Where did all these violent Christians come from?

As I’ve explained ad nauseum, I was raised in the Christian tradition but am currently more of an agnostic or atheist inclination. However, lately I have been struck by the bloodthirstiness of people who call themselves Christians, be they Jerry Falwell or posters attacking the Pope’s pacifist attitudes. I have ended up quoting Biblical chapter and verse to explain that NO, people who actually follow the teachings of Jesus Christ do not kill, do not indulge their thirsts for revenge, and do not hate even the most horrible person. For any reason. C’mon, guys! It’s all over your own rule book. You can’t go picking and choosing what you want to follow.

Fortunately for me, because I am not Christian, I don’t have these restrictions on my behavior. (hehehe!) But you do. Either follow the rules or face the fact that you are violating them. He doesn’t give you any middle ground or exceptions.

OTOH, I know no Jewish or Islamic theology, so I’ll leave them to working out their own theological questions.

No kidding. Makes me wonder if I’m reading the same Book they are! :rolleyes:

If 9/11 did anything to me, it made despise any type of fundamentalism, even the type I grew up as!


The Onion beat you to it, dropzone.

I don’t know how Christians reconcile “killing for sake of national defense” either. Since life here doesn’t count, why not just turn the other cheek and move on to the afterlife? Is there some kind of special loophole for killing during war we haven’t read about? Shouldn’t all the Christians be conscientous objectors, stay out of the Army, and not kill anyone? Remember the martyrs, who knelt in the Colisseum rather than fight the gladiators!

Here’s my “not a Christian” disclaimer - this isn’t how I think. I think humans are flawed and warmongering, and that sometimes it is necessary to fight to defend oneself against those who would kill you. But Christians are supposed to rise above human nature. Right?


It’s pretty simple. Most Christians, except for certain pacifist sects, do not believe that Christianity is incompatible with the defense of the self, property, or honor. This is, AFAIK, the Methodist party line, the Catholic party line, the Mormon party line, and the party line of most mainstream Christian denominations. Maybe you’re just having some difficulty with Christianity meaning something other than what you apparently want it to mean.

Who said “life here doesn’t count”?

Yes. Self-defense for certain, and also possibly the defense of friends and allies. See above. This is not a “loophole,” however, it is simply the recognition that defensive war is not incompatible with Christianity.

IMO no, but then I am not a pacifist. IMO, Christians have the same duty to assist in the defense of their country as every other citizen.

Me neither, so I don’t think you need to call that a “‘not a Christian’ disclaimer.”

I’m not sure what you mean by “rise above human nature.” IMO, Christianity is more about rising above the worst of human nature and attempting to embrace the best. That is not irreconcilable with self-defense, on either a personal or a national level. Jesus said “turn the other cheek,” but He also said “he that has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.”

Being blindly bloodthirsty is not IMO Christian. But to attempt to claim that Christianity is definitionally pacifist, in all cases and regardless of provocation, is to show pretty abysmal ignorance of the religion. But then, it’s always easier to mischaracterize and condemn that which you do not understand.

Well, actually, it is. It is the warping of it by organized religion that has you thinking it isn’t.

Catholic Social Justice teaching refers to a Just War tradition, in addressing these kinds of things.

Also, see here

Hahahahahahahaha…Jodi. I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic university, minored in theology (including Christianity). But you are right. Maybe I don’t understand.

“Do not kill.”
“Turn the other cheek.”
“Love those that hate you.”

Seems pretty specific to me.

I can accept that organized churches have adjusted their doctrines to fit with the realities of living within a state. States need to be protected and defended, and one could reconcile serving in the national defense with “render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s.” Killing in defense of one’s life is also a very natural human instinct. But surely you can see how this is a perversion of the commandment “do not kill.”

It’s not “Do not kill…unless a someone breaks into your house in the middle of the night. Then it’s okay to kill.” It’s not “Do not kill…unless the other guy attacks you first. Then it’s okay to kill.” “Do not kill…unless your government wants you to kill. Then it’s okay.”

Perhaps killing under these circumstances is “forgivable” or “understandable.” But is it right?

I’m NOT using this as an argument for pacifiscm. I’m not attacking Christianity - I genuinely want to know how major churches explain or justify this one. I’m hearing a lot of “God is on our side” rhetoric right now and I find it interesting and incongruous with the faith as I understand it. I wish this weren’t in the Pit.

Yeesh. Killing in self-defense, or in the defense of one’s neighbor, I can see. I’ve given my own views on the limits of Christian pacifism in the What would Gandhi do? thread.

But in defense of one’s property? I am disappointed with the churches you cite, if that is indeed their stance. I do not own one thing that is worth striking down a person whom God loves, in order to maintain my possession of it. As Jesus said in the sixth chapter of the gospel of Matthew:

Put that together with ‘Love your enemies’, and how can one possibly say it’s right in the Lord’s eyes to kill over possessions?

We may not live up to that standard, but either the Gospel is a liar, or that’s the truth that we are called to. Shame on those churches for saying otherwise.

And one’s honor? From touchy antebellum Southern aristocrats to the You disrespectin’ me?? of today’s ghettos, all I have to say is: dear God. :frowning:

Thanks for the informative links, beagledave.

I see Christianity and the early Church as having a Change World mentality. And I see commandments like “turn the other cheek” and “do not kill” as very idealistic statements meant to change the world by the example of Christians. A sort of “kill us if you want to, but you won’t make us behave like you” message designed to change the hearts of people and stop the killing in the world.

JODI, do you think this is in any way accurate?

From BEAGLEDAVE’S link and JODI’s words I can see some of how modern churches have adapted to the realities of living in a modern world. I think a lot of Just War thinking comes out of WWII - Christians giving themselves permission to fight horrible temporal evils such as the Holocaust and try to use their power to bring about greater justice and human rights in the world. Early Christians also thought the world was going to end in their lifetimes or soon after, they lived with the idea that Jesus could come back at any moment. 2000 years later, I don’t think they live with that same idea.

That, of course, is not a direct quote from the Bible or anywhere else, but many of Jesus’ teachings give the message “don’t worry about storing up riches or settling scores here, don’t worry about how you are going to feed and clothe yourselves here, give away all your possessions and follow me - you will be taken care of in my Father’s kingdom, in the afterlife.” I don’t see many bands of itinerant Christian wanderers and preachers imitating these days - the modern church and modern life have evolved us into something else.

JODI, I think your thinking fits very well with the “Just War” piece that beagledave linked to. But a lot of bloodthirsty language on the boards and in the news - Nuke them all!- does not.

Finally, modern doctrine aside, do you think that Jesus Christ thought there was such thing as a Just War?

I beg to differ on that. In the thread I’ve linked to in my previous post, Wumpus had the presence of mind to quote Orwell:

As I said there, I can choose to offer my life - as a Christian, I see it as but one more card that can be played if necessary - but I can’t be so casual about the lives of others.

The pacifist has to say it doesn’t matter which one dies, the aggressor or the victim of aggression. And that is where he and I part company: it most certainly does matter.

From my earlier cite…
First, whether lethal force may be used is governed by the following criteria:

  • Just Cause: force may be used only to correct a grave, public evil, i.e., aggression or massive violation of the basic rights of whole populations;

  • Comparative Justice: while there may be rights and wrongs on all sides of a conflict, to override the presumption against the use of force the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other;

  • Legitimate Authority: only duly constituted public authorities may use deadly force or wage war;

  • Right Intention: force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose;

  • Probability of Success: arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success;

  • Proportionality: the overall destruction expected from the use of force must be outweighed by the good to be achieved;

  • Last Resort: force may be used only after all peaceful alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted.
    These criteria (jus ad bellum), taken as a whole, must be satisfied in order to override the strong presumption against the use

For Catholics…protecting property or honor, do not, in and of themselves…provide sufficient moral reason for war. The key phrase is “grave public evil”…with some examples thrown in.

[qoute]Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.—Matthew v. 43-48

Doesn’t sound like it.

“If you want peace, work for justice.” The radical nuns I heard talking 15 years ago used this mantra to describe their good works in South America, sometimes in opposition to elected governments there. I’ve had this saying stuck in my head the last couple of weeks, and we can apply it to current events by seeking justice for the victims of the WTC–the way to peace is to bring justice to the terrorists.

As beagledave said, “Just War” is a concept with a long history in Christianity. Here’s Aquinas’s explanation of what is a just war (rather earlier than WWII), to add to beagledave’s sites.

I also think that we should avoid conflating personal and governmental morality. A state cannot be moral in the same way an individual can–this was one thing Machiavelli got right. Some states are more moral than others, but what makes a state moral is not the same as what makes an individual moral. States need to place the safety of the general public over concepts of mercy and forgiveness, not only in war but in the case of every day crime. “Judge not lest ye be judged” if applied to criminal justice does not work either. Christianity is not designed to proscribe governmental morality–it is concerned principally with the acts of individuals.

BTW, “thou shalt not kill” is of course Old Testament, and wasnot viewed as absolute by the Jews either (self-defense and capital punishment were exceptions, and this was not viewed as a prohibition on all war). While radical pacificism on a national scale can find support in many Christian writings, it is not a core tenet of traditional Christianity.

geesh–gotta quite previewing–this thread is hoppin’!

From Beagledave’s other link, the justifications of Thomas Aquinas:


Isn’t Aquinas doing what all flawed human beings do when given rules that are inconvenient - creating a big, giant loophole?

If we are to draw on scriptual sources for an answer…there are not a lot of passages that directly address this question, beyond the “turn the other cheek” kind of thing.

Jesus certainly exhibited “righteous anger”, witness his behavior towards the money changers in the Temple.

Bullshit, DROPZONE, and I’d suggest you don’t attempt to tell me what my religion means.

Christianity is not incompatible with self-defense.

Except that “do not kill” is more rightly translated as “do not murder” – or did they skip that in your theology courses? The OT abounds with incidences of capital punishment and wars, not all of which are seen as evil acts.

The NT concerns itself almost exclusively with personal morality, not societal morality, as a person studying it extensively should realize. In any event, “turn the other cheek” does not translate to “thou shalt be a doormat.” As I have already pointed out, Jesus also commanded His disciples to carry a sword in a hostile world. What do you think He was telling them to carry it for – decoration?

No, because the commandment “do not murder” is obviously not incompatible with societal justice or self-defense. It’s not as if this commandment is even exclusively a Christian one – as a Jewish scholar if it means “you should never kill, ever, not even in strictest self-defense.”

Well, it sure as hell sounds like you are – something I’m sure you wouldn’t do to Islam, even though it has been perverted to justify the death of 7000 people.

I have never said, and do not say, that God is on our side. It’s pretty tough to determine precisely where God is at these days, and I’m the first to admit it. But that does not mean that Christianity is or even has been a religion of pacifism, as it is interpreted and practiced by the majority of Christians.

Can Christianity be twisted to justify violence? Yes, just as Islam can be (obviously), and Judaism. I am not in favor of that. But it nevertheless is not a religion of strict pacifism. There is a huge middle ground between “let’s kill them all and let God sort them out” and “you can never kill anyone, not even to defend yourself, your family, or your country.” Most of Christianity is in that middle. And I get a little tired of people attacking what they say Christianity is, simply because it’s so much easier than attacking what it really is.

RTFIREFLY – You probably know the answer to your own question better than I do. My understanding of the teaching of my church is that one may defend one’s possessions to the extent – and only to the extent – it is necessary to preserve one’s life. In other words, if you have food to keep yourself or family from starving, you may resist having it taken away. “Honor” is much more strictly proscribed, and much more difficult to defend, meaning only chastity (which again is probably more rightly considered self-defense.

If you take issue with the Christian right to defend property and honor, that is fine with me; I will not argue it. My main point is that defense of self, family, and nation are not incompatible with the tenets of Christianity. Do you disagree?

Hehehe! I always saw that as Jesus having a really bad day. He had his moments of very human crankiness. But, not being a Christian, I can view it with some detachment. And thanks for that list earlier. Although I agree with all those reasons, I would be interested in seeing the theological contortions they went through justifying them. I’ll check the Aquinas links; he was always good at contortions.

And MAGDALENE, this does strike me as more of a “Great Debate.” I will also say that if you are willing to assume that bin Laden does not speak for all Muslims in what he does and says, then it seems to me to not be asking too much to expect you to assume that the “nuke 'em all” faction does not speak for all Christians.

And in case I haven’t been clear on this –

It pisses me off more than a little that in the wake of this attack people are rightly saying “be careful not to blame Islam for this; be careful not to judge the entire religion by the beliefs of a few; be careful not to over-simplify and distort an entire faith” and in the same fucking breath continue to happily blame Christianity for every problem under the sun; to judge that entire religion by the beliefs and actions of a few; and to over-simplify and distort it in order to make it more amenable to attack and condemnation.

Christ on a crutch, if you can properly exhibit tolerance and an open mind about Islam, it doesn’t seem to me to be asking too much to expect you to do the same about Christianity.

Don’t think Jesus had a problem with his followers being outraged by social injustice, poverty, pain, hate, corruption etc.

Anger about the problems of the world is fair enough.

It’s how you react to those emotions that counts.

Love yer neighbour as yerself, innit. The Gospels boiled it down to that and ‘love God’.

I don’t understand how you can

  1. love someone, or

  2. treat them as you would like to be treated youself

by killing 'em…?

Perhaps someone could explain that bit to me…?

It’s a hard line to follow, but Jesus never said it was easy.

The image of Jesus chucking a hand-grenade just aint one that sits easy in my mind.