Christian refusal of violence
Christian pacifism is the theological and ethical position that any form of violence is incompatible with the Christian faith.
- Those soldiers were filled with wonder and admiration at the grandeur of the man's piety and generosity and were struck with amazement. They felt the force of this example of pity. As a result, many of them were added to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and threw off the belt of military service.
- Whatever Christians would not wish others to do to them, they do not to others. And they comfort their oppressors and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies…. Through love towards their oppressors, they persuade them to become Christians.
- For since we, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His teaching and His laws that evil ought not to be requited with evil, that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another, an ungrateful world is now for a long period enjoying a benefit from Christ, inasmuch as by His means the rage of savage ferocity has been softened, and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow-creature.
- One is called to live non-violently, even if the social or political change one worked for is in fact unlikely or even impossible.
- Daniel Berrigan, in Lights on in the House of the Dead: A Prison Diary (1974), p. 52
- We Christians forget (if we ever learned) that attempts to redress real or imagined injustice by violent means are merely another exercise in denial — denial of God and her nonviolence towards us, denial of love of neighbor, denial of laws essential to our being.
- Philip Berrigan, in Fighting the Lamb's War: Skirmishes with the American Empire (1996), p. 204
- Our faith obliges us to bind wounds, not to make blood run.
- Wars and other kinds of murder have their beginning in the hatred of the enemy and in the unwillingness to be patient with evil. Their root is in intemperate self-love and in immoderate affection for temporal possessions. These conflicts are brought into this world because men do not trust the Son of God enough to abide by his commandments.
- The path shown by Jesus is a difficult one that can only be trod by true martyrs. A "martyr," etymologically, is he who makes himself a witness to his faith. And it is the ultimate testimony to one’s faith to be ready to put it to practice even when one’s very life is threatened. But the life to be sacrificed, it should be noted, is not the enemy’s life, but the martyr’s own life — killing others is not a testimony of love, but of anger, fear, or hatred. For Tolstoy, therefore, a true martyr to Jesus’ message would neither punish nor resist (or at least not use violence to resist), but would strive to act from love, however hard, whatever the likelihood of being crucified. He would patiently learn to forgive and turn the other cheek, even at the risk of death. Such would be the only way to eventually win the hearts and minds of the other camp and open up the possibilities for reconciliation in the "war on terror."
- Consider the roads blocked up by robbers, the seas beset with pirates, wars scattered all over the earth with the bloody horror of camps. The whole world is wet with mutual blood; and murder, which in the case of an individual is admitted to be a crime, is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale.
- True believing Christians are sheep among wolves. ... They employ neither worldly sword nor war, since with them killing is absolutely renounced.
- A pacifist between wars is like a vegetarian between meals.
- Ammon Hennacy, as quoted in A Revolution of the Heart : Essays on the Catholic Worker (1988) edited by Patrick G. Coy, p. 153
- A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded. ... If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected. A military commander ... must resign or be rejected. If a catechumen or a believer seeks to become a soldier, they must be rejected, for they have despised God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.
- Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
- Jesus, in Gospel of Matthew, 10:16 - 22 (KJV)
- Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
- Jesus, in Gospel of Matthew, 10:28 (KJV)
- [N]either Celsus nor they who think with him are able to point out any act on the part of Christians which savours of rebellion. And yet, if a revolt had led to the formation of the Christian commonwealth, so that it derived its existence in this way from that of the Jews, who were permitted to take up arms in defence of the members of their families, and to slay their enemies, the Christian Lawgiver would not have altogether forbidden the putting of men to death; and yet He nowhere teaches that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to any one, however wicked.
- The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. … Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
- Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), p. 62
- Regardless of nationality, all men are brothers. God is "our Father who art in heaven." The commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is unconditional and inexorable. … The lowly Nazarene taught us the doctrine of non-resistance, and so convinced was he of the soundness of that doctrine that he sealed his belief with death on the cross. … When human law conflicts with Divine law, my duty is clear. Conscience, my infallible guide, impels me to tell you that prison, death, or both, are infinitely preferable to joining any branch of the Army.
- Either Christ is a liar or war is never necessary, and very properly assuming that Christ told the truth, it follows that the State is without [in the words of Father Macksey] ‘judicial authority to determine when war is necessary,’ because it is never necessary.
- Ben Salmon, as quoted in Unsung Hero of the Great War: The Life and Witness of Ben Salmon (1989) by Torin Finney, p. 106
- I do not wish to be a king; I am not anxious to be rich; I decline military command... Die to the world, repudiating the madness that is in it.
- [D]emons are the magistrates of this world: they bear the fasces and the purples, the ensigns of one college.
- There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot be due to two masters— God and Cæsar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John (Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the Son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier. No dress is lawful among us, if assigned to any unlawful action.
- All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do.
- Pre-Constantinian Christians had been pacifists, rejecting the violence of army and empire not only because they had no share of power, but because they considered it morally wrong; the post-Constantinian Christians considered imperial violence to be not only morally tolerable but a positive good and a Christian duty.
- John Howard Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom (1984), p. 135