Christian (noun): A believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.
Our movement rejects Romanized Christianity. We largely don’t even consider the Christianity of Constantine to be Christianity at all.
Brian Zahnd and others of us who believe that Christ’s ministry intended to bring about a kingdom of peace–not just in the next life, but this life as well–have said this repeatedly. Supporting war in the way this nation does–especially the way neoconservatives have–is utterly incompatible with the message and vision of Jesus Christ. It makes sense. We know it to be true. Case closed.
But our language lacks conviction. It’s not good enough to say that using Romans 13 to support war is bad hermeneutics. It’s not good enough to call warmongering among “Christians” misguided, or to expect them to just magically learn the truth by watching us be soft and squishy. When Reformed theologians go on the attack against movements like ours, they don’t talk about bad hermeneutics, they talk about apostasy, heresy, and severe eschatological ramifications. They have strong conviction, and they aren’t afraid to get really angry. Jesus wasn’t afraid to get really angry either, when he saw hypocrisy at its worst.
Violence, vengeance, and war are unacceptable in Christ’s kingdom.
Anger in the right moment, however, is completely necessary. It is also incumbent upon us to actively reject and correct blatantly incorrect theology when we find it, and denounce its false prophets vociferously. If they continue to promote a false, counterfeit Christianity, we must reject and expel them. Jesus never glossed over the falsehoods and gross errors of the Pharisees. He was angry. And the people we are trying to bring to His side actually believe that:
- War is good, and even sanctioned by Paul and on behalf of Jesus
- That Paul’s words carry the same authority as Jesus (and most are violently opposed to revisiting their interpretations of Paul)
- That human beings actually have (through extreme hermeneutical contortions) the intellectual and moral authority to elevate Paul (and other New Testament authors) to the same level as Jesus
- That it’s perfectly acceptable to ignore the Sermon on the Mount as long as we maintain a sufficient degree of loathing towards abortion, liberalism, and sexual immorality
- That the civil government is to be obeyed, even when it advocates actions that are diametrically opposed to the letter and spirit of everything Jesus taught
- That punishment of sin comes first, and is more important than rehabilitation of the sinner, and bringing the sinner into a place of understanding and truth
- That one’s particular understanding of the esoteric mechanics of salvation are of prime importance, even though Jesus did not expound upon them to any degree of detail
- That one political party is the custodian of Christian values
These people may wear the “Christian” label, but if they so wholeheartedly follow Constantinian Christianity, which we have declared to be patently false, then they are not, in fact, Christians in any sense.
And they view us as weak, naive, and ignorant. I believe this is why Christian pacifist movements rarely grow beyond small, insular groups. We confuse our desire for peace and non-violence (which is fully in line with the teachings of Jesus) with an imagined mandate to avoid all confrontation, to avoid making any judgments, and to never get angry or make anyone feel rejected. This is a problem. The core of our movement is actually making a very strong judgment and indictment against thousands of years of egregious error and heresy. The essential fact is that we are right and they are wrong. This doesn’t in any way mean that those who are on the wrong side of these issues are lesser people in any sense, and to feel superior for holding this truth would be very much against Jesus.
But they must be awakened, and in order to do that, we cannot be in any way soft, and we must not shy away from proclaiming very loudly that the mainstream of Christianity is, in fact, indulging a great many centuries-old heresies. If we care for our brothers and sisters who are still in the dark, we need to remember that the endgame for ignoring the Sermon on the Mount is “depart from me, I never knew you.”
We must call it like it is: a long series of evil falsehoods perpetrated by evil, power-hungry men against people who for centuries were ill-prepared to defend against it. Now, all excuses are gone: the truth is out there, it is real, and it is our job to proclaim it even more loudly and persistently than the other side is proclaiming its falsehoods. In every venue where the lies are proclaimed, we must be there denouncing them and proclaiming the truth.
The words of Jesus–including the sermon on the mount–are radically more important than any other words in the New Testament. They are the autonomous standard against which every other New Testament passage must be judged.
Ultimately, those words are the measure against which our actions will be weighed. Do we want to be the people who made the Pharisees feel safe and comfortable, or do we want to cast the money-changers from the temple and be the same kind of threat that led directly to the martyrdom of Jesus?
The choice is clear.