Manual Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence

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  4. A Christian Case for Nonviolence: A Q&A with Author Preston Sprinkle
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No, poison their wells! Shelter the homeless? No, bomb their village! The weapons of Christian nonviolence include the spiritual works of mercy; again, the works of war are the exact opposite. Instruct the ignorant? No, lie to them! Counsel the doubtful? No, draft them or imprison them! Console the bereaved? Give them more deaths to grieve! Forgive injuries? Not on your life! Make them pay, ten times over! Authentic nonviolence must be revolutionary because the social, political, economic order we live under violates the human person in fundamental ways — body, mind, and spirit.

The present order is more accurately called dis-order. It kills and maims the body by war and by withholding the means to life from the poor. And it violates the human conscience, which instinctively shrinks in horror from killing our own. As documented by Lt. Dave Grossman, the West Point psychology professor who pioneered the conditioning technique known as killology, overcoming our natural aversion to homicide is a prime task of military training.

Wars can be fought only by stilling the voice of conscience. By contrast, nonviolence operates in transparency, openness, and truth. In struggle, the nonviolent activist does not seek victory but reconciliation, the redemption of the opponent, never his humiliation or annihilation.

‎„Fight: A Christian Case for Non-violence“ in Apple Books

Therefore, the nonviolent activist always allows the opponent a way to retreat with dignity, an honorable way out of any conflict. The principal weapon of nonviolence is dialogue. Genuine dialogue assumes the good faith of partners and avoids invidious language and ad hominem argument. Dialogue may be suspended at an impasse, but resumption is always a goal. The nonviolent armory includes protest, public dissent, noncooperation, and active resistance, but always with the purpose of re-establishing dialogue.

Civil disobedience is the last weapon to be used, not the first, and should be undertaken after careful discernment under spiritual direction. Christian nonviolence is a way of life, not a tactic. Often adopting nonviolence is part of a conversion process.

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The nonviolent activist is a man or woman of spiritual discipline, who has peace within, for one cannot give what one does not have. Thomas Merton, the well-known author and Trappist monk, pointed to the superficiality of much of what he saw coming out of the peace movement of the s: lack of clarity in the use of terms, shoddy thinking, and gratuitous assertion. If anything, the years since his death have seen worse. We Christians need to recover what our ancestors in the faith knew about peacemaking. And we need a revolution of the heart. To purify our wills we need to pray.

To tame our lusts we need self-control, discipline, and fasting in one way or another. Only then can we come to the study of nonviolence with the realistic hope of putting it into useful practice. One need not be a saint, but the intellectually slothful and the self-serving will not make effective nonviolent practitioners. The way of nonviolence must proceed person by person. That is necessary, because we do not naturally find rest even in our own being.

We have to learn to commune with ourselves before we can communicate with other men and with God. A man who is not at peace with himself necessarily projects his interior fighting into the society of those he lives with, and spreads a contagion of conflict all around him.

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Even when he tries to do good to others his efforts are hopeless, since he does not know how to do good to himself. In moments of wildest idealism he may take it into his head to make other people happy, and in doing so he will overwhelm them with his own unhappiness. He seeks to find himself somehow in the work of making others happy. Therefore he throws himself into the work. As a result he gets out of the work all that he put into it: his own confusion, his own disintegration, his own unhappiness.

At this point, a reasonable objection confronts the pacifist. Do we not have an obligation to protect the innocent? Does it not happen sometimes that the only effective way to protect the innocent is by force, even force of arms? Is it not a crime that cries to heaven that the international community did not intervene to stop the genocide in Rwanda and in Sudan? Refusal to support military force in defense of the innocent for reasons of conscience does not extricate anyone from the moral dilemma.

One response is to practice nonviolent action as an alternative. Advocates of nonviolence have pioneered peaceful ways to resist aggression or home-grown tyranny. Religious groups such as Maryknoll and the Quakers have long prepared for re-entry into conflict areas in Asia. This is what Catholic Worker groups, the Bruderhof, and other intentional communities strive to do in ever increasing numbers. In these communities the poor and marginalized may be sheltered. According to Werner Jaeger, a classicist of the last century, such communities may play a crucial role in the re-ordering of society in times of social disintegration; one need only recall how the monasteries preserved culture in Europe during the Dark Ages.

All the same, there is weight to arguments for forceful intervention to protect the innocent. The innocent do need protection, and the world as we know it does need a police force. International police action is different from war.

Are Christians Called to be Pacifists?

That is why, though I am a pacifist, I also believe there is a place for Just War thinking in Christian social teaching. Just War theory was never intended as a framework by which war may be justified or as a means to deny the obvious meaning of the words of Jesus in the Gospels. Instead, it aspired to be a rational means for limiting war.

It grapples with the questions: When is it justifiable to go to war jus ad bellum?

A Christian Case for Nonviolence: A Q&A with Author Preston Sprinkle

What is permissible in warfare — are there any limits jus in bello? And what of the aftermath of victory — are there moral obligations that bind the victors jus post bellum? Just War thinking evolved from attempts to answer these questions and to limit the destructiveness of warfare.

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  8. The bold new book from New York Times best-selling author Preston Sprinkle is a tour de force that tackles the topic of violence and how Christians should respond. Related Products. Jim Forest. This is, of course, not the only way to read the Old Testament, and not even the only evangelical way to read it. Or perhaps the revelation of God was progressive, rather than absolute and static. Maybe, just maybe — gasp! The reason the Canaanites must go has nothing to do with their race or ethnicity, but simply their behavior and practices. To his credit, Sprinkle tackles some very difficult questions about the bloody nature of much of the Hebrew Scriptures.

    He does not gloss over the contradictions inherent in the text, but he is at such great pains to insist that there are no contradictions, that his arguments seem forced and illogical. Finding nonviolent principles in the New Testament and early church, however, is a much easier matter. Drawing on the work of such scholars as John Howard Yoder, N. Furthermore, he ably and expertly dismantles the arguments of patriotic, hawk-like Christians who pretend to find support for American aggression in Scripture.

    Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence

    He argues quite persuasively that evangelicals must resist the call to militarism and violence. That seems to me an uncharitble reading and I think it is largely false but it would take an journal length essay to defend it. It is said of God that he does not exist another Biblical contradiction! Your criticism seems to amount to wanting a book that is three times as long or written for a different audience.

    And given that God is perfect, it seems perfectly sensible to look at the Old Testament passages, as Sprinkle does, to see if they MUST be read as telling us that God committed this or that alleged atrocity.