated by a superior force?

    In the same way There were a few short battles in several places in Norway, but within a few days the Germans had gained control over the country and there was not that much military resistance in Norway. Norway had a large fleet of merchant ships before the war, during the war years many of these ships transported goods to countries that were at war with Germany. Around half of these ships were torpedoed or bombed. Almost 4,000 Norwegian sailors were killed during the war. A total of around 10,000 Norwegian men and women died because of the war. Around 700 of these were Jews sent to concentration camps in Germany and Poland.

    Again I would respectfully suggest to you that Norway was not adopting a position of non violence, they were adopting a position of survival under the protectorate political position that was imposed upon them by fear, force and will of the Nazi regime.



    Matt I think it’s ironic that you (no criticism) have placed the badge of the Royal Australian Army Chaplains in the text-work of your post. I would like to suggest that in the interests of the discussions here at some point you could source an Army chaplain to offer his perspective of christians in the armed forces and wether a christians spiritual journey is compromised by service in such.

    Still reading, still being challenged.

  5. My point, Shane, is that what we usually attribute to “Hitler” was actually a systemic issue, from which the Allies were not exempt (in fact, which they contributed to enormously). What we can do about it is either a) perpetuate that cycle of violence or b) interrupt and transform it. Otherwise it’s like saying, “Let’s say I lock a guy in my basement, torture him, abuse him, and then he attacks me. How do I nonviolently stop him attacking me?” Just focussing on the latter question alone removes all the context, including our own contribution.

    What Hitler wanted was total war, and the allies gave it to him, and then some.

    Nonviolent noncooperation would have worked (as it did in Norway, Denmark), but it was rarely tried. Hence the importance of learning this stuff now for next time.

  6. Simon, I really do protest, (non violently of course).

    Norway and Denmark did violently respond, to Germany’s invasion, and they were subsequently overwhelmed after responding (in force) without success.

    And then they set about their process of non cooperation over the ensuing years and responding through sabotage (which was armed and at times violent sabotage)

    • Indeed, and the violence they attempted seems to have been impotent, as you say.

    • Take a deep breath Brewster. I haven’t said the whole of Norway and Denmark were entirely nonviolent all the time. I didn’t cite the exact examples because I thought they were well known enough not to. Perhaps asking questions might be a better way forward rather than discounting the whole argument based on an argument I haven’t made. I mean, it’s as ridiculous to say “no one in Norway or Denmark responded nonviolently to the Nazis” as it is to say “Norway and Denmark responded entirely nonviolently” (which, once again, I haven’t said).

      Norwegian teachers successfully resisted the Nazi curriculum despite Nazi persecution, and sparked a massive backlash. Denmark saved 95% of its Jewish population, and Bulgaria all of them.

      But I note once again that you’ve moved away from the whole point of what I said. What are YOU doing about contemporary evils?

  7. Simon, there seems to be some confusion as to what constitutes violence. Bruce has suggested that sabotage is necessarily violent, would you agree? What actually constitutes a violent act?

    Also, Bruce, in regard to your assertion about the Chaplain badge and the perspective of an army chaplain – why would this perspective on the legitimacy of Christians entering armed combat be any more authoritative than anyone else? Personally I do not believe a place in the armed forces gives anyone’s view about Jesus’ teachings on peace more weight, in the same way that being a musician does not give one’s theology of worship more weight, nor a pastor’s view on service.

    The inclusion of that badge subtly points out the irony of the subversion of the Cross – For Christ it was an instrument of death, or nonviolent sacrifice. However in the chaplain badge it becomes a Constantinian symbol of victory and domination (“By this sign, conquer” is the famous testimony of Constantine regarding the supposed moment of his conversion).

    Last comment for now – I would suggest that the relegation of a Christian’s journey to being “spiritual” in the sense meant by most contemporary Christians is a fairly recent construction that does not, in my view, bind with the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in the Gospels.

  8. Matt, I don’t think it is “necessarily violent” all the time, but contrast it with Bryan Laws act of sabotage on a Tiger helicopter. Bryan rightfully pointed out that he announced his intention, he carried it out without harming others, or innocents, and he hung around for the consequences.

    I don’t believe that Simon in full conscience is seriously arguing that the initial military response to German invasion AND the armed resistance of Denmark and Norway was carried out in the same manner, nor could it reasonably expect to be classed as anything non violent That is unless we’re rewriting history.

    In that regard I believe Simon should in the spirit of ongoing discussion stop citing Denmark, Norway and possibly Bulgaria from his examples of WWII non violence.

    • Brewster, I can’t help but think how many more disabled, homeless, in firmed and different nationalities who under the Nazi regime would have been wiped out, if there were no one raising up to defend them.

      • Craig, this is a fairly disingenuous representation of all Simon has talked about. Normally you are more thoughtful than this.

        To reassert what has been said a number of times, nonviolence is not inaction, but rather action that is not violent. You are making out as if practitioners of nonviolence would have stood by and let murders happen. This is a misrepresentation. As anecdotes have reflected, nonviolent action during WW2 saved many lives and put the lives of its enactors on the line. Bravery and Defence is not necessarily defined by taking up a weapon.

        Come on, Craig. No one gains anything by engaging in baseless hypothetical reconstructions of history.

  9. Matt, you’ve quite rightly and enthusiastically opened a blog re violence and christians. I want to thank you for that. I’m interested in Simon’s perspective and I believe that it could be worthwhile to bring another perspective (that of a christian pastor within the military) to add theirs, to perchance further the discussion.

    It’s your blog, you have the right to do as you wish (no offense intended)

    • But Bruce you didn’t answer my question.

      If such a person wishes to comment, then by all means. But I do not see a reason to go to the effort to seek them out since I think your opinion is just as valuable as theirs, as is anyone’s.

      Also, in regard to asking Simon to stop using certain examples of nonviolence, I think you are jumping the gun (no pun intended). Not only has Simon yet to respond to your assertions about these examples, I think your representation of them is far too absolute, as if to say that some examples of violence make all efforts violent. You are normally more nuanced than that Bruce.

  10. Matt, I replied to Simon in the manner that I did simply because Simon chose to reply in his post of today @ 2:29 with “Nonviolent noncooperation would have worked (as it did in Norway, Denmark)”

    This in my mind is clearly an unfortunate and in some respects an unreasonable continuation of history that is not fully factual. Especially after I had posted what I believe is a more accurate recollection of events @ I:53 today.

    Perhaps I am too close to this. I’ll rethink my responses.

    • I get you. I read Simon’s statement differently to you in that he was not making a statement about every single thing that happened in those nations, but a generalisation.

      I don’t want to get bogged down in historical methodology here because I think it is to digress, but I will add that care should be taken in asserting the superior accuracy of some websites of questionable reliability.

  11. Matt, Simon, I maybe the wrong person to be offering comment here. I was hoping to get some practical answers about how I as a christian could adapt and possibly embrace a lifestyle even more non violent than my current one is. I was of the idea that there would be some feedback here in that respect.

    So far I don’t believe that has been my experience, perhaps i’m not listening properly or asking the wrong questions. So far I feel that my experience has been that sabotage is not violent if it is done in the belief / conviction that God encourages you to. That to serve in the armed forces is wrong as long as your ok with wilfully disobeying God despite what God may have lead / convicted the individual to do. And that if you seek clarification or correction regarding a generalisation you need to take a deep breath.

    In respect of what am I doing Simon about contemporary evils?

    I regularly put myself in harms way to talk people down from threatened self harm,
    I try to resolve without force situations that may end up with people suffering from the many many forms of trauma,
    I choose not to respond to people who assault me in the course of my employment rather I choose to offer forgiveness.
    I daily meet people in their moment of need, and I love and support the people further up the line that place themselves in harms way to secure my and your safety wether or not you ask or appreciate it.
    I financially contribute to agencies like TEAR, and the wider mission field especially in Cambodia and…
    I socialize twin boys in the Judeo Christian ethics of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. One of which is to withhold violence whenever and wherever unless it is completely unavoidable.

    I think now it best if I continue to read along but contribute no further, please forgive if I have offended. Simon, I wish you Gods richest blessing, Thanks Matt for all your work.

    • I don’t think you should stop commenting, Brewster.

      I do think that this is where the questions have led us though. Blame shouldn’t be pointed at Simon for the questions not leading us to where others might have preferred. There is still time, however!

      To clear up, it may be a bit unrealistic to seek out tactics for nonviolent action in this forum, since they are not a matter of formulaic equations, but creative collaboration. This takes time and relationship, and internet forums are perhaps not best. You could read about some of the past stories Simon has mentioned. For more tactical reading check out Gene Sharp.

      Regarding sabotage, I don’t think the idea was whether God encourages one to engage in the activity or not, but the perspective that sabotage against property, particularly that used for killing, is not the same thing as violence against a person. Jesus cleansing the temple was said to be one paradigm for this. Note that this was never said to be the view of all proponents of nonviolence. There may however be times when some people believe the destruction of property is preferable to the destruction of people.

      In regard to armed forces, perhaps your summary of the argument is not quite what Simon talked about. He started from the point that Jesus teaches us to not respond violently to evil. We believe this is a call to followers of his Way to act as he did. For us this precludes that God would encourage people to join the armed forces since it is a direct contravention of his teachings. Early Christians understood this, since they refused to serve in the military; in this sense our history testifies to us. It seems that the violent narrative of our culture has caused us to question this. In saying this i think we must indeed assert God’s sovereignty to do or say whatever he wills, but we should not cross into using this possibility to sanction anything we want, in this case military service.

      Regarding “taking a breath,” I think Simon was simply making a light-hearted comment about the sheer number of comments and your enthusiasm in discussing this topic. I don’t think any criticism was intended.

      In regards to embracing a lifestyle of nonviolence, I know Simon would be more than happy to start talking about this, far more than constantly having to answer questions about hypothetical situations. Are there certain areas of life you are thinking of?

      There is no question that your service as an ambo is invaluable, as is the commitment to treating patients as fully human. I think Simon is calling us to look at evils both micro (as you are) and also macro and challenge them both. This means telling a different narrative about the world, including the place of violence. This is part of the importance of this conversation.


    • I don’t think you should stop commenting, but I do think you’re showing signs of not being able to distance yourself from the outcome (which is not the end of the world, but it does hinder objectivity).

      I do think if you’re seeking a cure-all for every situation you could possibly encounter you’re going to be disappointed. It’s the kind of thing (as Matt said) which is not made for this type of forum. It’s better workshopped in a face to face environment, role played, etc. I would be willing to bet that for almost any violent encounter we workshopped you yourself would come up with a nonviolent action which would have better outcomes than any initial violent action would have. This needs to be practised, over and over, and together with others, to train us out of the violence and passivity we’ve been socialised into our whole life. So, if you want “practical answers about how I as a christian could adapt and possibly embrace a lifestyle even more non violent than my current one is”, then here’s my answer: nonviolence training. It’s why I do what I do, because once you begin to workshop it with people they are surprised and delighted by the range of creative possibilities opened up to them.

      To say that I said, in your words, “That to serve in the armed forces is wrong as long as your ok with wilfully disobeying God despite what God may have lead / convicted the individual to do” is a bit disengenous. What I am asking is why God would lead/convict an individual to act in a way contrary to Christ. People make claims about what God lead them to do all the time – we can’t just call all of them true by virtue of the claim (including, by the way, Bryan’s or mine). We have to ask: are they consistent with what we know of the God revealed in Christ?

      I loved reading the list of what you’re already doing. Thankyou for doing those things.

      I’d love to hear you engage with the texts I’ve cited. What do you make of Jesus command to follow him to the cross? What do you make of his command to love our enemies? What do you make of his statement “whoever wants to save their life will lose it,” etc? Otherwise it just looks like you’re desperate to find a loophole, and I trust you’re not doing that, because you’ve engaged so honestly.

  12. I asked this question on the previous post, which remains unanswered. In the Gospels we have some clear examples of Jesus teaching and engaging with soldiers and some centurions.

    Within the framework of his teaching, he never abused them for being soldiers, rather he taught them to do what? Be content with their pay!

    How does your framework of non violence and anti soldiery fit in with Jesus actions and teachings within his engagement with soldiers?

    • Hi Craig. In my reading this is beside the point of the story.

      I would point out past comments by you about the story of Lazarus and rich man in Luke 16 in which you stated that the story was not about heaven and hell as is often suggested [see http://liferemixed.net/2011/04/01/even-the-bible-is-a-vulnerable-text/#comment-482%5D. I wonder whether you still feel this way?

      If you do, I wonder what result you would get if you applied this hermeneutic to the stories of Jesus speaking with soldiers? Keep in mind there is only one such episode (as far as I can recall right now); Matthew 8/Luke7.

      You referred to Jesus telling soldiers to be content with their pay, but this never happened. It was in fact John the Baptist who said this in Luke 3:14. The context appears in a triad of economic commands. The exclusion of a command to leave the military is not so much a statement about John’s view of the military as it is about the rhetorical purpose (economics) of the author in this passage.

    • Actually Craig, it was John the Baptist who was asked and answered that question, not Jesus. I don’t think Jesus abused anyone – even Zaccheus. Instead, he offered the kind of clear example of what God is like and what we are to follow. He embodied “do not repay evil for evil but overcome evil with good”. To say he didn’t abuse them therefore he was wholeheartedly supportive of what they were doing is plainly ridiculous. Otherwise you have to extend that to the prostitutes and tax collectors he hung out with but didn’t call out for their behaviour (at least, such is not explicitly reported in the gospels).

      I’m interested how, in light of the overwhelming teaching and life of Jesus, this engagement become your modus operandi, your hermeneutic. Is there a vested interest in the outcome of this biblical engagement? I can’t think of why else you’d ignore the rest of Jesus’ life and teaching, and instead base your actions and belief on this small engagement with John the Baptist.

      It’s painful letting go of old beliefs, I know that. I’m not unsympathetic to that, I’ve done it myself. But we need to face these questions honestly.

      • I still firmly believe my take on Luke is the right one. Context doesn’t allow for a heaven / hell teaching. Your right about it being John the Baptist telling the Soldiers to be content with their pay. However, Jesus did heal the centurions daughter and offered no condemnation towards the soldiers.

        • As Simon said – just like he conversed with prostitutes and tax collectors without offering direct condemnation of their behaviour.

          • And in the same way…why then do you condemn soldiers?

            • Craig, no one has condemned soldiers (that I’ve seen). In fact, a lot of my work has involved raising awareness of the damage that war does to soldiers in terms of injury, death and PTSD, most of which is not dealt with by the DoD well at all – in fact, they’re often hung out to dry. This leaves them very broken people – more soldiers commit suicide on return from war than die there. Where is the church’s care for these people beyond mere platitudes? When I have had conversations with soldiers, it’s always respectful, and often the soldiers are thankful for the work we’re doing, because by getting involved we’re showing we care about them, while the rest of the population gets on with their lives, ignoring the wars they are fighting and dying in.

              That’s the thing – war has no winners, not on our side, not on theirs. Brokenness and suffering all round.

              I’d ask you the same questions I asked Brewster: What do you make of Jesus command to follow him to the cross? What do you make of his command to love our enemies? What do you make of his statement “whoever wants to save their life will lose it,” etc?

            • Condemnation is a strong word Benno. Making the statement that someone’s career is not in fitting with the way of the cross is not the same as condemnation.

              By that logic you would say Jesus was OK with selling one’s body for sex because he didn’t “condemn” prostitutes.

      • Simon, I would also ask of you, in light of Jesus actions and examples of teaching, how do you get the idea its ok to destroy property that doesn’t belong to you?

  13. Hey everyone,

    I just read this and thought it might be interesting for some. It’s a few days old.

    What are the effects of engaging in war and violence on soldiers?



  14. Btw, I would also like to note, that I have often blogged about Tolstoy’s War and Peace, which I think is a required reading for all. I’m all for peaceful protests. I also believe that as Christians we are called to defend those who are in need and yet turn the other check when personally provoked. Sometimes the defence of those in need, requires a violent response.

    • I think you should check out Walter Wink’s interpretation of “turning the other cheek” – it makes the most sense socio-historically speaking, and dissolves your insistence on portraying nonviolence as inaction.

  1. Pingback: exploring violence & peace: an interview with nonviolence trainer simon moyle (part 1) « life.remixed

  2. Pingback: Exploring violence and peace | mr. jones and me

  3. Pingback: exploring violence & peace: an interview with nonviolence trainer simon moyle (part 3) « life.remixed

  4. Pingback: Explore violence | Myfeedbackonli

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