Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence

Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence

In addition to chronicling our writing journey and posting samples of our writing, we are introducing a new feature. They aren’t book reviews, but our thoughts on books. We work to be better producers of words by being avid consumers of words.

I’ve long identified as a pacifist, because I don’t see any other possibility for Christians. Despite my opinion, pacifism is a minority view amongst Christians, unless you belong to one of a handful of faith traditions that actively teach nonviolence, such as Quakers. I’ve finally decided it is time for me to explore this and attempt to understand what it means in my life as a Jesus follower, so I’ve been adding to my reading list with this intention. Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence by Stanley Hauerwas has been one of my first forays into intentionally exploring what nonviolence means.

One of the most important points Hauerwas makes is that nonviolence cannot and must not be understood as against violence, which is to say we can’t define ourselves by what we aren’t. Instead, nonviolence should be a synonym for the friendship that God has made possible and this friendship is an alternative to the violence of this world. Through this friendship with God we have been tasked with the ministry of reconciliation, which includes, but surely is not limited to, reconciling humanity to itself. Violence only serves to undermine friendship and does not have a place there. If we are called into friendship with God, so that we can share that friendship with all humanity, how can we participate in the violence of this world? Elsewhere Hauerwas states one of the most powerful antidotes to violence is conversation, willingly making oneself vulnerable in front of an other. Shouldn’t this be the trademark of our lives and not a continued participation in the violence of this world?

After September 11, 2001, as American announced “we” are at war, Hauerwas knew that his “me” cannot exist as part of the American “we”. There is not part of him that was at war. My turning point was not September 11, 2001, but May 2, 2011. As America celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden, I felt a disconnect. There is no part of me that could celebrate his death, because one murder is one too many. Like Hauerwas, my “me” has been separated from the American “we”. My allegiance is not, and cannot be, to a community that celebrates death. Instead, it is to a counter-community that would rather die than kill. After all, God decided it was far better to die on a cross then to redeem the world through violence.

Image taken from: http://archive.defense.gov/dodcmsshare/photoessay/2011-05/hires_110502-M-KZ372-100a.jpg

1 Comment

  1. January 28, 2018 / 5:17 pm

    Violence only serves to perpetuate itself.

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