Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Returning Evil For Evil

The May edition of Episcopal Life arrived in the mail yesterday. One column seemed to be a good response to some of the comments to my previous post. The title of the column is Patriotism Supplanting Piety. The author, Kerry Walters, is co-editor of Episcopal Peace Witness, the newspaper of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. This piece is not up on the EL site yet, but I did find a shortened version of it here. What follows are a few excerpts to get the conversation started;

...The Gospel is crystal clear that Christians are not to return evil for evil. We are to work mightily in the world for justice, but we are never to use violence and coercion, the world's methods of choice. The tools Jesus commands us to take up are love, patience, nonviolent resistance, and a willingness to suffer for the sake of others. These are non-negotiable. If we rationalize them away, how can the salt retain its savor? If the Church refuses to live the Sermon on the Mount, what distinguishes her from the world...

...Given the tens of millions of self-identified Christians in this country, think of the incredible work for the Kingdom we could do if we took the Gospel we pretend to honor seriously. Ron Sider proposed in 1984 that Christians live out their commitment to the Prince of Peace by getting themselves en masse to war-torn areas and putting their bodies between the opposing sides. But, with few exceptions, we don't. We rarely even raise our voices in protest against savagery. Instead, we piously talk about the unfortunately necessity to resort to arms in the protection of the innocent. And so the myth of redemptive violence is reinforced, the killing continues and our hands are bloodied...
In the longer EL version, Walters concludes by suggesting that "Episcopalians should reflect prayerfully on the scandal that only a tiny handful of Christian denominations are designated 'peace churches' and that our denomination is not one of them." That is scandalous, and worthy of reflection, but I like his closing comment in the shorter version better;

...Should we really continue to call ourselves followers of the Prince of Peace? If there's one sin that Jesus loathed, it's hypocrisy. Until we repent of our willingness to accommodate to a world overtaken by fallen powers and principalities, the least we can do is find another label for ourselves.
It's good to hear someone say this clearly. As Christians, some things are non-negotiable. The violence against the people of Iraq can never be sanctioned by any group claiming the label Christian.


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