Habemus Altare

I had a veteran friend once tell me, “The biggest lie I have ever been told is that violence is evil, except in war.” He went on, “My government told me that. My Church told me that. My family told me that… I came back from war and told them the truth – ‘Violence is not evil, except in war… Violence is evil – period’.”

…When one of his disciples picks up a sword to defend him and cuts off a guy’s ear, Jesus scolds his own disciple, picks up the ear, and heals the wounded persecutor. Christian theologians have said Jesus teaches a “third way” to interact with evil. We see a Jesus who abhors both passivity and violence and teaches us a new way forward that is neither submission nor assault, neither fight nor flight. He shows us a way to oppose evil without mirroring it, where oppressors can be resisted without being emulated and neutralized without being destroyed.

We can take courage that Jesus understood the violence of our world, very well. At one point he wept over Jerusalem because it didn’t know the things that make for peace. No doubt Jesus is still weeping.

And lots of us are weeping with him – from Colorado to Kabul. Perhaps it’s time for a united, nonviolent assault on the myth of redemptive violence. Perhaps it’s time for us to declare that violence is always evil – period. There is always a third way.

Shane Claiborne
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