As a student and ardent worshipper of Christ, I’m persuaded that he alone is the great liberator of humankind held captive under the universal tyranny of death. Many Christians, however, seem to have forgotten that our freedom is not bought with the worthless blood of our enemies, but that of the sinless Master himself, who loved his enemies (all of us) until it killed him. He has released us from bondage at the auction block of human capital, delivering us from the rule of fear – fear of death, loss, punishment, suffering and oppression in all its endless forms. This rule is most perfectly realized in the state, which derives its power from the legitimized use of deadly force to apply human solutions to human problems. In this we see that the state is fundamentally opposed to the way of Christ as the ultimate hope for true freedom and peace on earth. His is the way of absolute dependence upon God, apart from any rule of law enforced by human strength exerted in violence.
Because its existence depends upon (and receives) the affirmation of popular consent, the state is the principal agent of human rebellion against the Creator. People have a congenital inclination to contrive and manufacture something they can set in motion to look after their every need and desire. The problem with these lifeless artifacts is they must be maintained. They are completely incapable of sustaining their own existence and can’t function without the constant care and feeding of their creators. The state is the epitome of such idolatry. Those who depend on it are in truth depending upon their own feeble strength, offered up and wasted in sacrificial toil and futility. When Christians engage under the auspices of the state to resist evil by force, they deny the higher power of God’s love by which our Lord endured all hostility to establish an eternal kingdom that is not of this world.
Did the pilots in Memphis throw the clerics off their plane in Jesus’s name? I don’t know. But droves of self-identified Christians have come out in support of the decision on the basis of the same limited information that has provoked so much outrage on the other side. The not-so-subtle implication is that Muslims are the embodiment of evil on earth and must therefore be suppressed by all means without regard for their civil rights, let alone the teaching and example of Christ himself.
To everyone outside the faith, let me say plainly that Jesus commands us only to love and pursue peace with you. He gives us no license and certainly no mandate to deny your innate dignity, to harass, or deprive you of the basic rights and freedom conferred personally by God to all mankind. It’s not for us to inhibit the freedom of movement or other means by which others engage in their daily business. Nor is it our place to control access to the marketplace and starve dissenters into submission. Rather, if our enemy is hungry we’re told to feed him and, if he’s thirsty, give him something to drink. If we are robbed, it’s our privilege to freely give even more – just as the Creator gives good things to ungrateful and evil people like us. The yoke he places on us is easy, and the load we bear is light. Our God has not saddled us with the hopeless mission of driving evil off the face of the earth by violence and cruelty against unbelievers.
But, someone will say, Islam is different and not properly understood. Muslim fundamentalists want to convert, enslave, or destroy us all! If this is true, and if we choose none of the above, the question is not whether we ought to resist, but what sort of resistance will truly deliver us and not simply feed our addiction to terror and strife. Christ teaches us to overcome evil with good, to love our enemies. This is not to say that we kowtow in passive obedience in the face of tyranny and injustice. Rather, we resist in the same love with which we have been irresistibly loved; we drive out fear and are not ruled by it. If our enemy slaps us with his left hand, we stand fast and offer him the opportunity to wield the right one also against our peaceable friendship and so bear witness to his own guilt and shame before God and everyone. By this he is ultimately and utterly defeated, condemned by any reasonable standard of justice and altogether disqualified to bear the crown of victory and authority.
That we do these things imperfectly – or not at all – and so often engage in the same kinds of coercive devices described above in bending the will of others to suit our world view reveals a couple of important points. First, if our escape from the untamed barrens of hatred, fear, destruction, and the judgment of God himself depends on our ability or even our willingness to behave well, then Christians are as basically screwed as everyone else. Second, a lot of people calling themselves Christian simply don’t get that and are still trying to be good which, they believe, entails forcing everyone else to be good too. Jesus didn’t truck much with people like that in his day, to say the least.
The love of Christ isn’t a soft, squishy, amorphous ointment of politically correct weakness that makes us grovel in the face of intimidation. Neither is it a heartless crusade against the heathen doers of iniquity, idol worshippers, homosexuals, Democrats, or swarthy airline passengers wearing funny man-dresses. And please understand that I’m not trying here to proselytize or even persuade anyone of the truth of Scripture or the supremacy of Christ (but feel free to contact me if you want to have that discussion). My goal has been to correct the distortion of the biblical Jesus in the words and actions of many who claim to follow him and bring to light what is true about the content of the Bible and Christ’s teaching so everyone will be better able to judge whether any of it is true at all.
Finally, to those who genuinely love and follow Christ, if the words of our Teacher aren’t clear enough, let’s abide by his example in rejecting all aspiration and allegiance to the violent powers of the earth. We must refuse to prop up the lifeless idols that bind the soul in darkness, and affirm that he alone is worthy to rule over us as we gladly submit to his perfect law of fearless love.
A final note: Now that I’ve broken the seal, it seems like as good a time as any to move forward with something I’ve been mulling over for a while (years, in fact). If you’ve read all the way through to this point, you may be also interested in checking it out at ChristianAnarchist.org.