As someone who really loves Jesus, and who loves the peace teachings He proclaimed with his life and love, and the call to live a different kind of life that the Gospels present, this article made me so mad I had a hard time sleeping. I’d love to know what you think about his post, and how it resonates with the Jesus you know.
I’m sick and tired of having a peace-preaching Jesus co-opted. I’m tired of feeling like I have to apologize for my feelings about gun control and violence in society. I can’t find a single Jesus-justified reason to use violence, permit violence, or excuse it. The Jesus I know, the Jesus I hold in my heart and worship says very clearly that the Way is paved with love, and that love is deeply rooted in the peace that passes all understanding. I think whenever we forget this, when we engage in violence of any kind–mean words, mean actions, just plain meanness, in order to get our points across, we lose the full flavor of the Gospel.
Meekness is not weakness. The refusal to meet hurt with hurt, no matter the situation, is a powerful one. The willingness to not engage in a violent act, even if it means the loss of my own life, is something that convicts me, daily. I think about Jesus, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, and look at the way their radical approach to peace and non-violence changed the world and the people they loved in powerful ways. It cost them their very lives, but in paying that cost, chains were broken, people were freed, and perceptions were radically shifted. What we need in the world isn’t one more gun, one more bomb, one more justification of force or violence. What we need is hearts that are ready and willing to love and be loved fearlessly, even in the face of death.
I think about a conversation I had with a family member, before my wedding. This family member was very well-meaning, and was offering to buy my husband a shotgun as a wedding gift. The gun was meant to serve as “home security”. As kindly as I could, not wanting to get into the argument about guns, etc., I declined the offer. This family member asked what I expected my husband to do if someone broke into our house, and tried to hurt me, or otherwise terrorize our house. My response was that a) I thoroughly resented the implication that the only way one can defend oneself in a situation like that is with lethal force, and that b) if we lived in a neighborhood where situations like that happend, we would move, and that c) my husband understands my feelings about violence and lethal force, and would never kill someone to save me, because he loves me too much to do a thing like that. I would rather die than have someone kill another person to save me. That’s the bottom line. And it has nothing to do with a deathwish or me being a flakey-hippie-dippie-head-in-the-clouds kind of idiot and everything to do with MY understanding of the sanctity of life. I can’t control how violent people behave or what they might do to me. But I can control my reaction, and I’d rather die than add to the hurt and turmoil that violence brings.
I think about Jesus, and how He was a victim of violence, how even being taken to His death, He encouraged Peter and the others not to react with violence. If we live by the sword, or the gun, or the angry word, we will die by those things. That’s as true now as it ever was. Pastor Driscoll takes an Old Testament tack, and uses some questionable scholarship to justify the difference between killing and murder, using the Ten Commandments. I would challenge him to go back further, and read the story of Cain and Able in Genesis. God tells Cain that the very earth cries out with the blood of Able, that we are our brothers’ keeper. And Cain is banished, not killed in retaliation. Cain’s violence is what exempts him from fellowship with his community, with his family. I think it’s important to remember God’s response to that (in our tradition) first recorded murder. It’s a false teaching to draw the line between killing as an act of just war and murder as an act of revenge.
Taking a life is taking a life, period. And we must either believe that God has a plan and a call for each and every life, even the mean people, and give them the grace (even at the ultimate cost to ourselves) to find that plan and live out that call, or we believe that we have the ultimate power and control to force them into our perceived mold or put them in a hole in the ground. I refuse to accept that. Jesus comes to give us life, and to give it abundantly. The Enemy comes to kill, and steal, and destroy. I aim to be on the Jesus side of this argument, this choice to lay down my life for peace, to refuse to bow my head to the “necessity” of violence to keep peace or maintain security. Peace kept by a gun is just a fancy way of taking hostages, of intimidating people into keeping their heads down out of fear. There is no fear in the Kingdom of God, and I have to believe that the Kingdom of God is between us every single time we wage a fearless and love-filled peace.
That’s what I think, anyway.