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Mark Driscoll makes pacifists fighting mad

Pastor Mark Driscoll attacks Christian pacifism the same week he calls for Christian unity. (Photo credit: Cali Lowdermilk)
Pastor Mark Driscoll attacks Christian pacifism the same week he calls for Christian unity. (Photo credit: Cali Lowdermilk)

Pastor Mark Driscoll attacks Christian pacifism the same week he calls for Christian unity. (Photo credit: Cali Lowdermilk)

The same week Mark Driscoll declared via a press release that “[Christians] spend too much time lobbing e-bombs at each other in cyberspace,” he published an internet article confronting Christian pacifism.

“Jesus is not a pansy or a pacifist; he’s patient. He has a long wick, but the anger of his wrath is burning,” the Seattle-based pastor wrote. “Once the wick is burned up, he is saddling up on a white horse and coming to slaughter his enemies and usher in his kingdom. Blood will flow.”

The more than 1,200-word article titled, “Is God a Pacifist?” argued that Exodus 20:13 (“You shall not murder”) does not teach non-violence, but the conclusion was especially pointed:

“Some of those whose blood will flow as high as the bit in a horse’s mouth for 184 miles will be those who did not repent of their sin but did wrongly teach that Jesus was a pacifist. Jesus is no one to mess with.”

Predictably, Twitter erupted with Christian pacifists who felt misrepresented. Pacifist denominations include the Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, Churches of God (7th Day), Quakers, and Seventh-day Adventists.

In light of the growing conversation, I asked several prominent Christian pacifists for their thoughts and reactions:

Claiborne

Shane Claiborne,
Activist and bestselling author of Red Letter Revolution

Jesus was not a pansy. Nor was Jesus “a prize fighter with a tattoo down his leg, a sword in his hand, and a commitment to make someone bleed,” as Mark Driscoll has contended. “Fight Club” may have been a good movie, but it makes for really bad theology.

Mark may see things like “kindness, gentleness, love and peace” as feminine, dainty things for pansies, but the Bible calls them the “fruit of the Spirit.” These are the things that God is like.

We need only look at the cross to see what perfect love looks like when it stares evil in the face – love forgives, love dies, love does not kill. Jesus was not violent, and surely not passive. Jesus shows us a “third way” that is neither fight nor flight.  He teaches us that evil can be opposed without being mirrored, oppressors resisted without being emulated, and enemies neutralized without being destroyed.

The way of the cross is problematic to fight-club theology and the theology of imperialism, power and might. It was offensive even to Jesus’s own followers who begged him to call down “fire from heaven” on their enemies, and who continually digress to the logic of the sword. Fight-club theology is nothing new, but it is always sad, and it is a betrayal of the cross.

Jesus is Life. He died to conquer death. His blood was shed to stop the shedding of blood. His sacrifice on the cross was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  It was the final triumph of life over death, of love over hatred.  There is no need for more blood. In fact, we can even say that when we shed the blood of another, it is a offense to the cross.

We can call Jesus crazy, but we dare not call him a pansy. The nonviolent love that we see on the cross is not the sentimental love of fairy tales but it is the daredevil love of the martyrs… and it teaches us that there is something worth dying for, but nothing we should kill for.

Withrow King

Sarah Withrow King,
Deputy Director of Evangelicals for Social Action

Here’s a big idea: look at scripture in context. Yeah, Jesus quotes the sixth commandment in Matthew 5, and then he transforms it into something amazing – the command is no longer “please try to refrain from killing people” but “go and try to reconcile with your enemy.” In fact, even if you’re in the middle of one of the most important acts of worship — offering your gifts at the altar, if you remember that you have unresolved conflict with someone…leave, drop everything, and go reconcile with that person.

Jesus goes on to tell us that retributive violence is no longer the moral code of the day. Instead, we Jesus followers are to turn the other cheek, go a second mile, and give our enemies the clothes off our back. We’re to pray for people who persecute us, and love them. When we are threatened, we engage in active, non-violent resistance in order to turn the tables on people trying to harm us. We don’t kill them, and we don’t respond to their violent acts with violent acts of our own.

Sprinkle

Preston Sprinkle,
Author of Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence and professor at Eternity Bible College

In spite of the fact that Romans 13 doesn’t mean what Driscoll thinks it means, in spite of the fact that Driscoll’s Hal Lindsay-like literal reading of Revelation finds little support among respectable commentators, and in spite of the fact that Jesus’s nonviolent life and nonviolent commands as well as the nonviolent exhortations of Paul (Rom 12), Peter (1 Pet 2-3), and John in Revelation (throughout) are completely ignored, what I find most entertaining about Driscoll’s sermon is his description of pacifists as pansies.

Martin Luther King, who courageously led the charge against segregation, was a pansy. Charles Spurgeon, who boldly denounced warfare and violence, was a pansy. André and Magda Trocmé, who refused to use violence when they helped rescue 5,000 Jews from deaths camps during WWII, are both pansies. The leaders of the Christian church for the first 300 years of its existence—all of whom were pacifists—were also pansies.

Pastor Driscoll and I actually have a lot in common. We’re both conservative, reformed evangelicals, who think Calvin got it right more times than not. We both love baseball, hot wings, good beer, and hard-hitting hour-long sermons. But I’m genuinely confused at how Mark can read the Bible and still be so adamantly convinced that non-violence has little (or no) biblical merit. I can’t help but think that Mark has been more shaped by the worldview of those who put Jesus on the cross than the One who hung on it. It was the Roman empire, and not Jesus and not his followers for hundreds of years, that had no place for pacifism.

McKnight

Scott McKnight,
Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary and author of Sermon on the Mount

Pacifism isn’t quietism or withdrawal or inactivity, and it isn’t simple submission. Pacifism’s root is connected to the peacemaking beatitude, rooted in love, and expressed when the follower of Jesus actively seeks peace. Pacifism isn’t a lack of interest or non-involvement, but the hard work of seeking peace. Pacifism is non-violent resistance not non-resistance. What Jesus teaches his followers to do illustrates the sort of pacifism he advocates: turn the other cheek, surrender even more clothing, go the extra mile, lend and do not charge interest or require a payment back. Hardly the stuff of the inactive. These acts subvert the Roman system.

Wilson-Hartgrove

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove,
Activist and author of Strangers at My Door

I like Mark for his clarity. He knows what he thinks, and he makes it plain.

Mark Driscoll right: murder is not the same as killing. He’s making a basic moral distinction. It’s part of the Old Testament law. And it’s written into American law. Involuntary manslaughter in our society’s criminal code is not the same as second degree murder, for example. As anyone doing time in prison can tell you, these distinctions matter.

But his clarity also betrays his misunderstanding of Christian pacifism. He insists that Jesus “is not a pansy,” by which I think he means to say that Jesus does not roll over and give up in the face of evil. This is true, of course. But this is not what Christian pacifists claim. We believe, instead, that Jesus along with all the martyrs of the church exhibit the highest degree of courage when they refuse to return evil for evil. Jesus is not a pansy before Pontius Pilate. He is Christus Victor.

*RELATED: “Is Mark Driscoll this generation’s Pat Robertson?”*

*RELATED: “Divisive pastor Mark Driscoll says Christians should stop infighting”*

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About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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