Faith and Violence

We’re a violent species, we humans. It seems likely that we always have been. Five thousand years ago, when King Lugalzaggizi conquered a city he wrote proudly that he had built a wooden tower, and had the women and children thrown inside it. He impaled the surviving men on the outside, and set the whole thing on fire. He did not do this in the name of God. He did it for the joy of it. Behind him are millennia of tribal warfare, kings sitting on thrones made from human bones, drinking from the skulls of their enemies.

The great empires of the world have been won by slaughter, their borders held by men trained to kill.   The Empress Sophia, mother of the Emperor Constantine, became a Christian. To honour his mother, Constantine followed suit, and so did the Empire, and over time it came to be the case that one had either to profess Christianity or to die horribly. State religion got itself all tied up with power, and finally to be a human being living in the western world one was, by definition, a “Christian”.

But the forces of Empire, of oppression, of genocide, of sexual slavery, mass slaughter, torture and rapine all continued. The only difference was that they were now being done by people who called themselves Christians, and probably in large part thought of themselves as Christian.

So now we find ourselves culturally disentangling, dis-identifying with Christianity, and then blaming it for what we’ve done over the last thousand years or so. We didn’t sodomoze and ruin First Nations children in residential schools because we were Christian; we did it because we were human.

So now, when we no longer find ourselves situated in a Christian civilization, we have another chance, a chance to do it right, and remember always, at every moment, that Jesus was never about power over. Laws and jails and punishment belong to Caesar; love and charity and freedom belong to God.

So for God’s sake, in this time of possible war, let’s remember as hard as we can that no war is ever fought for Christ, and that no human being can ever be killed in His name.

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