An email response in regards to Non-violence resistance

This is an email between a friend of mine, Terry Davis and I. What I respond is not my own at all, in fact the only reason I put it here is so that I do not have to type it all up again.


You and I have never discussed your feelings on the non-violence stance of the emerging Christianity part of Shane Claiborne. I know you like him but I do not know if you are in lockstep with him.

I heard on the Dave Ramsey show today, that when the assailant came into the church, that the shooter had a shotgun. A man Dave had met and worked with jumped in front of the gun, took the full effect and was killed. This man and his wife also raised foster children. Now, after this man made that sacrifice the shooter was jumped by others in the church and held for police.

I guess my question is on non-violence. Could tackling the shooter be called violent? Now, they did not escalate the violence, they stopped it. With my American attitude, this is how I see World War II. We were not the aggressors, we stopped the aggressors(painting with a broad brush here). So is there such thing as justifiable war? violence? If I saw someone hurting our kids I would do anything in my power to stop them. If that included a hammer to their head, so be it. So that is my struggle with understanding non-violent resistance.



I am sure that I am not 100% with Claiborne on all things (mainly because I do not know where he stands on many things). As for non-violence resistance, I believe that it is the only way to deal with violence in the big picture. This means that many people will die in the process of promoting non-violence resistance, however I affirm that violence begets more violence and the only way to stop violence as a way of dealing with problems is not through more violence but through other means. This is not to say that violence has not “worked” in the past, however the cost of life was astronomical. Few give non-violence a bit of credit because they think of non-violence is the same as pacifism, it is not. For instance here are just 2 examples of a non-violence resistance strategy which worked in WW II (taken from Walter Wink’s book “The Powers that Be”)

Bulgaria’s Orthodox Bishop Kiril told Nazi authorities that if they attempted to deport Bulgarian Jews to concentration camp, he himself would lead a campaign of civil disobedience, lying down on the railroad track in front of the trains. Thousands of Bulgarian Jews and non-Jews resisted all collaboration with Nazi decrees. They marched in mass street demonstrations and sent a flood of letters and telegrams to authorities protesting all anti-Jewish measures. Bulgarian clergy and laity hid Jews. Christian ministers accepted large numbers of Jewish “converts,” making it clear that this was a trick to evade arrest and that they would not consider the “vows” binding. Nonviolence strategists Rod Sider and Richard K. Taylor comment, “because of these and other nonmilitary measures, all of Bulgaria ’s Jewish citizens were saved from Nazi death camps.” (more to read here

Of 7,000 Danish Jews, 6,500 escaped to Sweden , aided by virtually the whole population and tips from within the German occupation force itself. Almost all the rest were hidden safely fro the balance of the war. Denmark ’s resistance was so effective that Adolf Eichmann had to admit that action against the Jews of Denmark had been a failure. (More to read here

There is a great number of people who ascribe to the “just-war” theory (which is what you are describing). Although I disagree with “just war” theory, I do think that “just war” and nonviolence resistance agrees on these points:

Both acknowledge that nonviolence is preferable to violence
Both agree that the innocent must be protected as much as possible
Both reject any defense of war motivated by a crusade mentality of national interests or personal ego
Both wish to persuade states to reduce the levels of violence
Both wish to hold war accountable to moral values before, during and after the conflict

I agree with Wink that we may feel that it is right to fight in order to prevent a greater evil. But that does not cause the lesser evil to cease being evil. Declaring war “just” is a way of ridding ourselves of the guilt.

I think that non-violence resistance is a much harder path to walk because it requires a deep faith that God will act. If we hold to the time honored tradition that violence is the only way to stop great evils, then what I think we are saying is that things will only change in this world if we (humans) do it. I think it takes God out of the equation all together and places God outside the influence of human affairs. I see the arguments, I even understand them, however, “just war” theory (I believe) is against the message of God and Jesus. With all the following that Jesus had, why didn’t he call for an armed revolt against Rome for liberation of his people? Why did Jesus choose to take the road of non-violence resistance? Can I also just point out that if some do not think that non-violence resistance does not work or change anything? Look to Jesus. His life changed the course of human history; his life of non-violence resistance affected the world so deeply that it sparked the largest religious movement of all time. If Jesus had taken the route of violence where would we be?

Violence does not call for any creativity or ingenuity. Non-violence resistance calls for creativity and ingenuity (thus is harder to do). I also think that non-violence calls us ALL to participate not just those who choose or are forced to join the armed forces, which makes it harder because we ALL then are subject to loosing our lives in the name of non-violence resistance. It is a turd of a thing, but I think that is what I am called to uphold.