Despite a nearly unanimous commitment in the early Church to non-violence and peacemaking, both Christians and non-Christians today are often shocked when someone who follows Jesus refuses to return violence for violence.
Consider, for example, the shock and mixture of awe and criticism with which the larger American culture met the Amish community of Lancaster County, PA when they publicly forgave the gunman who killed 10 schoolchildren and then himself in 2006.
No one thought, Of course they forgave him. Of course they were nonviolent. That’s what Christians do.
Christians in the Western world today who continue to maintain that self-giving, nonviolent love is the core of Jesus’ gospel, the way he is King and the way his followers announce him as King, are a minority, albeit a growing one.
I’ve identified myself as a Pacifist for the better part of a decade now, and have participated in countless discussions and arguments on the merits of wholesale commitment to nonviolence.
If you’ve ever been a part of one of those discussions, you know the common objections frequently raised. They’re good, tough questions.
Editors Tripp York and Justin Barringer bring together a diverse group of scholars, pastors and laypersons committed to the nonviolent Way of Jesus to consider those common and difficult questions, such as:
- What about protecting other innocent people? What would you do if someone were attacking your loved one?
- What about Hitler?
- What about all the war and violence in the Old Testament?
- What about when Jesus cleansed the Temple? And didn’t Jesus say he came to bring not peace but a sword?
- What about Romans 13? What about the centurion? What about the sword-wielding, horse-riding Jesus of Revelation 19?
The authors never claim Pacifism is an easy position to hold, either intellectually or in practice. Instead, nearly every author openly and frankly shares their personal struggles with these questions. As the editors observe in the introduction,
Nonviolence is not a stance that is to be limited to being against war, but rather nonviolence requires that every aspect of our lives be open to listening to those who differ from us.
This book follows that mandate, engaging good, honest questions with wisdom, insight, solid biblical interpretation and love. The authors want to spark conversation, to move us readers somewhere, and they wrote their essays accordingly.
The result? A clear, humble and grace-filled resource. Because it’s so deeply personal and theological, A Faith Not Worth Fighting For is a treasure.
This book is not an introduction to Pacifism. The authors generally assume you already know the basics of the theological position, the main scriptural justifications and have encountered at least a few of these objections before.
(If you’re looking for a good introduction to Pacifism, the bibliography is full of them. I recommend Greg Boyd’s excellent Myth of the Christian Nation or Walter Wink’s Jesus and Nonviolence, or Stanley Hauerwas’ classic The Peaceable Kingdom.)
As a whole, A Faith Not Worth Fighting For is tremendously good. While all the authors are pacifists, they come from a variety of traditions – everything from Catholic to Mennonite, so the tone of the book is unified, but far from uniform.
No matter if you’ve been a pacifist for years, newly exploring what it means to be nonviolent or a staunch just-war advocate, this book will challenge and inspire you.
If you just love violence though, skip this book. It’ll just make you mad.
Bottom Line: A thorough resource for those serious about nonviolence and peacemaking in the Way of Jesus. Well worth your time.
YOUR TURN: What’s your experience with Christian Pacifism? What objections do you hear most often?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”