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Forget Islam – Christianity Is Violent

December 21, AD 2015 13 Comments

Following the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, we are once again embroiled in the perennial question of whether or not Islam is a religion of violence or a religion of peace. The question is often posed as if other world religions are more passive, even pacifist, and do not pose the kind of existential threat to global peace and stability as that of Islam or its extremist factions. But as far as Christianity is concerned, this preconception has it all wrong. Christianity is a violent religion, though not in the sense debated by today’s pundits; the kind of violence the Christian religion brings is far more dangerous than any Islamic extremist. This is because Christianity presents itself as affirming objective universal truths – including the startling assertion of the kingship of the God-man Jesus – to which all people are subject, a claim so threatening that it has since the very first Christmas provoked violent responses.

As we journey through Advent, it’s appropriate to remember the story of the Nativity: a woman accepting a divine calling to bear a child, one who would “put down the mighty from their thrones” (Luke 1:51-52). So great was the perceived threat of this child to the secular ruler Herod that he ordered the execution of all children in the newborn’s birthplace: hardly the story of a benign religious leader bringing only peace and love.

Jesus Himself declared the inherently violent nature of His Kingdom: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). The weapons He wielded drove out demons, antagonized the cultural and religious status quo, and foretold the very destruction of the society that raised Him. The implications of this kingdom got his cousin John beheaded.  Taken before the secular authority Pontius Pilate, Jesus did not seek to assuage the Roman procurator’s unease with His mission by explaining that He and his followers had no intention of disturbing Roman rule, or that his message was solely about being nice and throwing food drives. Instead, with the brazen passion of a self-assured revolutionary, Jesus declared: “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). He subsequently embraced a brutal, violent death intended as punishment for a rebel. Jesus’ life and mission was violently – if spiritually – opposed to anything that stood in His way, and He did not seek escape from the whips, spears, or nails that crushed Him.

His disciples were no better: St. Peter and St. John before their country’s religious leadership provocatively asserted, “whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge.”  St. Paul in turn proclaimed, “for we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly palaces” (Ephesians 6:12).  History claims eleven of the twelve Apostles died for the sake of this new kingdom. Would people from Rome to India have bothered to kill these men if they were not viewed as a legitimate threat?  Moreover, St. John in his apocalypse frighteningly depicts Jesus as a rider on a white horse whose clothes are “dipped in blood,” commanding the “armies of heaven,” wielding a “sharp sword with which to strike the nations,” because He is indeed “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11-16). Not the kind of image we’d typically want featured on Christmas cards or decorations!

The testimony of the early Church is a further lesson in Christianity’s provocative character. If Christians had simply pursued their religious rites and beliefs in private, agreeing to participate in the public cult of the Emperor and the gods, Roman society would likely have left them alone. Reminiscent of our own culture, Rome told its subjects: believe whatever you like in the privacy of your homes, but don’t let your personal beliefs interfere with your duties in the public square. Yet for Christians, this arrangement was entirely unacceptable: no sacrifice could be offered to any king but Christ. The Church was, in effect, declaring war on the absolute authority of the Roman Empire.  And for this, they were tortured, fed to the lions, and burned as human torches. For centuries they held their ground.

And so have Christians from every generation since, rejecting any society or government that claims ultimate authority, from Rome to the Third Reich, from Mexico to Vietnam.  Our faith may not call for us to take up a physical sword to accomplish our global mission, but it incites us to dare anyone to use that sword to get in our way. Go ahead, we confidently dare our enemies, persecute us, torture us, kill us: it’s what our king told us would happen anyway. As Tertullian famously quipped, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians.”  Christianity demands the hearts and souls of its adherents in an all-or-nothing calculation that will provoke and threaten every society or political order that will not yield to the kingship of Christ.

Islam may be intrinsically violent. But Christianity definitely is. It may not call its followers to physically kill its opponents, but it certainly calls us to follow Christ our king, who “disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15). Our weapons are not guns or bombs, but prayers, sacraments, right doctrine, and a sacrificial love willingly to offer everything in this global spiritual and intellectual war.

C.S. Lewis in a chapter in Mere Christianity entitled “The Invasion” asserts, “Christianity agrees… this universe is at war…. a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel….Enemy occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”  We are at war — we aren’t called the “Church Militant” for nothing — and the enemy is far greater than any rival religion. Our militancy is not just external, focused only against our culture’s materialism, libertinism, or submission to the “dictatorship of relativism.”  As Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen notes in The Mystical Body of Christ, “We are militant in the sense that we are yet in the process of working out our salvation, exposed to the weakness of will, the surprises of temptation, the attacks of the devil, and yet constantly striving to carry our treasure of grace in a frail vessel to the judgment seat of God.”

If your experience of Christianity isn’t causing some sort of “violence” against the powers of evil, you are probably doing it wrong. There is simply too much sin, too much brokenness, too many deceptions in this world to be a “pacifist” Christian.  We wage war for the hearts and souls of men, so let us “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” for Christ “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (Ephesians 6:10; 1 Corinthians 15:25).

 

IMG_0473Casey Chalk is a writer living in Thailand, and an editor of the ecumenical website Called to Communion. He is a graduate student at the Notre Dame Graduate School at Christendom College in Alexandria, Virginia.

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  • adam aquinas

    Exodus 11:5

    4 Moses said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, 5and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again

    All religions are violent and the enemy is not always evil…that which divides us yesterday or today, does little but continue to divide and breed violence and superiority today. Killing the first born or killing the infidel…neither is moral!

    • Hi Adam,
      Thanks for the comment. I love your last name! Per your comment regarding violence, evil, and morality — I have a question: where does your understanding of morality come from?
      Also, you seem to be suggesting that anything that divides us (such as religion) is inherently bad, breeds violence, and “superiority.” Yet that itself is an assertion that will divide those who agree with you (i.e. anyone who thinks anything that is divisive is bad) from anyone who disagrees with you (such as anyone who thinks that anything that is true, especially if it is controversial, will be inherently divisive). Essentially, you even making the claim just divided yourself from me, and thus have perpetuated the thing you want to categorically eschew, namely, divisiveness. So this line of reasoning is self-defeating. in Christ, casey

      • adam aquinas

        Casey,
        I believe that true and abiding morality comes from within and that we need no exterior forces or motivation to be good people. I care 24/7 for a spastic quad, non-verbal son for the past 17 years at home. I do this because I love him and that comes from me and my heart…I need nothing to be good other than my belief in the innate dignity of all humans.

        That which divides brothers and sisters of the planet by a claim it is the singular source of knowledge, of good, of holiness, of purity, etc. is not good We should disagree and that’s ok’ disagreements which allows no intellectual dissent or religious dissent can and will lead to violence … consider Elie Weisel, the most famous author and Shoah survivor…he speaks truth based upon his knowledge, experience and belief:

        “No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them”

        ― Elie Wies

      • Elijah fan

        Adam,
        You’re love for your son is wonderful but your being on Catholic websites repeatedly means you are more complexed or perplexed about Catholicism than the cool you are projecting about it. Catholicism has made many historical mistakes but it is the Church willed by God as indeed superior to all religions. Get to a pastor and talk with him rather than the episodic connections of chatting on the internet.

      • adam aquinas

        To me. it is important to challenge conventional thought. t allows people to defend their positions and believe more firmly . For me, one must examine with reason and logic and not simply believe because we are so told. We can arrive at Truth using reason, science and heart. A priest is not necessary to discern truth.

      • Elijah fan

        He’s necessary for you to receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist. He necessary for you to receive a plenary indulgence unless you think purgatory is not the fire the epistle says of it…” they will be saved yet so as through fire”.
        So Christ foolishly said to priests, ” whose sins you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven”…
        You can do it yourself.

      • Hi Adam,
        Thanks for the response. My reply to your comment here also is in reference to your below interaction with “Elijah fan.” Your care for your disabled son is a great demonstration of love, but that this is evidence that “morality comes from within” without any reference to “exterior forces,” such as God, does not follow. You note to “Elijah fan” that you want to abide by “reason and logic and not simply believe because we are so told,” which I admire — if this is the case, hopefully you’ll see why your reasoning re: morality is inadequate.
        Namely, your evidence for morality coming “from within” is that you love your disabled son. Yet all we would need to demonstrate that this logic does not follow is for someone else to *not* love your son, or to find an example of a parent who does not love his/her disabled child. Check the news headlines or run a google search, you can unfortunately find plenty examples of the latter. Moreover, if at any point (God forbid), you stopped loving your son, this would immediately disprove your premise. And, sadly, this often happens as well, when people at one point love someone else (even in very remarkable, courageous ways), but at some later point, for any number of reasons, stop loving them. So your subjective experience of love for your son, though praiseworthy, is not demonstrative that morality is solely an interior phenomenon of the individual.
        Also, I’m confused by some of your other comments: I’m not advocating “disagreement which allows no intellectual assent or religious dissent.” Nor does the Catholic Church. But “dissent” — if you mean questioning or disagreement — needs to be properly formed by a God-fearing conscience, in union with reason, and humbly willing to be corrected.
        Finally, I’ll just add that though I love Elie Wiesel and “Night,” the quotation you cited — in at least the way you cited it — is also self-defeating. Wiesel himself makes a “collective judgment” : “all collective judgments are wrong.” So he has effectively called himself a racist. I don’t know the context of that quotation, but at least in the way you are employing it, it’s illogical.
        Also, the Catholic Church does not teach that a priest is “necessary to discern truth.”
        Merry Christmas to you and your family! in Christ, casey

      • adam aquinas

        I appreciate your well-thought out response….but let me summarize my position simply…I believe that kindness, love and human decency does not flow from any religion; those qualites of mankind precede all religions. Blessings…

      • Hi Adam,

        Thanks for the response and appreciation. Based on your most recent comment, I think there may be some confusion. The Catholic Church does not teach that people outside of her are incapable of “kindness, love, and human decency,” nor even that those outside the Church are incapable of determining a proper understanding of those qualities. The Church does teach that all truth and love ultimately “flow” from God and are communicated in the fullness of truth through Catholic magisterial teaching, but that much of this truth and love is accessible through reason to those outside her perimeter.
        In reference to your second comment: that “kindness, love and human decency… precede all religions” is an assertion without any evidence. I am interested in understanding and dialoguing with your position, but I cannot if you only offer assertions. in Christ, casey

  • douglas kraeger

    Casey, I like your statement, “If your experience of Christianity isn’t causing some sort of “violence” against the powers of evil, you are probably doing it wrong. ” Would that more people took their “faith” seriously enough to eventually start looking for ways to help others take their faith ever more seriously, as long as they
    ” Rejoice always.
    Pray without ceasing.
    In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
    Do not quench the Spirit.
    Do not despise prophetic utterances.
    Test everything; retain what is good.
    Refrain from every kind of evil.” 1 Thes. 5:18-24.

    I have an idea that I think might help all do this and I believe it should be supported by people of all faiths that believe their faith is the faith God wants everyone to accept. It is available on my blog at eternalvisionfarmer.blogspot.com
    under the title Dec. 23. poster and slip of paper idea Can anyone give me a reason why all faiths should not support this idea in the sure faith that God can lead all to the one Faith He wants all to accept by HIS grace, verifiable evidence and His answers to the questions He wants us to share with others? Thank you

    • Hi Douglas, thanks for the comment and kind words. in Christ, casey

  • douglas kraeger

    Adam, I like both your names. First, I am a firm believer that we must test everything and retain what is good. I believe we need to ask the right questions, in the right order to logically advance from what we know now to be truth, because we KNOW IT MUST BE TRUE IN OUR HEARTS and then to proceed to what follow from that to the next step. Starting point: I know it is absolutely, objectively, morally right and good to care about others, to want to help others be good, to be holy, I have a question: Is it possible that the evidence of many couples getting married, promising to love, honor, and cherish the other and then two years later ending in divorce is it possible that this proves people need help from God to maintain their good commitments to each other?
    Second question: Should we all ask God for the help we need, asking for it the way God wants us to ask for it, or should we ask for help the way we want to ask for it and tell God,”I do not care if you do not like my way of asking for help, I want to ask this way, now give me your help, now!”
    Third Question: If Jesus Christ is and was True God and True Man, should we listen to Him so as to know how to ask for God’s Help?

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