“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” - II Cor. 5:17-18.
“I believe in Jesus! Through the saving grace of his death on the cross we have all been reconciled to each other. So if we accept this gift, we are free. There ain’t no need to hate anyone! Getting the word around about that—that’s my business.” - Will Campbell, an agent of peace and reconciliation in the midst of the hate and violence of the southern U. S. during the 1960’s (Will Campbell and the Soul of the South, 35).
“The gospel of peace is rooted in grace. . . God loved us preemptively. God loved us even while we were still rebelling against God. . . At the heart of the Mennonite witness to peace is a deep, warm, and joyful affirmation. I am called to love my enemies because that’s exactly what God did to me.” - John D. Roth (Beliefs, 105-106).
We bring Anabaptist convictions to the topic of peacemaking. Many who read this website, or have participated in the course related to the website, do not share those convictions. Yet, as the above quotes display, the practices of reconciliation, peacemaking, and love of enemy are Christian practices—not just Anabaptist practices. The question of the appropriateness of Christians using violent means is an important one, and it is addressed in some of the resources below. Yet we want to do much more than engage that question. Regardless of where you come out on that issue, as Christians we all have the responsibility and the opportunity to act as instruments of peace and reconciliation in our neighborhoods, our families, churches, and places of work. We explore this broader sense of peacemaking through the lens of a cross-shaped worldview.
Two Contrasting Approaches to the Life
Much could be said about each line in this table. We will make just two comments of clarification. First, John Roth defines the myth of redemptive violence as “the illusion that a justified use of violence will somehow conclusively resolve the problem of evil, bringing a decisive end to the escalating cycle of destruction that gave rise to the confrontation in the first place” (Roth, Choosing Against War, 60). It is subplot of many movies and TV shows, and provides rationale for most wars. But Martin Luther King Jr. said:
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.
(From: “Where Do We Go from Here?” annual report delivered at the 11th convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 8/16/67, Atlanta, GA.)
Second, turning the other cheek, non-retaliation, can be a strategy, but when Jesus adds “love your enemy,” that changes it. Love is not a strategy or tactic. It may not always “work.” Love is beyond a calculus for success. It opens space for creative non-violent action, but we must recognize for Jesus it led to the cross. We are called to faithfulness, and not promised success. Our ultimate hope is not in techniques of non-violence, but in resurrection(see Yoder-Neufeld, Killing Enmity, 31-35).
My Conversion to Christian Pacifism: Reading Jacques Ellul in War Ravaged Central America by Mark D. Baker
Mark recounts what shaped his perspectives on violence and appropriate uses of violence, and how a visit to a Salvadoran refugee camp caused those perspectives to disintegrate. In his gut he had become a pacifist, but his head still had significant questions about pacifism. The essay summarizes main points from Jacques Ellul’s book Violence: Reflections from a Christian Perspective and explains how reading the book brought his head and gut together.
Open Lecture: Comments on Engaging the Question: Is it Appropriate for Christians to Use Violence in Defense of Justice?
Rather than an argument answering the question with a “yes” or “no.” This short lecture focuses on how we approach the question. It addresses both Christian pacifists and those of the just-war position—challenging both.
A story of using an imaginative alternative to force and retaliation in a situation of conflict.