Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Christian militias - an oxymoron?

Most of the major news organizations are reporting about the arrest of nine people in Michigan accused of a plot to kill police officers. Amazingly, these men (+ one woman) belong to a group that advocates such violence in the name of Jesus Christ - calling themselves a "Christian warrior" militia who follow "General Jesus."

The irony of these arrests during Holy Week is pretty remarkable. While Jesus never feared standing up to earthly leaders that needed to be challenged (see John 19:11) he always did so through nonviolent means. Throughout his ministry and especially during the last week of his life, Jesus' shunned all forms of violent resistence and instead chose to change the world through self sacrifice even to the point of giving himself over to a pagan and oppressive government in order to be crucified. It was through sacrificial love, not the violence of revenge, that Jesus upended the powers of this world (see Colossians 2:15).

Not only that, but repeatedly Jesus and his early followers remind us that while Christians are engaged against oppressive forces in this world, we are to do so in the ways of Christ.
  • "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." - Jesus in John 18:36
  • "Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world." - Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4.

Because of the apocalyptic language used by this militia group, I assume they justify their violence by looking to the book of Revelation. The imagery there is, indeed, violent. But a close reading reveals that none of the violence is carried out by God's people, the church. The church is described as faithful witnesses, as martyrs, but never as soldiers. Yes, the images include the violent overthrow of the oppressive regimes of this world, but this is carried out by heavenly agents, not earthly ones.

Which leads me to believe that our role as followers of Jesus is to do just that - to follow him both where he led us and in the manner he led us. We are to go into the lives of those who are hurting and in darkness. We are to do so by taking up our own crosses and serving others, even our enemies, through sacrificial love. We are to resist the urge to strike out in violence at those with whom we disagree.

Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple - Luke 14:27.

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