National Lutheran News

Jesus would not use violence, theologians assert

Priest, Lutheran professor spoke to Every Church a Peace Church conference.

Two voices for non-violent alternatives to the use of force told an April 25-26 Minneapolis gathering that Christianity has betrayed Jesus by embracing a philosophy completely at odds with his teaching.
The Rev. Charles Mc Carthy, a Byzantine Rite Catholic priest, and Professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, a faculty member at the Uni-versity of St. Thomas and Augsburg College, ad-dressed over 450 participants of the third Minnesota “Every Church a Peace Church” conference. The gathering was hosted by Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis.

Charles McCarthy told a Friday evening audience, “Jesus was non-violent explicitly.” He said, “Jesus taught that non-violence is the way to God.”
McCarthy argued, “If we can’t know from the New Testament that Jesus was non-violent, then we can know nothing of his person or message.”
The cross of Christ, he explained, shows a way of living and a way of dying. It is, he maintained, “a commitment of overcoming evil with good.”

McCarthy said no serious Bible scholar today even tries to justify the use of violence based on anything written in Scripture. On the other hand, he claimed, many Christians justify it by appealing to sources outside the Bible.

According to McCarthy, the theory of a just war, used by Lutherans and Roman Catholics to justify armed conflict, was formulated by Cicero, a pagan Roman. “Christians lived without this idea for 350 years,” he said, until Christianity became the state religion.

He said, “Christians have two choices: follow the non-violent Jesus or follow the non-existent Jesus.”

During a Saturday afternoon presentation, Jack Nelson- Pallmeyer challenged the group with four provocative questions, for all of which he provided equally-provocative answers:

* What would happen to Jesus if he walked among us in post-“9-11” America? (He’d probably be killed or at least jailed for sedition.)

* Would Jesus be welcome in our churches today? (Probably not. If he did show up, he might come as a gay person.)

* Would Jesus recognize any connection between our liturgies and his life? (I don’t think so.)

* What is the world’s dominant religion today? (Violence. Almost everybody believes superior violence saves.)
Reflecting on the recent events in the Middle East, Pallmeyer said, “We are living in the most dangerous moment in history so far in my lifetime — because God is now being involved, with approval, with violent solutions.”

He claimed that, even more than in the case of the Roman Empire, Americans live in the most militarized — and the most dangerous — country in the history of the world. “And yet, 84% of Americans claim to be followers of the Jesus the Bible says taught non-violence and love of enemies.”

Pallmeyer proposed an alternative vision. He called Christians to stand up against imperialism, to consider the effects of any policy on society’s most vulnerable, and to embrace non-violence instead of violent solutions.