There is a discussion happening on Facebook that my son introduced with a comment:
Pacifism is a beautiful idea. “Blessed is the peacemaker,” Jesus said. A world that lays down its will to fight to push the greater ideals of love, compassion, kindness and peace is a most noble ideal.
Trouble is, as I see it, this idea works only within communities protected by guys with really big guns.
In the discussion that followed, scripture came up a lot. I don’t always like to use the scriptures because I don’t always like the things the scriptures say. This was about the use of violence and, let’s face it, if you are going to look for defense for the use of violence there is plenty in the scriptures. I think we have to depend on the contining work of the Spirit in history to find our answers to these questions…and that can be debatable just as much as the interpretation of the scriptures.
One writer brought up the scene where Jesus drove out the money changers from the temple, which he cited as an example a violent act. He mentioned Jesus using a whip, but when I checked it out, he used a whip to get the animals to move out…the whip probably belonging to one of the money changers who used it to move them into the courtyard in the first place. So he wasn’t actually doing bodily harm to anyone.
Another scene brought up was one where soldiers came and wanted to know what they should do. The question was actually posed to John the Baptist. The answer he gave was this: “Don’t take money from anyone by force or accuse anyone falsely. Be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:14) The point he was making is that they were not told to give up their arms, to abandon their role as soldiers.
This is the comment I added to the discussion this morning:
Tom, I get the sense in Luke that the soldiers were the equivalent to police officers of today, their duty being to “keep the peace” within the community they serve. Seen more like our police officers, then the suggestion makes sense. It would be just as applicable in our own modern day.
It seems to me that Jesus never really called anyone out of their oppressed situation, but rather, to find freedom within in spite of their situation. And yet, as in an earlier comment, he did speak to the control the leaders of the temple exerted over the people, demanding unreasonable sacrifices that did not achieve anything for them as far as their relationship with God. I think this was why he overturned the tables of the money changers and drove out the animals. He might have said, “You are robbing the people for your own profit and meanwhile they are being deceived.” In each of synoptic’ reportings of the scene, Jesus was said to proceed to preach his message to the people in the temple. I think his point was made: “This (bringing sacrificing of animals and grains) is not the way to the Father…now let me tell you what is.” I have the sense that Jesus’ way of dealing with injustice was to address those in power, rather than put the responsibility for freedom on those who were being oppressed. John did the same. It would be like trying to deal with slavery by appealing to the conscience of the slave holders, rather than to the slaves to rebel. (By the way, that was the first approach Quakers took before the start of the of the Underground Railroad. But the appeal to conscience failed.)
Not all of the discussions that come up on Facebook are civil and sometimes, it seems to me, people are less interested in learning than tooting their opinions. But once in a while, faith-filled people who are genuine searchers show up. It feels good to be part of such discussion.