The Library Basement
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Tag pacifism

The Politics of Jesus

I've just finished John Howard Yoder's The Politics of Jesus. It was an excellent read, and I'll probably re-read it with blog responses soon.

I have been in orbit around this work for a long time, so it is nice to have finally touched down. I first encountered Yoder through Hays' The Moral Vision of the New Testament and then of course through Hauerwas. What's great about Yoder is that he argues his points exegetically, so Biblical studies people like myself feel right at home. I also found that Yoder lays down an excellent via media between Christian anarchism and Constantinianism. He also embraces Romans 13 as a central plank of pacifism, not an apologetic text.

What diversity can a congregation bear?

Homosexuality is the latest in a trend of hot-button issues in the church which can cause congregations to break up. It is not very difficult to infer why this subject inspires such passion, resulting in division.

I was pondering recently why some differences of opinion can cause division whereas others can be tolerated within a congregation. For example, I know that in my current church there are people who are pacifists and people who affirm the use of violence in defense of justice. It seems to me that the difference between these positions would be much harder to bear than a difference over homosexuality. The ethical implications of violence are huge for both sides, and neither side looks very good in the other's viewpoint. Yet for some reason, people from both groups (and everyone else) can get along in church. Why is that?

I think it has to do with the scope of church. It is easy to get along about violence, because the issue doesn't come up in the context of church. Since (ideally) the church is a place where no injustice is practiced, there is no opportunity to debate the issue. Homosexuality, especially as it pertains to the clergy and marriage, does travel through the church's space.

As a converse example, it is probably not very easy to agree about violence in the midst wartime occupation (see Bonhoeffer). So context seems to be all-important here.

This is purely descriptive. My observations cannot answer what differences churches ought to be able to bear. But I think it is important to take a look at what they can bear, and why.

Potent Paragraph on Pacifism

I was directed to this article by Jason Barr, "Things I don't/do believe":

I don’t believe pacifism means being passive. I do believe that resistance to evil must be grounded in an imaginative narrative that is more robust and inspiring than the mythology that engenders evil. I believe that an important part of beginning to create a better world is imagining the ways in which another world is possible. I believe that the purpose of resistance is not necessarily first and foremost to bring down and replace evil powers and principalities, but to witness to the truth of God who is in us and works through us. God is the one who breaks the power of death and hell, but through our resistance to them we are granted the ability to participate in God’s work.

First of all, notice the place for imagination in the practice of pacifism. This is partly why science fiction is useful for theology. It allows us to imagine something completely different from our present society. Barr discusses the importance of the arts later in the article, which helps support this idea.

Second, notice that Christian anarchism is non-revolutionary anarchism. As Christians dedicated to overcoming evil with good, we cannot tear down the social orders with violence. However, we can live without coercing others in brotherly love.

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