Nuclear Giants and Ethical Infants

“Torn between his hatred of wasted words and his deep respect for mannerly behavior, he was the very definition of unsettled.”

~ Eric Metaxas. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

It’s how i felt speaking in Summerside the last few weeks. I was talking about non-violence from the teachings of Jesus in his sermon on the mount.

“….. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”

~ General Omar Bradley. Armistice Day Address in Boston on November 10, 1948.

Jesus said to not resist an evil person (turn the other cheek), to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

“When Jesus said to love our enemies he probably meant we should not kill them.” ~ Shane Claiborne

We have resigned to the fact that  war is just, as long as it is we who are in the control of it.

When Rome’s emperor, Constantine, became a Christian we had a dilemma. He had a vision that gave him the cross symbol, and a voice that told him to go conquer in that image. Up to this time the church believed in nonviolence, that no human could kill another human being for any reason. Joining the military was prohibited as a result. No big deal, as for those first 300 years Christians were persecuted and killed by most Roman Emperors. Why would you join the military at that time, right?

However, the Roman Empire became Christian. How does the Roman empire, an empire built by conquest and war, defend its borders with Christians who always believed using the sword, capital punishment, and killing were sins against God?

Well, the answer is, as in Hitler’s time in Germany, you find theological voices to give new interpretations, to give you permission to do the only thing Roman could do to maintain the peoples they conquered. You give them the threat of the sword with God’s blessing.

Augustine, and others like him, gave the Roman Nation and the Roman Church, which were essentially one, the sword.

Augustine’s “Just War” theories eventually silenced the early churches position from the teachings of Jesus. So deep was the silencing that most Christians today have never once heard the church once forbid military service, capital punishment, killing, for any reason, for it’s first 300 years (included capital punishment, killing an enemy, abortion, infanticide, and babies with deformities), They claimed it was the Teaching of Jesus in the sermon on the mount.   Why would we teach this as a church? Might get the sheep asking, “Why in the hell are we so liberal on war, our government torturing people, military service, and killing today? Too much work to debate our great grandfather going to war, or Christians signing up as if it is their patriotic duty duty. When early Christians though it was their patriotic duty, as citizens of heaven, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, to do the very opposite.

One thing for certain, our government is not going to encourage that form of teaching. If you ever get to non violence it will be through the study of Jesus,

Jesus told Peter to put his sword away after cutting off the ear of one coming to arrest him. He said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Augustine told the church and Empire they could pick the sword back up and cut ears, arms, legs, hands and feet.

Let’s face it, Rome would collapse without sword killing to protect its borders and to subjugate the peoples they had already conquered. They could hear no other message than the message, “Its OK, go ahead and use the sword.”  So in just an instant, the non-violence teaching of Jesus disappeared from 300 years of church history. What Augustine thought were a few rare exceptions, became broadly and liberally applied by a mighty empire over many tribes.

Truth is, whether Constantine received a blessing from the church leaders or not, he would have had to fight, do violence, kill with the sword to secure the Roman empires success. If he did not, he would have been replaced, or more likely murdered by assignation. But the church was drunk on this new power and blessed it too,  they could continue to kill and conquer in the name of the cross on there armor (Constantine’s vision), in the name of just war.

Just as Rome’s “christian” military had “Just War” , and “just” torture for information, now the Roman church, right up to Luther’s time, had “just” reasons to whip, torture, and kill too. They would arrest heretics. The heretics were those who read the scriptures and questioned the practices or pronouncements of the bishops and councils. Those who believed in nonviolence where heretics, and Ana-Baptists, who questioned infant sprinkling over adult immersion (which all scholars know was the early church practice), could be killed and tortured. We have dozens and dozens of such groups murdered by the church in the darkages. It’s “Just War”, after all. It’s for the betterment of the church and nation.The Bishops could order the torture, imprisonment, and torture of such folks and the church did just that with merrymaking.

I read of one Mennonite they burned at the stake.

“In sixteenth—century Holland, the Mennonites were outlawed and, when caught, often executed. One of them, Dirk Willens, was being chased across an icefield when his pursuer broke through and fell in. In response to his cries for help, Willens returned and saved him from the waters. The pursuer was grateful and astonished that he would do such a thing but nevertheless arrested him, as he thought it his duty to do. A few days later Willens was executed by being burned at the stake (By The Church, remember that folks)) in the town of Asperen. It was precisely his Christ likeness that brought on his execution.”

(Dallas Willard. The Divine Conspiracy)

The Mennonite’s commitment to the value of life, to love his enemy, caused him to save his enemy from freezing to death….. his “christian” “enemy”….. and his Christian enemies CHURCH- burned him alive.

“War is a means of seeking control, not means of seeking peace.” Richard Rhor.

It’s “Just War”, after all. Justified killing of heretics and infidels. These people are only, “Faggots (bundles of sticks) to stoke the fires of hell,” was a line i read somewhere. That is how we came to view people created in the image of God, without Jesus’ teachings. But with power, and “just war”, they become “faggots” to be burned as valueless.

Constantine, and the theologians compromises, opened the door not only the empire to kill, but for the church to kill as well. Crusaders were doing mission work to convert the pagans by the sword. Once we became peoples Lords, they will see the love of Jesus and convert. By conquering them we can “Christianize” them.

In my view the conversion of Constantine, and the church’s deep reversal on biblical nonviolence teaching by theologians like Augustine (who introducing “Just War” to the Holy Roman Empire, what their itching ears wanted, and had to hear), were the most corrupting days of Christian history. From those days forward the Kingdom of God shifted from a heavenly empire and citizenship, to an earthly empire. Empires need to fight to survive. The church shifted from peace, love, mercy, non-violent, and valuing human life created in God’s image. To becoming power-mongers and killers who would torture and kill to survive, convert, control, manipulate, and subjugate to “protect” the churches edicts and that of its Roman Empire.

When we ignore Jesus’ sermon on the mount we ignore the heart of the Gospel. Do not return evil for evil does not apply to our lives anymore. Not when it comes to war and our “justified” killing for national purposes.

The church of today should check its pride, and it’s love of power, and acceptance of Christians killing, retaliation, vengeance, and violence.

“If you are truly a peacemaker, your very means have to be nonviolent and you have to be consistently pro-life—from womb to tomb. One of the most distressing qualities of many Christians today is that they retain the right to decide when, where, and with whom they will be pro-life peacemakers. If the other can be determined to be wrong, guilty, unworthy, or sinful, the death penalty is somehow supposed to serve justice. That entirely misses the ethical point Jesus makes: We are never the sole arbiters of life or death, because life is created by God and carries the divine image.” ~ Richard Rohr

We will not have this discussion because it will call us to be live differently. The reason we are so accepting of is we so easily diminish the image of God in others. Its a theological problem, and a practical life lived out problem. We have  chosen we will not turn the other cheek. Retaliation, rights, vengeance, and revenge are acceptable evils for evil people.

“We hear the cries from our strife-torn streets: “Give Peace a chance!” and “Can’t we all just get along?” But you cannot give peace a chance if that is all you give a chance. You have to do the things that make peace possible and actual. When you listen to people talk about peace, you soon realize in most cases that they are unwilling to deal with the conditions of society and soul that make strife inevitable.

And we can’t all just get along. Rather, we have to become the kinds of persons who can get along. As a major part of this, our epidermal responses have to be changed in such a way that the fire and the fight doesn’t start almost immediately when we are rubbed the wrong way.”
~ Dallas Willard. The Divine Conspiracy

I know I have the capacity to be a monster. I have no doubt Christians became monsters. I have no doubt the church, at times was a monster. I know because I have read church history.

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