Being a troubled nonviolent resister

Aug 21, 2015 by

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I want to be a nonviolent resister because as a Red Letter Christian I am committed to taking seriously what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. There’s no way to read through chapters 5-7 in Matthew without recognizing that Jesus called his followers to reject violence, “turn the other cheek,” and do good to those who would do us evil. Jesus told us that we are to love our enemies, and that probably means we shouldn’t kill them.

As I remind my fellow Red Letter Christians to be peacemakers, even as Jesus proposed in Matt. 5:9, I do so with some ambivalence. Realizing that the freedom to be a pacifist, or in my case a nonviolent resister, was earned for me and for other likeminded Red Letter Christians by brave men and women who both fought and, in many instances, died in order to provide that freedom. In short, I have a sense of gratitude that there have been and still are men and women in uniform who did what needed to be done so that I could live out my commitment to being a conscientious objector and not serve in the military.

It is far too easy for me, living in the security of the United States, to say that “war is not the answer” because I live thousands of miles from those places where ISIS is about to take over villages and cities — where I know its hooded terrorists will rape, murder and kidnap innocent victims.

I wonder how many others like myself, who declare themselves to be nonviolent resisters in a cavalier manner such as mine, would remain nonviolent in response to ISIS threats if ISIS was knocking on the doors of the places where we live.

Yes! I am still committed to nonviolent resistance in the face of those who, as the scriptures say, would persecute me in spite of my innocence or “for righteousness’ sake.”

So it is that I stand for nonviolent resistance with a troubled heart and mind, and I hope you can understand why.

Tony Campolo is professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in Philadelphia. He writes at Red Letter Christians, where this blog post originally appeared.


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