A bit of a preface: This is part of a conversation I've been having with an old classmate of mine. She was wondering why I'm anti-war (but not pacifist--Jesus was active in His non-violence). So here's a part of that conversation for you to read...
Let's start in Matthew 13:24-29...
Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'
" 'An enemy did this,' he replied. "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "
I think the language Jesus is using here is pretty clear. There will be evil among us. We, the servants ask Him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?" Do You want us to get rid of the evildoers? Jesus answers no. Because we may pull up the good (the innocent; maybe those on the path to knowing Christ but not yet there) with them. He wants us not to war against--pull them up--those doing evil in this world because at harvest time He will come and separate the wheat from the chaff. It's His job to tell us when to gather the weeds. We cannot act on our own. And the time to gather the weeds is at His second coming. When we, the wheat, will be brought into His barn.
Another aspect to consider is Jesus Himself. The Jews believed the Messiah was going to be a great military leader that would break their chains of oppression. They believed He would be coming to protect the little guy who was getting pushed around, abused or murdered. They believed the Messiah was going to destroy Rome and all Israel's enemies. How strange Jesus' actions must have been to them. The only example we have recorded of His anger was at those making the temple into a den of thieves—not the oppressive Romans. And when Peter got angry at the Romans and cut one of their ears off, not only did Jesus not go along with what the Jews expected of their Messiah, He did the exact opposite! He rebuked Peter. Told him that those who live by the sword will die by it. And he healed the Roman soldier sent to arrest Him. And at the end of all this, not only did the Messiah not destroy Rome. He allowed Himself to be destroyed by it!
I'm also going to include some excerpts from a fantastic book by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw titled "Jesus for President." It's a book that urges us to realize that no nation will ever save us. No president. Not Obama. Not McCain. Not Bush. None but Jesus. It also warns against the bonds of nationalism. They remind us we have no allegiance to country. We have allegiance only to G-d and our fellow Christians around the world. Borders have no meaning, except to foster division. Anyway, here's a couple of excerpts:
"What about Hitler? Folks often ask what Jesus would have us do in the face of Hitler, Saddam, or the genocide in Darfur. Shouldn't 'we' intervene? (And who is 'we' again?) No doubt the strongest argument for the sword is to use it to protect the innocent. It is tempting to think that there is a greater love than laying down our life for others, and that perhaps taking the life of someone to protect another person is the embodiment of that heroic love. But if ever there were a case for justified violence or 'a just war,' Peter had it when he picked up the sword to protect Jesus from the Roman soldiers coming to kill him. Jesus was laying down His life not for a country or nation or even His closest companions; He was laying down His life for sinners, evildoers, and enemies. He loved His enemies so much He died for them. That's love. After all, Jesus never said, 'Greater love has no one than this: to kill those who oppress.'
And we would say Dietrich Bonhoeffer also had a strong case when he tried to kill Hitler and could very well have invoked God's blessing on his operation, but he did not. As one committed to the cross and to the nonviolent, nonpassive love of Jesus, Bonhoeffer felt a paralyzing conflict: what to do in the face of such evil as the Holocaust? Bonhoeffer remorsefully plotted the assassination of Hitler. In stark contrast to the invocation of blessing on violence that we hear today, Bonhoeffer made it clear that what he was doing was evil and sinful, but he felt left with no choice. He didn't ask God's blessing; he asked only for God's mercy..."
And another excerpt; this was by the Catholic Air Force chaplain, Father George Zbelka, who blessed the men who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
"As a Catholic chaplain I watched as the Boxcar, piloted by a good Irish Catholic pilot, dropped the bomb on Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, the center of Catholicism in Japan.
I never preached a single sermon against killing civilians to the men who were doing it...It never entered my mind to protest publicly the consequences of these massive air raids. I was told it was necessary--told openly by the military and told implicitly by my Church's leadership.
I struggled. I argued. But yes, there it was in the Sermon on the Mount, very clear: 'Love your enemies. Return good for evil.' I went through a crisis of faith. Either accept what Christ said, as unpassable and silly as it may seem, or deny him completely.
For the last 1700 years the Church has not only been making war respectable: it has been inducing people to believe it is an honorable profession, an honorable Christian profession. This is a lie.
For the 300 years immediately following Jesus' resurrection, the Church universally saw Christ and his teaching as nonviolent. Remember that the Church taught this ethic in the face of at least three serious attempts by the state to liquidate her. It was subject to horrendous and ongoing torture and death. If ever there was an occasion for justified retaliation and defensive slaughter, whether in form of a just war or a just revolution, this was it. The economic and political elite of the Roman state and their military had turned the citizens of the state against Christians and were embarked on a murderous public policy of exterminating the Christian community.
Yet the Church, in the face of the heinous crimes committed against her members, insisted without reservation that when Christ disarmed Peter he disarmed all Christians.
Christians continued to believe that Christ was, to use the words of an ancient liturgy, their fortress, their refuge, and their strength, and that if Christ was all they needed for security and defense, then Christ was all they should have. Indeed, this was a new security ethic. Christians understood that if they would only follow Christ and his teaching, they couldn't fail. When opportunities were given for Christians to appease the state by joining the fighting Roman army, these opportunities were rejected, because the early Church saw a complete and an obvious incompatibility between loving as Christ loved and killing. It was Christ, not Mars, who gave security and peace.
Today the world is on the brink of ruin because the Church refuses to be the Church, because we Christians have been deceiving ourselves and the non-Christian world about the truth of Christ. There is no way to follow Christ, to love as Christ loved, and simultaneously to kill other people. It is a lie to say that the spirit that moves the trigger of a flamethrower is the Holy Spirit. It is a lie to say that learning to kill is learning to be Christ-like. It is a lie to say that learning to drive a bayonet into the heart of another is motivated from having put on the mind of Christ. Militarized Christianity is a lie. It is radically out of conformity with the teaching, life, and spirit of Jesus.
Now, brothers and sisters, on the anniversary of this terrible atrocity carried out by Christians, I must be the first to say that I made a terrible mistake. I was had by the father of lies. I participated in the big ecumenical lie of the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches. I wore the uniform. I was part of the system. When I sad Mass over there I put on those beautiful vestments over my uniform. (When Father Dave Becker left the Trident submarine base in 1982 and resigned as Catholic chaplain there, he said, 'Every time I went to Mass in my uniform and put the vestments on over my uniform, I couldn't help but think of the words of Christ applying to me: Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing.')
As an Air Force chaplain I painted a machine gun in the loving hands of the nonviolent Jesus, and then handed this perverse picture to the world as truth. I sang 'Praise the Lord' and passed the ammunition. As Catholic chaplain for the 509th Composite Group, I was the final channel that communicated this fraudulent image of Christ to the crews of the Enola Gay and the Boxcar.
All I can say today is that I was wrong. Christ would not be the instrument to unleash such horror on his people. Therefore no follower of Christ can legitimately unleash the horror of war on God's people. Excuses and self-justifying explanations are without merit. All I can say is: I was wrong! But, if this is all I can say, this I must do, feeble as it is. For to do otherwise would be to bypass the first and absolutely essential step in the process of repentance and reconciliation: admission of error, admission of guilt.
Thank God that I'm able to stand here today and speak out against war, all war. The prophets of the Old Testament spoke out against all false gods of gold, silver, and metal. Today we are worshipping the gods of metal, the bomb. We are putting our trust in physical power, militarism, and nationalism. The bomb, not God, is our security and our strength. The prophets of the Old Testament said simply: Do not put your trust in chariots and weapons, but put your trust in God. Their message was simple, and so is mine..."
So, that's a brief (as not-so-brief as it might seem) explanation for why I cannot believe in any "justified" violence or war. Christ showed us there is no such thing. He rebuked Peter for trying to save Him from the Romans. He did not destroy the evil empire. He allowed that evil empire to destroy Him. He told us not to pull out the weeds until He comes for the harvest. He told us to love our enemies. To bless those who curse us. To turn the other cheek. To lay our lives down for each other, not to kill those who oppress. To overcome evil with good. War is not good. Killing is not good. Only God is. Only love is.
One of my and Danielle's goals for our life together is to live as sustainably as we can on G-d's Earth. An example of that goal manifesting itself is in our decision to try to buy as little plastic as possible.
We both figure since any plastic we buy will probably exist longer than our bodies, we feel it's a little irresponsible to throw away so much of it. As a result, we don't use shampoo. Danielle uses baking soda and vinegar about once a week. I don't use anything except water since my hair's pretty short. My hair's actually less oily now that I don't use any shampoo than when I used it every day. Aside from hair maintenance, the biggest area by far where this has affected us is in our food purchases.
We finally started meal planning this month. We'd been winging it for the past 7+ months, and I think we were both a little sick of asking each other what we should have for dinner. So this weekend we broke out the cookbooks, Google calendar, and a spreadsheet (to type meal information such as ingredients/quantities into). Today I biked over to the grocery store to get the ingredients. It felt so right to be buying actual, fresh ingredients--even if they're out of season right now. I got some roma tomatoes, an onion, an eggplant, some celery and carrots. It cost me all of $5 for the week. Granted, we have a good store of ingredients here, but it still surprised me a little bit that we're able to buy fresh ingredients and yet eat so cheaply. When I got home and put the food in our fridge, it made me happy seeing real food in there and not prepackaged, over-preserved food.
I don't mean to be overly-preachy or overly-hippie or anything like that. It just felt right and made me happy today, so I thought I'd share it with all of you.
It will be even nicer if we can get an indoor (or outdoor) garden going...