Saturday, April 29, 2017

Is Christianity non-violent?

"Peace alone is holy, and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of religion or in the name of God." — Pope Francis

Is it true that violence is incompatible with Christian teaching, or even with religion, as Pope Francis said in Egypt today? Islam believes in the use of violence and force to extend its influence, and to enforce Islamic law and punish those who violate it.  Judaism believes in the use of violence also with respect to the law, and to defend its homeland.

Our Lord himself told his disciples to buy swords for their own defense (Luke 22:36-38).  From this the church has always taught that Christian communities have the right to self-defense, as in the crusades.  She has also always taught that Christian states have the right, and even the duty, to use force in just war, and also to punish, even unto death, malefactors.  This teaching is based on Scripture,  the constant tradition, and natural law, and thus must be reckoned catholic.

On the other hand, there are many times when the lawful use of force is excluded, and the the Christian must accept suffering or death non-violently.  Even when it might be justified, Christians have decided to accept suffering as the better witness, following our Lord's example.  Christianity sets forth in first place that example: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth" (Acts 8:32).  The example of the Christian martyrs, who submitted to death for Christ's sake and followed his example is also clear.

However, a different kind of violence is foreseen for the disciples, who must take forceful action in their own lives to remove themselves from sin. "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" (Matt. 11:12).

Given all this, it cannot be said that religion, even true Christian religion, never partakes of violence.

No comments :

Post a Comment