A few years ago I published an interview on YAR with Jarrod McKenna, an Australian Christian and activist. Since then, Jarrod has occasionally participated in discussions on YAR and I’ve had a number of phone conversations with him as part of building a Christian Peacemaker Teams presence in Australia. He’s a committed and passionate advocate of Christian nonviolence.
photo via Indymedia
Today, Jarrod and 3 other Christians are hiding in the Shoalwater Bay military training area in order to stop joint training exercises by Australians and US troops in which they practice invading a Muslim town. Here’s how Simon Moyle, one of the other three involved, described it:
“The military are doing invasion training. They have built a model city inside the base with a mosque in the middle, which the Australians are defending against the Americans,” he said.
From Game on for Christian protest, The Age
There’s a Facebook group where you can follow developments in their action here The Bonhoeffer 4: living a ‘costly grace’ in the face of war. They are currently asking folks to email Australian Defence Minister John Faulkner at email@example.com calling for the games to be stopped. Take a minute to email Mr. Faulkner to support a fellow YARer on the loose. And pray for them all while you’re at it.
We must continue to oppose war in the midst of this escalation.
The facebook page indicates that they were arrested on the 14th and pled guilty to trespassing charges on the 15th.
Is this Jarrod and co promoting Jarrod or peacemaking?I wonder how he would like others to trespass on his land?
So progressive anabaptists are peace loving? Read these articles and let me know if their rhetoric matches their politics. I wonder how Jarrod and co votes?(voting in Australia is compulsory).
When you vote for a federal political party, you invariably are voting in a commander in chief who sends the military to kill people in other countries.
that should have been:
IS THIS THE
BEST PEACE WITNESS
MENNONITES CAN OFFER?
Mark R. Wenger
The events of September 11 and their aftermath have jarred all of us–deeply. One fault-line revealed in this global earthquake is what we mean by “peace witness” within the Mennonite Church USA and its congregations.
I have experienced this fracturing from the vantage point of a pastor working among a 200-member Mennonite congregation in rural Virginia. It has sent my head spinning.
On the one hand, I have heard some Mennonite voices that sound a lot like surrogate warmongers. “Since we are Mennonites, we can’t do it ourselves, but we’d sure be glad to see bin Laden and the Taliban bombed to hell for what they did.” These comments filter out through the cracks from hidden places. To my ears these whisperings represent the traditional “two-kingdom” peace theology of Mennonites taken to an extreme. The government’s job is to protect and defend its citizens, the logic goes. We Mennonites, though, can keep our hands clean and still bless those who bloody theirs on our behalf.
On the other hand, there are the righteous peaceniks who seem to have all the moral ambiguities ironed out. Their comments tend to emanate from Mennonite institutions through the media. Their tone is moralist; their strategic advice is sure. One official letter to President Bush confidently asserted on behalf of all Mennonites that “Our tradition of nonviolence teaches us that more violence will only continue the spiral of violence, placing more and more lives in danger.”
Or take another example from the church press: “Violence has proved to be an utter failure in resolving conflict.” Wow! That’s breathtaking. From this angle, “two-kingdom” peace theology has gone the way of the horse and buggy. We postmodern Mennonites now offer advice to the government with all the moral confidence of fundamentalists.
As different as they are, what these stances have is common is a tendency to spout easy solutions. The first assumes that the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ have nothing relevant to say regarding how government administers its power. The second assumes that what is relevant and true for the church as the body of Christ is equally relevant and applicable to the state. The first is in danger of losing the moral muscle of Jesus’ gospel of peace to the world; the second risks losing sight of the divine mandate of justice to punish evildoers.
I confess to finding myself in the muddled middle these days. Some years ago I extensively researched the peace witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian, pastor, and radical Christian pacifist. Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship (1937) draws a strong ethic of peace from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Christians have not only found peace in Jesus Christ, they are also to make it, insisted Bonhoeffer. And “to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ, nothing is to be gained by such methods.”
Yet later in life Bonhoeffer joined a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler and replace Nazism with another government. The plot failed; Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and eventually executed. While in prison, his uncle asked him whether he thought Christ’s law–“All who take the sword, shall perish by the sword”–was true. Yes, replied Bonhoeffer, the law is true and remains in effect. But some occasions call for people to act who are willing to take this very judgment on themselves.
In his unfinished Ethics (1955) and letters from prison, Bonhoeffer makes the case for “ultimate necessities” in which there is “no law behind which the responsible man (sic) can seek cover. . . . In this situation there can only be complete renunciation of every law . . . together with the open admission that here the law is being infringed and violated. Precisely in this breaking of the law, the validity of the law is acknowledged.” Was the assassination plot against Hitler one such ultimate necessity in Bonhoeffer’s mind? Perhaps.
By analogy, is it conceivable that genocide, terrorism, and rabid aggression–after peaceful alternatives have failed to bring remedy–may also constitute ultimate necessities? And could force of arms in the hands of the state be a responsible course of action, while acknowledging that here the law of Christ is being infringed and violated?
As a Mennonite disciple of Christ, I am willing to ponder and reluctantly concede such a potential role for the state in the present age. To be candid, I have found much public Mennonite peace theology after September 11 to be purist and utopian. The tone of address to the government is resolute, even arrogant. Not enough attention has been paid to the hard question of pursuing justice for the agents of murder. Simplistic answers to the conundrums of containing violent evil are bandied about with ease.
Nor have I heard enough focus on theology, or on the person and work of Christ Jesus and the peace of Christ. And a strong doctrine of the church as a distinct and living witness of Christ’s peace seems to be receding in favor of public posturing. Is this the best we can offer the world? I hope not.
Here are general suggestions:
Let us, in the Mennonite Church, keep our eyes fixed on Christ Jesus, holding him in the center of what we say and do.
Let us keep our voices modest and humble, addressed mostly to each other and to the church living in Christ around the world.
Let us practice humility and service, willing to risk our lives in love for the sake of the victim, the oppressed, and the enemy.
Let us speak to the state with truth and grace, informing them that we are not free, out of reverence for Christ, to support or participate in violence and warfare.
Let us be diligent in urging governing authorities to listen to their own best instincts and religious values and to seek non-military alternatives.
Let us not demand that governments in the present age live at the same level of kingdom ethics as the body of Christ.
In sum, the manner and tone of our Mennonite community life and witness for the peace of Christ are as important as the content of the peace teaching itself.
I worry that official Mennonite peace theology, by injecting itself righteously into the political arena, is becoming less persuasive and believed in the local congregation. I fear we are rapidly moving from being a people who refuse to participate in killing out of reverence and obedience to Christ to a group in which a few deign to speak boldly of peace for all, while the majority of church members shake their heads in bewilderment.
I find that nothing becomes as formative for strong peace convictions as a congregational body-life rooted in a passionate love of Christ Jesus, his person and witness. A life-shaping encounter with Jesus Christ in the company of other disciples is more decisive and convincing for developing a conscience for peace than all the public directives put together.
I wonder whether what might be called a “modified two-kingdom” peace theology offers more merit for retaining and building upon the Mennonite peace tradition for the future. Such an approach lacks some of the clean lines of the traditional two-kingdom theology and the simplistic universalism of the “violence is always a failure” peace theology.
But what it offers is a way of weighting our dual citizenship decisively in the direction of Christ without discounting the messy responsibilities of governing a sinful humanity. We witness humbly from within a corporate conscience formed by Christ without pretending we know best how government should act. May God continue to grant us the necessary footwear making us ready to proclaim Christ’s “gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).
–Mark R. Wenger, Ph.D., is co-pastor, Springdale Mennonite Church, Waynesboro, Virginia; and associate director of the Preaching Institute, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia.
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