Nonviolence And Cooperation Should Be How We Solve Our Problems
When President Trump gave his speech following the Syrian airstrikes, he invoked God as part of his rationale in deciding to attack, saying “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” This is not unusual for both political and military leaders. When Trump used religious language, it harkens back to when President Bush called the War on Terror a “holy crusade.” At the same time leaders speak about leading to peace as the ultimate solution.
Rather than focus whether the military strikes will lead to peace in Syria, it is also vital to look at the theological implications of using religion to justify violence. Beyond the horrific history of Christianity to justify war crimes, let’s look at the original scripture.
Jesus made his stance on violence clear: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus met the violence of the Romans with no resistance. This was a radical rejection of the historical cycle of violence that was political action. Jesus explained: “Offer the wicked man no resistance. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him.” This meant that nonviolence was the correct response to when someone causes harm to you. This became the doctrine used by human rights advocates, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Early Christians preached pacificism. Christians avoided war and bloodshed. In fact, until Constantine, political involvement was largely ignored. But the real change was the establishment of Just War Theory. St. Augustine made it clear that the words of Jesus did not have to be made literally, but could avoid if you were defending the Christian faith. This became the evolution of Christianity: give the universal ethic of love to believers, but violence could be used to defend oneself.
But this is not a universally held belief. Dr. King used the last year of his life attacking militarism as going against the will of God. Former President Jimmy Carter has been outspoken that Trump’s use of military force violates his principles as a Christian. Numerous religious figures have used the pulpit to criticize any military use of force. This is not to say that no action should be taken. Cooperation through international dialogue must be given as much energy as possible for a solution.
As Jesus said, “I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” He meant that you must humble yourself before God and focus on following the mandates of the religion. To achieve the peace that leaders like Trump advocate, they must begin with friendship.