Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is Redemptive Violence A Myth?

According to the Christians at Catholic Peace Fellowship it is. Long before people got shot in their bedrooms, at the mall, in the church, or at the bus stop the Catholic church taught the fallacy of redemptive violence. "I am a soldier of Christ and it is not permissible for me to fight" St. Martin of Tours, 315-397. "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace" St. Francis of Assisi. "The God of Peace is never glorified by human violence" Thomas Merton.

More recently, Catholic leaders have reiterated this emphases."On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace" Pope John Paul II. "God and our love are the condition for the unity of Christians. They are the condition for peace in the world" Pope Benedict XVI.

And most recently, on February 18, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said [click the pic to read the entirety of his talk] before several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square of Vatican City. “Dear Brothers and Sisters! This Sunday's Gospel has one of the most typical, yet most difficult, teachings of Jesus: Love your enemies (Luke 6:27). It is taken from the Gospel of Luke, but it is also found in Matthew's Gospel (5:44). But what is the meaning of his teaching?

This page of the Gospel does not consist in surrendering to evil—as claims a false interpretation of "turn the other cheek" (Luke 6:29)—but in responding to evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21) thus breaking the chain of injustice. It is thus understood that nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behavior but a person's way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God's love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Herein lies the novelty of the Gospel, which changes the world without making noise. Herein lies the heroism of the "little ones," who believe in the love of God and spread it even at the cost of life."

What do you think? Would as many children be getting shot at bus stops if all the Catholics in the US followed and encouraged others to follow the Pope's advice?


StarlitEve said...

I would hope that most Catholics are already following their Pope's advice. Growing up Catholic, I never perceived a great deal of violence in our practice - nor was redemptive violence ever encouraged.

A very big emphasis in my Catholic education was placed on loving one's enemy and turning the other cheek. As Christians we are all called to this. Unfortunately many bus-stop shootings are probably not redemptive violence perpetrated by Christians.

More Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists and Adventists alike should get together to promote peace through the message of Christ. Showing peace and love between our denominations would also truly be a testament to the world that Christianity is strong, thriving and...well...Christian.

Nathan French said...

We see the myth redemptive violence portrayed all the time. It's everywhere. It's as simple as a rumor going around a church or your office. Someone says something bad about the other. And they don't just get back on an even keel it's worse than what the first person said. It's in cartoons. TV shows. We see the bad guy and we want him to get it! It's two people getting in a small argument and over time things have happened that build and build up resentment and anger. The problem is that it's not EQUAL retaliation it escalates. So, what was a simple misunderstanding is two people now rolling around on the floor trying to kill each other or saying horrible untrue things about the other in order to retaliate.

This attitude is continued by the myth of redemptive violence that exists from movies to how ours and other governments operate the military.

Example: You come bomb our base(Pearl Harbor)

We escalate the violence and start dropping atomic bombs. (Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

Stacy said...

So, Nathan, how would you have handled Pearl Harbor?

Matthew said...

I totally agree that atomic bombs are not the answer. Here in Berrien Springs we just had an ATS meeting on war and what the Christian response should be. We even had an Adventist chaplain to the Pentagon here. One side argued Romans 13 - that the Lord gave the sword to the state and the other side argued turn the other cheek. Both made excellent points and, typically, nothing was resolved because theology is always harder to implement...Pearl Harbor...Israel/Palestine...etc.

So, practically, how would anyone solve or help to solve some of those situations?

Mike Fortune said...

Goods thoughts one and all. Well said Starliteve. I don't know what I'd do. But here's what one priest said who lived through it.

"To fail to speak to the utter moral corruption of the mass destruction of civilians was to fail as a Christian and as a priest. Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened in and to a world and a Christian Church that had asked for it - that had prepared the moral consciousness of humanity to do and to justify the unthinkable...

One would have thought that I, as a priest, would have spoken out against the atomic bombing of nuns. (Three orders of Catholic sisters were destroyed in Nagasaki that day.) One would have thought that I would have suggested that as a minimal standard of Catholic morality, Catholics shouldn't bomb Catholic children. I didn't speak out." --Father George Zabelka
Catholic Chaplain for the 509th Composite Group, the Atomic Bomb Crew

Michael Krahn said...


I just put up a series of posts about Thomas Merton that I think you’d enjoy at:

Nathan French said...

I don't know how I would have handled it. I just know that the ends do not justify the means. Just because you win doesn't make how you accomplished it right.

I believe in the sacredness of life. We are all image bearers of God. When I start to become okay with the atomic bomb being dropped on innocent people in order to win a war it changes how I view things in my everyday life. For instance if someone gives me an obscene gesture on the interstate one day. Then that makes it okay for me to run him off the road right? At least I won the battle. I guess that's all that matters. At least I taught him a lesson. See that's what the myth of redemptive violence teaches. I am somehow redeemed by returning a greater act of evil. It's a lie.

Stacy said...

Think of the shootings that just happened in Colorado for a second. This one kid controlled by evil is ending lives left and right as he fires his automatic rifle into the crowd. Who's to say the ones he is shooting are ready to meet their maker? Who's to say we should just stand by and let evil violence take over? There has to be something said for protecting innocent lives, image bearers protecting other image bearers from evil image bearers, and in this such case a security guard stepped in & she said she felt completely compelled by the Holy Spirit and shot him to prevent him from further obliterating this congregation of people. You're right that it's not about winning. It's about protecting people and the gov't has a right to do that. I'm definitely not supporting the killing of innocent lives and I definitely don't know all of the intelligence and everything that is shared b/n our military and the President and the gov't. This kid who shot up YWAM and New Life Church definitely had some demons and he, too, was made in the image of God, but do we just stand by and let him shoot and shoot and shoot? Would it have made a bigger impact if everyone in that congregation just knelt down and surrendered in prayer as he kept shooting? Would that have changed this kids heart? Would he have even been able to handle that moment of realizing what he had just done? Would he have shot himself from being so overwhelmed by it?
It is obvious by this situation that he was not ready to meet God, but like I said who's to say the people he shot were and why do we give this evil an authority over choosing that.
I also think of the Jim Elliott story where he and his buddies & their families fly into the Ecuadorian jungle to witness to these savage indians who just keep carrying on a pattern of evil and violence and killing. Jim and his 2 buddies make contact and start building a relationship with this tribe. Then suddenly this tribe compelled by evil b/c that's all they've ever known turns on Jim and the other 2 and they torture and kill them all. The women and children who were not in the jungle at the time, but at a remote somewhere near find out what happened, after days and days of their husbands not returning,and they mourn, but thanks be to God that they knew their mission was greater and their God was greater. And despite the fact that this tribe of savages murdered their husbands, and instead of holding onto bitterness and hatred for these people, they, compelled by love and the Holy Spirit, move in with the tribe and teach them a new way to live and share Jesus with them and the entire course of history is completely changed for these people b/c they all get saved. And it goes down in the history books as an incredible example of grace and forgiveness and love and the power of Jesus to change lives.

Nathan French said...

I think you've done an excellent job at pointing out the difference between self-defense and redemptive violence. I'm not saying that a person who is in the act of killing somebody shouldn't be stopped in
order to save lives in that moment. However the myth of redemptive violence in about existing relationships not random acts. In other words, if that boy had lived should his life be spared? That's the question. How do we respond in the long term picture. Are we creatively and determinedly creating pathways of peace with our global neighbors? OR are we REACTING with violence to aggression instead of being PROactive with love.

The problem with so many of the conflicts we have entered into in history as a country is that we didn't fight harder for peaceful solutions BEFORE it came to a situation not unlike the kid shooting in the church.

For example: I read the other day that when Hitler was taking over he asked that we develop a plan to come and pick up the Jewish people he would later act horribly against..... we refused. I'm not saying Hitler had a good idea, but it was better than what happened.

I just don't get a sense that we really WANT to find peaceful solutions as a country. I think if you look at the amount of money spent on the military compared with the amount spent of peacekeeping you will see where our real priorities lie. With violence we feel more in control.