Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Violence and the Kingdom
An excerpt from Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus:

The crucifixion of Christ can be seen as a radical repudiation of the use of violent force. The cross was the Roman tool of execution... the pax Romana was a peace made possible by the cross: people so feared crucifixion that they would think long and hard before rising up against the emperor. It's stunning in this light that the church chose the cross as one of its primary symbols. What could choosing such an instrument of torture, domination, fear, intimidation, and death possibly mean?

For the early church, it apparently meant that the kingdom of God would triumph not by inflicting violence but by enduring it - not by making others suffer but by willingly enduring suffering for the sake of justice - not by coercing or humiliating others but by enduring their humiliation with gentle dignity. Jesus, they felt, took the empire's instrument of torture and transformed it into God's symbol of the repudiation of violence - encoding a creed that love, not violence, is the most powerful force in the universe...

It's nightmarish then to consider that the very language of "kingdom of God" would eventually be co-opted by leaders of the failing Roman regime and their successors to legitimize their use of violence in the name of Jesus Christ. It is nothing short of nauseating to ponder the fact that the symbol of the cross itself could be used by Christians just as it had been used by the Romans, painted on their shields as a way of saying, "Fear us! Resist us and we will kill you!" But the nauseating nightmare happened - and it continued for centuries, from the Crusades to witch trials to heretic burnings to KKK cross burnings. And it continues today in subtle ways many of us are hardly aware of.

In ten thousand heartbreaking ways, the secret message of Christ has been mocked by the behavior of those of us who bear his name. This is why we must ask ourselves the hard questions: Was the message of the kingdom of God intended to cause more religious wars, or was it actually a nonviolent alternative to war itself? Was it another violent movement or a movement against violence itself? Martin Luther King Jr. seemed to understand what was at stake as well as anyone, as this quote makes clear:

Through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder.

Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth.

Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate.

Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.


posted by Mike Clawson at 11:52 PM | Permalink |


At 3/17/2006 08:03:00 AM, Blogger dan h.

Hey Mike,
Are you ready to post a review of this book yet? Not that I'm trying to rush you, but I've been waiting to see what you think. The only review I've read so far wasn't too good.


At 3/17/2006 09:55:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

It'll probably be another week or so before I'm ready to review it. Sorry to keep you waiting. :)

Where did you find another review? I'd like to read that.



At 3/18/2006 06:09:00 AM, Blogger dan h.

I honestly don't remember where I saw the review. Sorry. It wasn't from anyone I was familiar with.


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