Our world is fed two narratives when it comes to democracies - either you vote and uphold patriotism, honor, duty, and morality, or you abstain from voting and refuse to participate in the world in any meaningful way. While I will acknowledge that many who abstain from voting likely do so because they are either lazy or uninformed, I believe there may often be a good rationale for Christians to abstain. I want to provide a few of the reasons which stand out most to me, and provide you with a few other resources to ponder if you decide to consider this option further.
Imagine that time travel has been discovered and you have the opportunity to travel anywhere in history you'd like. Being a Christian, there is nothing more you desire than to go back and be there for the most influential moment in the history of the universe, the trial and crucifixion of our savior Jesus Christ. As you enter history, you slip into the crowd standing before Pilate and hear the offer Pilate is making to free one prisoner to the crowd. Being a part of the crowd, you can choose to free Jesus, the innocent, Barabbas the murderer, or a thief. You know your Bible and understand that Jesus has no hope of being freed. The crowd wants his blood too badly. But maybe, just maybe you and those who traveled back with you could influence the result between the thief and Barabbas. Maybe you could have the thief freed instead of the murderer. While you might not be able to save Jesus, you may at least be able to lessen the injustice that occurs in this situation. So do you vote to free Jesus, the innocent man, though your vote will have no influence, and allow a murderer to walk free? Or do you vote to mitigate a greater evil by voting for the lesser evil which has a chance of winning, though it would mean failing to support justice for the innocent?
I am a product of America. I've been trained to be a good citizen of the American Kingdom. I've been supportive of upholding the Constitution and founding documents. I've been patriotic. I've taken on my responsibility to vote in every presidential election for which I've been eligible. But during the last election cycle I realized that while I had been well-trained and indoctrinated in kingdom ethics by my country and community, I hadn't been all that well trained in certain Kingdom ethics by my spiritual community, particularly as it pertained to politics. Growing up, I was always told who to vote for or what issues to vote for by my spiritual community, yet I was never taught to evaluate that decision making process. I was to be like a questioning Berean when it came to the scriptures, but not when it came to political parties and issues. This is probably because the moral answer was always so simple in the political sphere. The Republican party is the only party which has a chance of winning and which doesn't support the great moral evil of abortion. The Republican party obviously deserves my unquestioning vote. On top of that, the Republican party has become so tied to the Religious Right - a huge demographic - that they'll give my Christian community more power and influence. With the Republican party, conservative Christians have the greatest chance of making America godly, or at least the greatest chance of staving off the impending moral decay by holding back God's judgment on our nation through the legislating of morality. So I voted Republican for the first three elections of my life - quite literally without thinking twice.
A few weeks ago, our youth group played an interesting game called "Courageous or Stupid." The leader provided a number of scenarios and the kids had to discern whether the action was courageous, or stupid, as the name of the game implies. Give it a try.
- Walking into a fire
- Jumping into freezing water in the middle of winter
- Running across a busy highway
Is it wrong to take the lives of a couple million innocent people to save several billion innocent lives? Is it ever morally justified to take the life of one innocent person to save many lives? What about lying? Is it ever ok to lie in order to save lives? If you were hiding Jews in 1943 Nazi Germany, would it be moral to lie in order to save innocent lives? The question of morality isn't nearly as cut and dry as we often like to think. While most instances of right and wrong seem fairly apparent, there is a large field of gray that also seems to exist.
One of the most famous conundrum scenarios in ethics is called the Trolley Car thought experiment. Individuals are told a hypothetical situation in which a trolley car is headed towards imminent doom, off a broken track or something like that. There is a very large man standing nearby. You know that if you push the man in the way of the trolley car, he will die, but the car will be held up enough to come to a stop and save the many lives in the car. What is the moral choice? Does saving the lives of many legitimize the immorality of taking one innocent life? What if the fat man weren't innocent. What if you had him in police custody after catching him in the middle of committing a murder. Would it be ok to push a guilty man in front of the car to save lives?There are all sorts of iterations to this problem, some of which you can find here.
For a much expanded version of the case for nonviolence in podcast form, check out the Fourth Way Podcast.
1. Introduction: My journey to pacifism
2. Biblical Teaching: A foundation for pacifism using scripture
3. Biblical Examples: Examples of explicit non-violence in the face of aggression from the Bible and Apostles
4. Early Church Teaching: Quotes from the early church fathers about their beliefs on war, soldiering, vengeance, violence, punishment, etc
5. Real Life Examples: Examples of non-violence, its implementation, and effect
6. Pacifism Applied: Explores what the process and action of pacifism look like
7. Evaluating the Christian Alternative to Pacifism: A look at a Just War theory of morally using violence as a Christian and asking how it isn't even more idealistic than pacifism
8. Pacifism Quotes to Ponder: A reflection on non-violence and violence from those who journeyed through persecution
9. Counter-Rebuttals: Rebutting the greatest criticisms leveled at a pacifistic position
10. Questions for Just-War Adherents : Returning difficult questions to Just War adherents about their ideology
*13. Addendums - Additional arguments and ideas I'm putting here until I reformat the site or figure out where I can include them.
*14. My Poetry - Poetry I've written in trying to work through various issues of the Kingdom, including nonviolence.
*15. My Book - While the book isn't specifically about pacifism, it deals with the consequentialist (ends justify the means) morality which my culture taught me that prevented me from living as Christ desires, which includes a nonviolent life. I think this inculcated morality is what must be addressed before many can hear Christ's words. I'm happy to share this document for free as well, just contact me.
The full, original article (not updated with more recent editions) can be downloaded in PDF format below:
1. Losing Control: A look at how God calls humanity to relinquish control, and a little about how God has done that in my family's life
2. Overbearing Doctrine: I consider how emphasizing Christianity primarily as doctrine can sabotage the church by creating stagnation, deemphasizing relationship, and quelling the "unqualified" vessels whom God may desire to use and or grow.
3. Overbearing Methodology: I consider how our love for systems and certainty drive us away from a trust in God's means, and stymies a Spirit lead movement in the church.
4. Overbearing Morality: I consider how our focus on moral qualification is often shaped more by our culture than by the Bible, and how we often lack the grace towards others to meet them where they're at rather than expect perfection before we accept - the opposite of what God does for us.This overbearing morality severely harms the church.
5. The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church in Romania: I take what I've gleaned from Allen and my own experience and delve into some of the big specific questions we face as we pursue ministry in Romania.
I explore and summarize John Howard Yoder's "The Politics of Jesus," which has become a very influential book in my life. The book takes a look at what Christ came to do and how what he did should influence our daily lives.
1. The Cup of Suffering: Jesus's actions were very meaningful, as he sought to establish his Kingdom in part by flipping our power systems upside down.
2. Drinking from Our Cup: While Jesus performed some actions that were specific to fulfilling his messianic role, Christ's moral life and actions are largely prescriptive for believers today. We are called to share the same cup.
3. The Cross and the Kingdom: The cross is not something that might happen for believers, it is the sure result of following Christ and living a Kingdom oriented life.
4. The Kingdom and kingdoms: Since we serve in God's kingdom which is not of this world, yet remain living in the kingdoms of humanity, we must face the reality of conflicting interests and gauge how to handle these.
5. Questions and Conclusion:
*The views and ideas on this site are in no way affiliated with any organization, business, or individuals we are a part of or work with. They're also not theological certainties. They're simply thinking out loud, on issues and difficulties as I process things.