Religion Dispatches Magazine posted an article recently on embracing non-violence in the Christian tradition. In it, Elizabeth Drescher argues that the violent imagery in Paul’s writing accounts for a great deal of the violent posturing going on in churches today, but she also argues that these images have been misapplied and misunderstood. She challenges us that, “It is time…for Christian churches to atone for their own role in the culture of violence within which we all suffer by standing actively against it week upon week upon week in the pulpit and on the street.”
From the article:
The “armor of God,” too often turned to violent purposes, is comprised of truth, righteousness, and peace. Paul’s “helmet of salvation”—that which protects the center of human thought and reason—and “sword of the Spirit” are not of course acts of aggression, but words. Hence, likewise, the sword of justice wielded in the Revelation of John (Rev. 19:11-15)—the New Testament book most often cited in violent, apocalyptic Christian fantasies—extends from the mouth of the white-robed representation of the risen Christ. He slays the forces of cosmic evil not with physical aggression, but with the same “Word of God” that Paul calls out as the fundamental instrument of Christian faith, righteousness, and peace.
Christians, we seem to forget in all the clucking over the extent to which fried chicken sandwiches do or do not represent ideological preferences, are meant to use words, and to use them in particular for peace. This peace—the “Peace of Christ” in Christian tradition—is the heart of Christian teaching and practice, upon which rests everything from faithful stewardship of creation, to economic justice, to the rejection of violence as a solution for personal, familial, social, or political disagreements.