Jesus UnCrossed

Saturday Night Live has been known for pushing the envelope over its 37 year history with NBC. This past Saturday night (Feb 16th), SNL brought Jesus into a comedic sketch where the carpenter from Nazareth takes his revenge on the Romans.

Christoph Waltz, most notably known for Inglorious Bastards & Django Unchained, hosted SNL this past weekend. Waltz plays Jesus as seen in the movie trailer of a new Quentin Tarantino parody film called “DJesus Uncrossed.” No, Tarantino isn’t really doing a film about Jesus (though that would be interesting), it’s just a bit of SNL humor.

Humor can certainly offend our religious sensibilities, especially if a person thinks that shows like SNL are of the devil. But it also has a way of holding a mirror to the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of our faith, that’s of course if we will let it. It’s time that we start listening to our critics.

I believe that SNL’s portrayal of a “kick ass” Jesus is representative of the bad theology and sloppy biblical hermeneutics that’s so often prevalent among believers who have shaped for themselves an American gun-slinging Jesus—a Jesus that is unlike the Christ revealed in the Gospels.

In fact, I believe SNL has done us a favor. What do you think?

How does this SNL skit about Jesus make you feel? Do you see any inconsistencies with the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus that’s often portrayed in the lives of Christians who believe in violence toward enemies? How should Christian’s respond to SNL’s parody of Jesus?

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About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David was in student ministry for 7 years, taught Biblical Studies & Latin at The Woodlands Christian Academy for 5 years, and now pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

54 responses to “Jesus UnCrossed

  • Chuck

    While I doubt that many Christians will be comfortable with this Jesus, I can see your point about our inconsistencies. When we talk about revenge on enemies of the faith and promote violent means to an end, and also talk about following Jesus, do we run the risk of promoting a Jesus just like this one? Fair question, and the answer scares me a bit!

  • Sam Ochstein

    David, I suspect many Christians (particularly those of the conservative, evangelical variety) will neither find the humor nor see the irony in this provocative SNL skit. However, I for one think you are quite correct that the skit points to the inconsistency of the biblical portrait of Jesus and the “American gun-slinging Jesus” that many Christians have created. Thanks for posting this and attempting to get a much needed conversation started!

  • billbenninghoff

    Great points David! I highly recommend Brian Mclaren’s new book “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road: Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World” for an excellent treatment of how western Christianity promotes a culture of violence. I don’t agree with Mclaren on all his points, but he does a fantastic job in pointing out how our modern western version of Christianity bears more resemblance to the conquering mentality of imperial Rome rather than to Jesus and his teachings as expressed in the gospels.

  • Cindy

    Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this a lot for the past several years. So how does this impact things like a nation defending itself or going to war to (ostensibly) defend others — allies, the oppressed, etc.? While we may possibly in fact defend the oppressed, I’ve noticed that we favor defending the oppressed who are of some perceived importance to our national interests, but never mind that . . . .

    And how does it impact the concept of personal defense? If I have a concealed firearms permit, should I carry more than just the card? Would I be wrong to pick off someone who was shooting up the local McDonald’s restaurant? Someone threatening me or another person in the vicinity? Is it okay to defend others but not yourself? Or is it just out and out NEVER acceptable to engage in violence of any kind, ever? Is it better to die, as many of our Christian brothers and sisters both past and present do, than to kill?

    In a situation like Rome, the answer was fairly simple I think. Rome was too powerful to be successfully resisted by violence. The Jewish militants tried it and look what happened to Jerusalem. But what about resisting lesser, more manageable violence? Jesus told His disciples, if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. I don’t see anything mystical or symbolic going on there. It really honestly sounds like He’s telling them to buy the first century version of a side arm for self protection on the road. Granted the disciples made too much of this, but I get the impression it was just them getting off on a tangent over a fairly simple piece of advice, not their misunderstanding it all together.

    God forbade Israel to conduct a census, lest they place trust in the size of their battle-ready populace, iron chariots, war horses, whatever. He didn’t like them “getting in bed” with other nations in a military alliance — He said He would protect them and expected them to believe this. Still, His method of protection typically involved an army marching out against the aggressor. There was even a season when kings go to war, and perhaps King David should have gone with them rather than peeping at Bathsheba between the slats of the blinds.

    Of course the comedy sketch is about revenge, not about defense. Still, I wonder. I’d like to see you address this issue, David. I’d be interested to hear what you think about it.

    • Sam Ochstein

      Great questions! I’ve been wrestling with these issues as well and have way more questions than answers as of now. Your reminder about Jesus telling the disciples to by a sword was a nuance I’ve not considered before. Definitely worth thinking about in this type of conversation. It would need to be balanced by other passages, like Jesus’ rebuke of the disciple for slashing the ear off of the high priest’s servant, his pronouncement that those who live by the sword die by the sword, loving enemies, and his overall example of non-violence. No easy answers!

    • David D. Flowers

      Cindy, this isn’t the first time I’ve addressed the incompatibility of Jesus and Christian’s practicing any kind of violence. Only proof-texts can be used to promote the idea that Jesus allows for or endorses violence.

      Considering that Jesus taught love of enemies, and modeled what it means to lay one’s life down for neighbor and enemies, any saying of Jesus (or a Temple scene where no physical violence took place) that is used for supporting violence is done so in contradiction to the whole of Jesus’ life and teachings.

      It seems clear enough to me that Jesus speaks of the sword in a metaphorical sense on several occasions, especially since he rebukes them for suggesting a literal sword. He rebukes his disciples for suggesting it, rebukes Peter for doing it, and tells the Romans he’s against violent revolt.

      As for anything in the Old Testament… God made many concessions, compromises, and accommodations to a militant Israel, who were never supposed to have a king or army in the first place. My last blog post regarding my view of the Scriptures might shed more light on my understanding.

      • Cindy

        I don’t know, David. God had Israel go to war during the Exodus on occasion too. And of course that all might just be a parable that never historically happened in the literal way the Civil War happened. It certainly works better for me that way. And lots of people also say that God DID want Israel to have a king — just that He wasn’t particularly eager to do it in their timing — but maybe they’re wrong about that.

        As for Jesus’ advice to His disciples, He also told them to start carrying a change of clothing and a little cash, pretty much in the same breath. Was that metaphorical too? I guess it could be . . . .

        I’m willing to be persuaded on this, but I’m just not persuaded yet. Jesus didn’t hurt anyone in the Temple scene (or ever, for that matter), so I’ve never thought of that as a defense for violence. But Jesus’ rebuke to Peter for cutting of the High Priest’s servant’s ear wasn’t (in outward appearance) about the violence per se. It looks like it was about Jesus doing what His Father had given Him to do. And then He healed the guy, which has always comforted me for some reason.

        I don’t see anywhere else that Jesus mentions a sword (that I can remember) other than metaphorically. But in the one I did point out . . . I’m sorry, but it looks literal to me. I’m just being honest here. I don’t care — I’m okay with it being metaphorical, but it doesn’t look metaphorical in this context. And Jesus’ rebuke looks to me like a guy saying, “Okay, this isn’t the time for that. That was just a side point; it’s not the main issue, and I’ve said all I want to say about that now.”

        I guess I’ve either missed or forgotten your other posts on this topic — sorry about that. I’ll have a look later, but I’ve got to go do some actual work now. Too, too easy for me to sit here reading stuff way too long. ;)

        • David D. Flowers

          Cindy, as for the entire NT and the first 200 years of the church (before Constantine), you will not find Christians using violence. In fact, they unanimously believed Christ taught non-violence. They did not engage in warfare or in violent self-defense. We know this from the NT teachings and church history. This cannot be disputed.

          I find the teachings of Jesus, his example, and early church history as reason enough to question violent interpretations of proof-texts from the lips of Jesus.

          Listen to Greg Boyd talk about early church history here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw5GLq5O-50

          It comes down to this: The cross reveals what God (Jesus) is really like, or it doesn’t. I don’t think we should compartmentalize Jesus’ teachings and actions into a “he had to die for our sins” theology. It misses the purpose of the incarnation and the testimony of his life as the truest expression of what it means to be a human being.

          I recommend reading:
          “Mere Discipleship” by Lee Camp; “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd; “Subversion of Christianity” by Jaques Ellul; “Jesus & Non-violence” by Walter Wink

        • Chris Gorton

          Cindy, My heart goes out to you! Not in a condescending way, but in total identification. I was in ROTC all through high-school, a member and teacher in the CKA – Christian Karate Association, I was sure that defending the helpless was my Christian duty, and those refusing to bare the sword to do this, were denying the God of David – who NEVER changes. That was in the ’70s and now I am an old geezer, whom the God of David has had mercy on, and allowed to learn a few things;-)

          I humbly submit that the basis for our non-violent stance is not that we follow a God who is love – He never changes, and you have correctly observed that He did order His followers to kill in the OT. It is also at least implied that we shall join him in the end time carnage. What do we do with this.

          The typical response seems to resort to a low view of Scripture and “demythologizing” OT violence. (David, I am a bit surprised that you recommend Wink – I consider his view of Scripture anathema – and contrary to the position you advocate in your last post.)

          Rather the solution is found in the nature of our Lord’s kingdom in relation to the world. In the OT the kingdom was as nation state – a power among the powers. Matt. 21:43 marks a clear break with the old system: Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

          It is the nature of this new nation in this age that is the basis for our behavior. Notice Jesus’ answer to Pilate – He did not say “My followers will not fight because they love their enemies.” Rather “My kingdom is not of this world, else would my followers fight….” John 18:36. This explains both OT and eschatological violence.

          Cindy, while it may be hard to understand given prevailing sentiment and the “air” that surrounds us, I think the root of your misunderstanding is found in the first paragraph of your first letter: “I’ve noticed that we favor defending the oppressed who are of some perceived importance to our national interests, but never mind that . . . .”

          Until you can recognize the clean break that your Lord and King produced between you and your previous owners – they will continue to blind you. I pray He grants you the grace to see what “our national interests” really are. More to the point – That you may have no king but Jesus.

          Grace & peace in Him whom we serve,

          Chris

        • David D. Flowers

          Hey Chris, I don’t think I could disagree with you more. While I certainly take issue with your interpretations of the OT, your thinking that I’m saying God changes (instead of man’s perspective of him changing because of Jesus), and your eisegesis of John 18:36, I’m mostly concerned that you call my position a “low” view of the Scriptures when I have clearly stated I have a high view.

          While you may not agree with my interpretations, you’re not in a position to make this claim when I have stated otherwise. I have not “demythologized” the OT, nor have I simply ignored the violence which appears to be commanded by God in the OT. Instead, I have made my case that human perceptions of God were wrong in all those places that don’t look like the full revelation of God in Jesus. And that God made significant concessions and accommodations to Israel in his revelation to them throughout history leading to Jesus.

          Chris, I refuse to mesh the testaments together and reduce the incarnation down to God forgiving sins, or only giving us an example for the life to come. No, I believe God has always been like Christ, and calls us to be human beings after him. It’s our human perceptions of him that have changed. We can see glimpses of God’s will in Jesus all throughout the OT. We can even see God’s attitude of detesting violence in the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. Gen 6:1-14, 9:6; Prov 3:31; Ps 11:5; Isa 9:6; Eze 45:9, etc.).

          And remember, David wasn’t allowed to build the temple because he was a man of war with blood on his hands. God was disapproving of the violence, but tolerated it and worked with Israel until the revelation of Christ. He is superior over all perceptions (even “commands” of God) in the OT. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… and yes David… only saw a shadow of the true God. We have seen him in the fullness of his divine being through Jesus Christ our Lord.

          And it is this revelation by which I read and interpret the unfolding story which reaches its climax in Christ.

        • Chris Gorton

          My dear brother David – I owe you a humble apology – I clearly am not communicating what is in my head or my heart! I in no way think you have a low view of Scripture – your last post made that abundantly clear, and it was that post that led me to start following you and recommending your blog to others. Nor do I have any reason to think that you think our God changes. PLEASE forgive me for my miscommunication.

          My accusation of a low view of Scripture was leveled at Walter Wink – not at yourself. I was simply surprised at your recommendation of him given what I accept as your high view of scripture.

          I too, refuse to reduce to the incarnation to the forgiveness of sins – Jesus is our example and king – not simply our redeemer kinsman.

          I was so excited when I found your blog – believing that I had finally found a kindred spirit – not that I presume we will agree in all things – but that your heart and head were moving in the same direction as mine has been. I believe our enemy is scared of what might result from our friendship, and is working mightily to prevent it.

          Please feel free to PM me.

          humbly, your servant in King Jesus,

          Chris

        • David D. Flowers

          Hey Chris, thanks for clearing that up. I appreciate your kindness and helping me understand your heart, bro. I’m also glad that you have been encouraged by my blog. Thank you for reading, and always feel free to express your thoughts. We will both learn to communicate better in the future. It’s the nature of online chats. :-)

        • Chris Gorton

          You are gracious my brother, thanks for understanding. I look forward to growing together with you to better express the image of Him who created us to share in His glory.

        • Sean Durity

          Isaiah 9 isn’t where you want to go to say that God is a god of 1970s peace, love, and joy. Read the whole chapter. It is God who is cutting off Israel, and God who scorches the land and its people for their wickedness. It is only the Mighty God who can break the rod of the oppressors and become the Prince of Peace. You may not like it, but the Bible clearly teaches that God’s peace comes through His strength. This is not a neutral world; it is a world in rebellion.

          I grow more concerned about your approach to the OT, David. You basically dismiss anything that disturbs *your* portrait of Jesus from the gospels (which leaves out some details, I think). While the OT writers did not have the full revelation of Jesus before them, God still superintended His Word to be exactly what it is. It is not a deficient human view of God, It is still His unfailing Word. “The law of the Lord is perfect.” Note that the NT authors did not dismiss the use of the OT. They still considered it God’s Word.

        • David D. Flowers

          Hey Sean, surely you don’t believe that I’m promoting a “hippy” form of love?

          As for Isaiah 9, modern orthodox Jews reject Jesus largely because they don’t believe he fulfills this prophecy. Of course, we know that Christ will rule at his second coming, he didn’t come to rule like King David in a military or political sense. So how does he rule? And the judgments of God in the OT… how do they come? They come through other nations acting out violence against Israel. From the perspective of the Hebrew Scriptures, God worked his will through the fee-will decisions of other nations to do evil (e.g. Assyria, Babylon, Rome, etc.). He’s in the business of taking the evil of men and bringing good out of it (Rom 8:28).

          I don’t think many evangelicals are willing to recognize this plain truth about his Messiahship because they truly don’t want the Lion revealed as a Lamb (Rev 5). Maybe that’s too harsh. It could be that they just haven’t fully accepted the kind of Messiah (and God) revealed in Christ. As I said before, we’ve all been taught to mesh the testaments together and miss the radical meaning and purpose behind the incarnation.

          It seems that some evangelicals would rather hold on to the OT (limited) view of God as power, force, and coercion. Jesus did not meet first century expectations of Messiah because of the way they understood the OT and longed for a power-over king, AND how evangelicals are still interpreting it today. It threw folks off then, and it still throws them off today. It’s a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles.

          I can certainly understand how a person (who I believe is) meshing the testaments together and interpreting Revelation violently would see my hermeneutic as reason for concern. But let’s be clear… I’m not dismissing things that disturb me… I’m reinterpreting them in light of the God revealed in Jesus.

        • Cindy

          Hi, Chris

          I agree. We are IN the world but not OF it. But even Paul continued to identify himself as a Jew, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin, who even wished to be condemned (if that were possible) in place of his countrymen. That said, you’re right. There are no “Christian nations,” and Jesus alone is our King.

          Nevertheless, my concerns about the logic of absolute pacifism remain. For me it’s an abstract consideration as I’ve been blessed to lead a relatively safe life. My parents however were not in that place. My dad was willingly involved in WW2. Was it wrong? Certainly it was painful and hurtful to him — he was the gentlest man I ever knew, and he never told me or my brothers anything at all about his experiences. He never ever spoke of it. But was it wrong for him to be there?

          Was Bonhoeffer wrong to involve himself in the plot to assassinate Hitler? Was that sin?

          If someone started spraying the shop you were in with an automatic rifle, would a witness to that event be sinning if she managed to put a bullet in his chest? These are situations not many of us are likely to experience, but I have a hard time believing that either my dad or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or the fictitious woman in the shop were or would be in sin for doing what they did.

          What do you think?

        • David D. Flowers

          Many Scriptures come to mind. Here are a few:

          Romans 12:9-11 “Overcome evil with good… vengeance is mine says the Lord.”
          Romans 13:8 “Love does no harm to its neighbor.”
          Matthew 5:38-48 “Love your enemies… turn the other cheek… pray for those that persecute you.”
          John 13:34-35 “They will know you belong to me as my disciples by your love… as I have loved you.”
          1 Peter 4:1 “Adopt the same attitude of suffering like Christ…”
          1 John 2:6 “If you claim to know Jesus, you must live like him.”
          Revelation 12:11 “They (Christians) overcame by the blood of the Lamb and their testimony (of his life & teachings)… death didn’t deter them from this living.”

          Repaying evil with evil (tit-for-tat) is prohibited among Christ-followers.

        • Chris Gorton

          Cindy, while I do not know you, your claim to Jesus as your king gives me cause to call you sister. I am not your Lord or judge – He is and will be. Seek Him with a whole heart and he will light your path. You did not find your way here without His guidance. He is making your path straight.

          That said, I agree with David on this point; beware the term pacifism. The other nations, and their citizens have the right to defend themselves – they do not bear the sword in vain. I do not participate because I begrudge them their right – I do not participate because no nation allows people to fight in their armies who do not give allegiance to their system.

          I hope I will not seem petty if I disagree with you – there IS a Christian nation – and yes, Jesus is our king! Jesus was not being facetious when He told the Jews He was giving the kingdom of God to another Nation. I believe many of the sins of today’s church would quickly evaporate if we realized and acted properly on our national identity – Kings head nations. Will we not follow ours? In any of the nations of the earth I am an alien and stranger. In any of those nations aiding and abetting the enemy is called treason – Is that not what we are called to?

          I will not address your specific hypotheticals – though no doubt you can guess how I would answer. Follow Jesus with a pure heart and he will lead you into all truth. But do not presume that you can follow with reservation – He will call it out. Even now His Spirit may be whispering something that you would rather ignore. If not, as you walk in the light His blood will cover you. His word is a light to your feet.

          Cindy, I am praying for you – please do so for me – I need it :-)

          Chris

  • Bob

    “I believe that SNL’s portrayal of a “kick ass” Jesus is representative of the bad theology and sloppy biblical hermeneutics that’s so often prevalent among believers who have shaped for themselves an American gun-slinging Jesus—a Jesus that is unlike the Christ revealed in the Gospels.”

    Not sure what this means exactly. I cant think of anyone that believes in a gun-slinger jesus. Are you talking about people who focus on the “clearing the temple” event?

    • David D. Flowers

      Bob, I’m referring to a slew of behavior and issues among Christians. For starters, I have in mind how evangelicals have been a major supporter of American wars of aggression around the world, and how believer’s allow the Bill of Rights (i.e. First Amendment) to trump the Jesus of the New Testament. Evangelicals, who say they are followers of Jesus, perpetuate the culture of violence.

  • apronheadlilly

    I am not in favor of any fake blood and cuts, Jesus or otherwise. The first time I tried to watch Saving Private Ryan, I got nauseous–that looking through my fingers with eyes squinted! But that said, this was upsetting and in no way humorous. I think more than a critique of Christians and their failings (and of couirse there would be a lot of that to go around), it is more the spiralling irreverence for Christ and the Gospel, propelled on by the droning atheistic evangelicals. It seems that everywhere you hear the catch phrases of Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, et al coming out of the mouths of those who are jumping on the anti-religion bandwagon. The idea that SNL feels comfortable with such a schtick and fears no backlash is more an example of the increasing non-faith and anti-faith comfort level of their audience.

  • Dave B.

    Favorite line: “Critics are calling it a less violent Passion of the Christ.”

  • Bob

    I found this interesting…

    “As for anything in the Old Testament… God made many concessions, compromises, and accommodations to a militant Israel, who were never supposed to have a king or army in the first place. My last blog post regarding my view of the Scriptures might shed more light on my understanding.”

    and this is an interesting view point taken from David Henson’s post…

    “In fact, DJesus Uncrossed kind of reminds me of the Jesus who appears in Revelation (or at least how he is understood in pop theology works like the Left Behind series and throughout a fair amount of Christian history).* He returns, riding a war horse. He is armed with a sharp sword for a tongue with which to destroy the nations. He is harboring a righteous rage that’s been smoldering for quite some time. And who came blame John of Patmos for envisioning Jesus in such a way after all he and his fellow Christians had been through?
    It’s human to imagine divine vengeance.
    It just isn’t Jesus, though. And seeing the vengeful Jesus of Revelation roll away the stone of the tomb and exact bloody revenge on the executioners he had just asked God to forgive three days prior should jar us.”

    So is the Jesus in Revelation the Jesus of the Gospels? And if he is God Incarnate, is he the God of the Old Testament? I understand issues with Annexing The Lord into an american Patriot Superhero, but, this sounds like a similar approach, only that the Annexing agent is no longer “gunslingerdom” but some thing else…

  • Amy Rowe

    I saw it yesterday on DVR. The show used to be great and is rarely funny these days, but I digress. I wince at anything that makes fun of Jesus. I don’t think their intention was to satirize the Jesus of the Bible against what Christianity has become in this country. Christoph Waltz is known for his cold hearted roles in Tarantino films, so they juxtaposed that persona with a historical figure of peace. It could have very well been Budda.

  • Sean Durity

    For me, your take here is revealing some of the flaws of your canon-within-the-canon hermeneutic. To really wrestle with the issues of war and violence, you must look at the whole of Scripture, including the Old Testament battles and the decidely “violent” Second Coming. Jesus is both Savior and King-Warrior. He is Prince of Peace precisely because he eventually destroys all opposition (making his enemies his footstool). See Isaiah 9.

    • David D. Flowers

      Sean, did you read my last post on Christ and the Scriptures?

      • Bob

        It seems like we are talking about two different issues.

        1) Whether or not christians should respond to conflict with violence.

        2) Whether God has/will act(ed) with violence against what opposes him.

      • Sean Durity

        Yes, I did. I commented there, too. I agree with most of what you said there. However, I do think you too easily dismiss the witness of the Old Testament to God’s character. Your approach is beautiful in its simplicity, but I think it glosses over the rich tapestry of God’s character revealed through out the Scriptures. There is certainly some progression in revelation. And Jesus is the fullness of Deity and man. But to take the gospels as the “core” or “lens” of Scripture and dismiss anything else that doesn’t fit your picture of Jesus misses the point.

        I also agree with Cindy’s point that different characteristics of Jesus are revealed in Revelation and other eschatological sections of Scripture. These need to be reconciled with your pacifist version.

        “All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable…”

        • David D. Flowers

          Sean & Cindy, our friend Bill touched on (down below) some things I was going to mention about Revelation. A violent Jesus can’t be found in Revelation. While John sets things up to look like an apocalyptic battle, it should be noticed that Jesus merely speaks judgement. The blood is his own. If you have specific verses in mind, let me know and I’ll be glad to share my interpretation.

          As I stated in my “How I View Christ & the Scriptures”… I adopt a Christocentric hermeneutic that aids me in reading all of the OT through that lens. Yes, it is true that 278 of 404 verses in Revelation allude to OT imagery. However, there are no contradictions with the Jesus of the Gospels and that which is revealed in Revelation. John is merely using apocalyptic language to describe a cosmic event of divine proportions.

          Again, I would be glad to share my interpretation of any verse you’re thinking that contradicts the life and teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.

        • Cindy

          Hi, David

          While I would be really interested in anything you might have to say about Revelation, I was thinking of eschatology on an individual basis. Like what He’s planning to do to those who die without showing any progress, so to speak. I was referring to the fate of the damned, but I didn’t want to go all specific and derail your topic. ;)

          No, I don’t think God is ultimately violent in any sense of the word. My only reservation about the pacifism thing is in regard to defense of the innocent and of self-defense. I’m thinking about people like Hitler and what would have happened if he hadn’t been stopped — The guy shooting up Sandy Hook, and what a person present and able to stop him should do — an incident here in my town where a student took down a fellow student who had been holding up a math class late into the evening with his dad’s hunting rifle, breathing death threats. Was tackling him, and in the process causing injury, the wrong thing to do? How far should pacifism go?

          Blessings — doing taxes ugh! — reading your blog is much more interesting.

          Cindy

        • David D. Flowers

          Hey Cindy, yeah… save the “fate of the damned” for the Hell post. :-)

          As for Hitler, Sandy Hook, and using violence for self-preservation… give Boyd and Claiborne a listen.

          BTW: I don’t like the term “pacifist” because it’s loaded with assumptions. I prefer the term non-violent “redemptionist” or “reconciliationist.” (I think it’s also in keeping with both of our nuanced views on eternal punishment, as opposed to the violent eternal torture view.)

          Let me know what you think of Boyd and Claiborne’s thoughts.

    • Cindy

      Sean, I think we need to ask ourselves what precisely Jesus destroys. We see His destroying all opposition by destroying all opposers. But what if He destroys His enemies (as He has done with us) by making them His friends?

      That said, I agree with you that a pacifistic Christianity coupled with a violent eschatology doesn’t work.

      • Sean Durity

        Psalm 2, often quoted in the New Testament, indicates that He will shatter the unbelieving nations like an earthenware vessel. Revelation uses and re-imagines many of the OT prophets’ visions of the destruction of the wicked. In fact, Revelation cannot be understood properly apart from an in-depth view of the OT. Even a supposedly calm Psalm, like Psalm 1 indicates that the wicked will not stand in judgment. Their way will perish. So, I think the Scriptures are clear that there is decisive judgment on those who reject Jesus – personally and collectively. If God allowed the wicked nation of Babylon to be used to severely discipline His people, what will he do to Babylon? (Revelation deals with this…)

        Bob also has a good point. How this view of God affects our choices is another issue altogether. God’s wrath is righteous. Our anger does not achieve His righteousness. In practical matters, I choose not to own a gun because I would not want to exercise deadly force and send someone to their judgment. I trust God’s protection for my family. However, I can also see the other side. I also think that there are circumstances which require a nation to use force to defend itself or to take out an aggressor.

        I have not worked out all the answers. I just think these are complicated issues that demand a careful application of all the Scriptures.

        • Cindy

          He receives the nations for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. (I love that psalm. The poetry is amazing.) He will break them with a rod of iron and shatter them like a clay pot. But He Himself was broken, and we are broken in Him. Some things need to be broken before they can be used.

          And of course the wicked will not stand in the judgment and of course their way will perish. Best thing that could happen to them, IMO. The way into Life is through death. Jesus blazed the trail and those of us who follow Him have already entered into His life.

          I don’t want to give you the wrong idea though, Sean. I’m not a big political aficionado, but I do support 2nd Amendment rights. No need to go into that really — I just didn’t want to leave you in the dark.

  • Bill Benninghoff

    Great discussion everyone. The book of Revelation itself can be read in a non-violent way. Greg Boyd has done some work on this. For example, in chapter 19 when Christ appears on the white horse, the sword that comes out of his mouth can be understood as a symbol for the truth, just as Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is like a sharp sword which discerns the thoughts and motives of the heart. So then, Christ overcomes evil by speaking truth, not by violent killing. In addition, in Rev. 19 when He appears on the white horse, He is dipped in a robe of his *own* blood, not the blood of his enemies. Perhaps this signifies that he “conquers” or overcomes evil by laying down his own life, rather than by taking lives? Could these two things “speaking truth and laying down ones lives for our enemies” also be what Rev. 12:11 alludes to when it says that Christ’s followers overcome the satan by the word of our testimony (truth) and not loving our lives unto the death? (sacrifice) So perhaps one of the main messages in revelation is that Christ and his followers overcome evil as we live lives of truth and lay down our lives in love not only for our friends but also for our enemies.

    • David D. Flowers

      Thanks for contributing, Bill.

      As for Revelation, I like the following books: “Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation” by Bruce Metzger and “Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship & Witness—Following the Lamb Into New Creation” by Michael Gorman.

    • Sean Durity

      These are a stretch. Besides, they barely touch other aspects of Revelation. How about chapter 16 when God pours out his bowls of wrath upon the earth in judgment? Or ch 17 – 18, the utter destruction of Babylon, the great city that has killed Jesus’ followers (bringing fire and making them drink blood, etc.)? Who will answer the martyrs’ cry from chapter 6: “How long O Lord, holy and true, will you refrain from judging and avenging our blood?” It is the Lamb who comes in wrathful judgment, so that they wicked ask the mountains to fall on them on that day of wrath. These cannot just be spiritualized or made allegorical. We dismiss the holiness of God if we try to minimize His judgment of sin for the evil wickedness that it is. And we cheapen the blood of the martyrs.

      • Sean Durity

        I agree there is no contradiction with a full reading of the gospels, either. Matthew 24 certainly indicates plenty of “violence” at His second coming. the tribes of earth mourning, the wicked slave being cut to pieces, the Son of Man coming in power, the stars falling, the analogy of the total destruction of Noah’s flood, etc.

        • David D. Flowers

          Sean, the violence in Matt 24 is not done by Christ or his followers. I admit that there is “destruction” for the wicked, in 70 AD (destruction of the Second Temple) & on the future Day of the Lord. But that destruction is what comes to the wicked as a consequence of their choosing to reject God’s image in the world. The Lord himself isn’t doing any violence. Violence is done by the wicked.

      • David D. Flowers

        Sean, as I understand it… “wrath” is the natural consequence of the wickedness of men. “Wrath” is built into the laws of the universe. Of course the biblical writers ultimately attribute this to the Lord (he created the world and is responsible for it), but if you look closer… it’s not the Lord directly causing harm to the wicked, it’s the natural consequence of their sin. They receive what is due them (Rom 1: 18-32). God “gives them over” to sin and its consequences (v. 24).

        I highly recommend Metzger’s book “Breaking the Code”—a first century perspective of the apocalyptic language of Revelation. I believe the destruction of “Babylon” is a cryptic reference to the Roman Empire. And what happened to the Roman Empire? Just what the four horseman symbolize: (1) military invasion; (2) inflation & famine; (3) war & bloodshed; (4) death & the aftermath of war.

        What was fulfilled in the first century ought to be applied to all empires that persecute God’s people and spread the maddening wine of her adulteries. The book of Revelation contrasts the overcomers who follow Christ’s example, with those who worship the “Beast” (Empire).

        I’m in no way cheapening the holiness of God or minimize his judgment against sin. I’m understanding them in light of Christ as the exact representation of God and interpreting the Scriptures in their literary context. In Revelation, the Lord merely speaks (sword out of mouth) judgment on the wicked of the earth, who will be swept away like in the day of Noah.

  • Chris Gorton

    Brother Sean, I hesitate to step into this discussion because I recognize that I represent a position that is not easily reduced to bullet points – especially since I refuse to use bullets to settle disagreements ;-)

    I agree that it is important to take into account all of Scripture, and that both OT and echatological violence seem to run counter to Jesus teaching and lifestyle. Assume for the moment the difference is only apparent and not real. On that basis do you then presume to dismiss the simple reading of the sermon on the mount in favor of a simple reading of OT violence? Do we say we can ignore Jesus until we understand OT violence.

    I think evangelical Christians generally recognize that moral failure precedes intellectual doubts about the veracity of God’s word. A commitment to obey must precede a commitment to understand. The same holds true here.

    The OT clearly states “the law of the LORD is perfect.” The NT is equally unequivocal “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.”

    Jesus quotes the OT with “You have heard it was said….” and then says “but I say unto you….”

    I believe there are answers to these conundrums but I submit that a commitment to be obedient must precede understanding. I may not understand why my wife shouts “Stop the car!” but I might not live to argue if I try to say “But you said….”

    Grace & peace in the king whom we serve,

    Chris

  • Michael Fleming

    I find it quite amazing how the foundational concepts of Christianity are so misunderstood by so many on this issue. Essentially, Jesus said there are two kingdoms. This physical kingdom is run by Satan. In it is sin, division and all the rest of the fruit of evil. The other world is the Kingdom of God. In it is unity, love and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit. He said he came to save us from this kingdom and take us into God’s. The apostles helped explain it even more, calling us aliens to this world because we’ve entered God’s.

    In this kingdom, violence is a characteristic of it because division is a part of its nature. Not so in God’s Kingdom. He gave everyone the choice of which kingdom to live in. This video seems to be the result of Christians presenting a hybrid kingdom where contradictory elements (peace and violence) somehow live in harmony with each other.

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