How The Church Became Violent

For a while now I’ve been seeing things, hearing things, picking up on some subtle and not so subtle words, actions and vibes from some Christians and some pastors. Not all Christians, not all pastors, but enough to catch my attention and cause me concern.

From here on out when I refer to ‘the church’ I hope you’ve picked up that I mean ‘a segment’ of the church, a portion, some, not all. Okay? Are we clear on that?

I will also be using the collective pronoun ‘we’. I have no problem including myself in the problem I’m about to describe. If you have a problem including yourself in the problem, no problem, that’s fine. I hope you are not part of the problem. I believe there will be many who read this series who are not part of the problem. But if the proverbial shoe fits, wear it, but don’t run away after you put it on.

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The church is too violent. We have become hostile, brutal, brawlers towards those we disagree with. It doesn’t matter if it is the non-Christian world or fellow Christians, we are too willing to draw blood. I am just as guilty. I see too much violence in me.

How did this happen?

Violence is in our blood. Violence is in our DNA. Violence is part of our Adamic nature. Cain was the first murderer and it is interesting to me that his first victim was his brother.

When I am attacked, challenged, confronted or questioned, my defenses go up. The most natural thing for me is to become defensive, argumentative, ready to retaliate. Self-preservation kicks in and I apply the law of the jungle instead of the law of Christ that says, “Love one another.”

Violence is in our past. History is a story of violence with brief periods of peace in very limited contexts. Man is a violent species that kills, oppresses, enslaves, dominates, discriminates, and in too many cases attempts to completely obliterate entire people-groups.

Violence is in our Bible. I love the Bible. I have read the Bible almost daily for 42 years. I believe the Bible is God’s word. Having said that…I must admit that the Bible is filled with violence, murder, war, and occasional genocide. Even the New Testament writers employ violent words and images. We read about ‘the armor of God’, ‘our warfare’, ‘the sword of the Spirit’. Peter speaks a word and a married couple falls over dead. Paul is so angered with false teachers that he wishes they would castrate themselves. Yikes. I could go on. If this sounds to you like I am being critical of the Bible you’re right, I am, but I do so while maintaining that the Bible is the most revered book I own, I love it and regard it as the primary authority in my life.

Violence is in our Patriotism. There is nothing wrong with being patriotic. I love our country. I feel very, very fortunate to have been born in the United States of America. But with the rise in prominence of Evangelicalism (By the way, I’m an Evangelical) a concerning mixture of patriotism with Christianity (or at least the Evangelical expression of Christianity) has occurred. For some Evangelicals, the idea of an unjust war is not only unpatriotic but also un-Christian. Some assume in time of war or military conflict that God is automatically on our side simply because we are “One Nation Under God.” We love to hear about the death of our enemies.

I am a quasi-pacifist. By this I mean that I am ‘anti-war’ but at the same time believe that a war can be just. I am anti-war but pro-solider. I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the men and women who have and do serve in the military, especially those who have served in combat. Every time I see a veteran wearing a cap identifying which war they served in I go up to them, shake their hand and say “Thank you.”

Violence is in our entertainment. Many of the movies we watch are filled with gratuitous violence. Many of the sports we watch are extremely violent. And what about the popularity of video games many of which depict killing, gore and suffering?

So…violence is in our blood. Violence is in our past. Violence is in our Bible. Violence is in our present. Violence is in our patriotism. Violence is in our entertainment. If all of this is true it is no wonder then that we are violent followers of the Prince of Peace.

There are five ways in which I see violence expressed in Christians:

  1. Violence comes out in our preaching.
  2. Violence comes out in social media.
  3. Violence comes out in our words.
  4. Violence comes out in our homes.
  5. Violence comes out in how we interact with those we disagree with.

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Excerpt from my book BELLIGERENT BELIEVERS. Get your copy here.