Monday, February 23, 2009

War and Peace in Revelation - A friend's post

I want to call your attention to an excellent post by Mason over at the New Ways Forward blog. He has done a great job of pointing out why, despite the violent language of Revelation, it is not justifying or encouraging violence on the part of believers. He points out that the violence in Revelation is all done either by the evil powers, the Beast, etc., or else by God in effecting justice on those who oppose him. . .and NEVER by the people of God.

Right judgment and wrath for wrongdoing is only to be placed in the hands of God. A Christian doctrine of nonviolence is based not on the idea that evil is really not such a big deal, so violence is an overreaction, but rather on the fact that evil is an incredibly big deal and that fallen humanity simply can not use violence and justice together without our sinful natures twisting the violence into injustice, vengeance, and in doing so pushing along the endless spiral of violence.


Anonymous said...

You make a good point Dan. Vengence is the Lord's not ours. What are your thoughts on how non violence works out on a national level?

Dan Martin said...

I have a couple thoughts on the national level, Grant. I may develop a fuller post on this (I probably should), but in brief, two points:

1) My primary argument has been, all along, that whether it "works" on a national level--or any other level, for that matter--ought to be irrelevant to the disciple of Jesus. We are called to obedience to the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven, irrespective of what perceived clash those laws may have with the needs, desires, or preferences of the kingdom of this world. Success in the eyes of our King looks so different from success in the eyes of the world, that the latter is really not equipped to judge the former. So if Jesus expects us to behave nonviolently, we are to behave nonviolently even if it's wholly impractical in the eyes of the world, because the world doesn't get Jesus, or us, anyway.

2) Having said that, I think there is still room for people of faith to engage national governments vis-a-vis the morality and practicality of what they are doing. I believe we have been sold such a bill of goods about the effectiveness of violence (see my previous post "True Lies & Tom Clancy" for example), that we assume the nation's war is going to work out, and the church has been terribly remiss in not shining the light on peaceful options that may exist. I have been saying since post-9/11 that we should really look hard at Israel's example and realize that violence even more brutal and long-term than Americans are willing to countenance, is clearly ineffective at controlling terrorism. The old adage still holds "if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got!"

So I argue that the church should be a voice for the injustices that motivate a lot of the violence that's directed at us--not simply shifting blame from "them" to "us," but rather looking at the situations that make people so hopeless and angry that they lash out in violence, and seeing how we can become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. It's an established fact that more suicidal terrorists come from poor, desperate, disempowered communities than from vibrant, developing communities with hope. If we as a nation spent more effort/resources providing people with hope, and less providing them with reasons to feel disempowered and hopeless, I believe as a practical matter we'd be safer.

But even if we aren't safer, we're still called to obedience.

Dora Anne Mills said...

Dan - I just came across your blog when looking for an image of Shirati for a power point! You haven't changed a bit! Now, I'm in public health. You can email me at

Dora Anne Mills