I live in a country where there are no school shootings. It’s probably due to us having extremely restrictive gun laws in Sweden, as it is illegal for civilians to carry a gun unless they have a license and guns are required to be unloaded, hidden, and supervised when transporting them.
For example, worship leader Sean Feucht warned his followers against seeking political solutions to the gun problem, telling them that the solution is to bring God “back in schools” (which, ironically, is a political suggestion):
In fact, when the National Rifle Association (NRA), the leading gun lobby organisation in the US, arranged a prayer breakfast at their national convention just a few days after the shooting, nobody on stage mentioned the attack or prayed for the families of the victims. Instead, they prayed against “Democrats and liberals” who want to have better background checks on those who want to buy guns. After all, this is the same organisation that has actively lobbied against background checks and undermined efforts to keep firearms away from those with mental illness.
Yet, there was a voice in the wilderness, a remnant of righteousness among the gunmongers. Our friend Shane Claiborne, activist and theologian, was there. Not because he is a NRA supporter, but because he wanted to show the people at this prayer breakfast the difference between the Gospel of Jesus and the gospel of guns.
I carried with me the Uvalde paper we had picked up. The front page had all those babies’ faces and the two teachers who died with them. We also had a list of all their names, along with the names of the 10 people killed in Buffalo. Our goal wasn’t to get kicked out of the prayer breakfast. Our goal wasn’t event to disrupt it.
We had tickets and waited until there was a space without speakers in the program so we didn’t interrupt. Our goal was singular – to pray for the victims by name, and to invite everyone to join us. With the help of a coalition of clergy around the country known as National Faith Leaders For Ending Gun Violence, we had created a liturgical, call-and-response, prayer. Before reading aloud each name, we say together, “God knows their names.” And after each name, we say, “Lord, have mercy.” Simple, heartfelt prayer.
As we were told that the program would pause, and breakfast would begin, I stood, holding the Uvalde paper, and invited people to join us in prayer for the victims. After the first name, we were told that we would be arrested if we did not leave. So we invited people to join us outside, as we respectfully complied with police orders. It is noteworthy that the police came quicker to kick us out of the prayer meeting than to confront the shooter in Uvalde.
“I’m going to go straight to Jesus and say we cannot serve two masters. And we really are at a crossroads where we’ve got to choose: Are we going to follow Jesus or the NRA? And literally, you couldn’t come up with much more contrasting messages. The gospel of Jesus — turn the other cheek, love our enemies — stands in direct opposition to the rhetoric of the NRA — stand your ground. The gun and the cross give us two very different versions of power.”
“Idols are things that we put our trust in. They’re not God, but we treat them like they are,” Claiborne said. “We put this sort of sacred reverence into things that should only be given to God. And it’s been said that idols are things that we are willing to die for, kill for, and sacrifice our children for. And literally, by that definition, I think guns would have that sort of unreasonable dedication.”
“Guns are not made in the image of God but children are,” he added.
We live in a violent world. The war in Ukraine is killing thousands and causes huge waves of refugees, economic instability and food shortages. The war in Syria is still going on, and the conflicts in Yemen, Afghanistan and South Sudan no longer even make headlines. During most of the last decade, the world has become less peaceful.
In response to such violence, many people think that the solution is more violence. Conventional wisdom tells us that we need to arm ourselves so we become stronger and deadlier than the “bad guys”.
Christian pacifists, who just like most Christians for the first 300 years believe that Jesus’ words about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek mean that we should not use violence, are often accused of being naive. Some have even claimed that Christian pacifism is evil! While abstaining from violence sounds loving in theory, many argue that the practical consequences of such a stance is catastrophic with countless innocent people killed as the “good guys” refused to harm or kill those who were after civilian blood.
War and violence are thus portrayed as a necessary evil, a last resort that we unfortunately have to use to stop authoritarian, mass-killing regimes.
All this is intuition. It’s what seems reasonable. But when researchers started to compare violent resistance to nonviolent resistance, they were in for a chock.
It turns out that nonviolence is at least twice as effective.
I encountered this research when I was part of a program in peace and conflict studies at Uppsala University. The findings is a real game-changer, making scholars from all around the world rethinking the need and use for military violence in the modern era.
An influential study by conflict researchers Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan from 2012 showed that nonviolent movements are twice as effective as violent movements in achieving their goals. They expanded upon this research in the book Why Civil Resistance Works. They collected data from over 300 protest movements between 1900 and 2016. 53 % of the nonviolent movements managed to achieve their goal, usually a change of regime, within a year, compared with 26% of the violent movements.
This study was groundbreaking, as no one had compared the results of violent and nonviolent methods in such a comprehensive way before. In 2018, Chenoweth published a new study together with Evan Perkoski that examined how well nonviolence compared to violence counteracted mass killing, when regimes kill 1000 people or more. They found that nonviolent movements were five times more effective at avoiding this than violent movements.
What are the reasons for the effectiveness of nonviolence? Chenoweth points to several factors. Nonviolence is generally cheaper and can easily recruit many more, there is greater variety of nonviolent methods than violent methods, it is psychologically more difficult for loyalists to harm or kill nonviolent trainees than armed rebels, and it is easier for loyalists to change sides and unite with nonviolent protests and nonviolent sabotage.
Chenoweth’s work has made a significant impact on peace and conflict research in general. Even non-pacifists like James Pattison and Ed Cairns have gained greater respect for non-violent methods and warned against resorting to violence too quickly. Cairns wrote:
I’ve never believed that pacifism is an adequate answer to a world of atrocities that – in truly exceptional cases – call out for an armed response. But there’s an awful lot of evidence for caution – and reason to give peace a chance.
Even if you can not guarantee that non-violence will succeed, you can also not guarantee that violence will succeed. The “necessary” in violence as “necessary evil” is difficult to prove scientifically.
This is great news! Loving enemies, like Jesus commanded us to, is actually more beneficial than killing them. Such love does not have to be at the expense of protecting the innocent. The question now is if the leaders of the world will take this research seriously and spend time and money developing nonviolent defense systems rather than military ones?
On a war rally in a Moscow stadium last Friday, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin said that his “special military operation” in Ukraine, which he refuses to call a war, reminded him of the words of Jesus in John 15:13: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus warned that there would be false prophets who claim to follow him but refuse to do his will (Matthew 7:21). He said that there would be those who persecute Christians who actually think that they serve God (John 16:2).
Whether Putin is deluded enough to actually think that he is loving people as he bombs children is impossible to know. Perhaps he hates God and just uses religious language to gain support.
In either case, the Bible makes it clear that all those who take the Lord’s name in vain to justify their own evil actions will stand accountable before him on the last day. God will restore all those who fell victim to injustice, and invite us to an eternal life with him without any wars, lies or oppression.
All thanks to the one who truly gave his life because of his love for us: Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
“God will let the satanic rearmament of nuclear weapons and biological warfare strike the godless themselves in forms of plagues that will exterminate large portions of humanity.”
– Folke Thorell, Evangelii Härold, 1968.
Pentecostals were the largest religious group among conscientious objectors in Sweden between 1967 and 1971, a time characterized by passionate debates on the ethics of war in the shadows of Vietnam and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In my master’s thesis on church history, I aimed to review and analyze how the Pentecostal periodicals Evangelii Härold and Dagen described and ethically motivated military violence and pacifism during this period.
The purpose was to identify potential motivations for pacifism and/or military support during a time when a large number of Pentecostals refused to bear arms, with particular interest in how these motivations related to ethical evaluation on contemporary wars.
The findings were fascinating. Pacifism and conscientious objection were regularly promoted and seldom criticized, while most contemporary military violence was condemned with one glaring exception: Israeli warfare.
Folke Thorell, quoted above, thought that God principally is against war, but allows them to fulfill his eschatological plans and even engages himself in warfare. He envisioned two-thirds of all Jews to die in a future third world war involving nuclear bombs, a genocide so brutal it would make the Holocaust seem “minuscule” in comparison.
Unlike the American war effort in Vietnam, Israel’s wars were commonly viewed as eschatologically significant and biblically predicted holy wars, with several writers suggesting that God himself has waged and will wage war on Israel’s behalf. Pacifism was primarily motivated by obedience to the Bible rather than empathy, fitting with Lisa Cahill’s theory of obediential pacifism being distinct from empathic pacifism in the Christian tradition.
Support for Israeli warfare was also derived from biblical interpretation, primarily based on Old Testament texts. It was further motivated by ideas of Jewish suffering and death being part of God’s plan, with several Pentecostal writers speculating that an apocalyptic genocide would precede the second coming of Christ.
Many Pentecostals did not see this as standing in conflict with personal pacifism and conscientious objection, as both views were perceived as biblical.
Future research could further explore the relationship between Pentecostal eschatology and empathy, along with how mid-century Pentecostal Zionism might have been influenced by antisemitic ideas from the 1930’s.
20 years ago, Al Qaida killed 3,000 civilians through terror and fire. That was a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.
In response, the USA started two wars that have killed 70,000 civilians in Afghanistan and 200,000 (!) in Iraq. Thousands of them were children.
That was also a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.
Shane Claiborne is an activist and theologian who had wise things to say concerning the violent aftermath of 9/11. From his book The Irresistible Revolution (2nd edition, pp. 185-187):
When Kingdoms Collide
Shortly after September 11th, I traveled to speak to a large congregation in the Midwest. (And no, it wasn’t Willow Creek.) Before I got up to preach, a military color guard presented the US flagat the altar. The choir filed in one-by-one, dressed in red white, and blue, with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” playing in the background. I knew I was in big trouble. The congregation pledged allegiance to the flag, and I wished it were all a dream. It wasn’t. I got up to speak, thankful I was standing behind a large podium lest anyone try to pelt me with a pew Bible. I went forward to preach the truth in love with my knees knocking and managed to make it out okay with a bunch of hugs and a few feisty letters.
This is a dramatic (though painfully true) illustration of the messy collision of Christianity and patriotism that has rippled across our land. I thought this was an exceptional and dramatic example, but l’ve had same zingers since this. I spoke at a military academy where they had a full-on procession of military vehicles and weaponry. They fired cannons and saluted the flag, and then I got up to speak. I felt compelled to speak on the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control), the things Scripture says God is like and we should hope to be more like.
I talked about how the fruit of the Spirit take training and discipline and are not always cultivated by the culture around us. Afterward, one young soldier came up to me, nearly in tears, and told me that as he heard the list of the fruit of the Spirit, it became clear to him that these were not the things he was being trained to become. We prayed together, and I think of him often. I know that young man is not alone.
I saw a banner hanging next to city hall in downtown Philadelphia that read, “Kill them all, and let God sort them out.” A bumper sticker read, “God will judge evildoers, We just have to get them to him.” I saw a T-shirt on a sold’ that said, “US Air Force … we don’t die; we just go to hell to regroup.” Others were less dramatic-red, white, and blue billboards saying, “God bless our troops.” “God bless America” became a marketing strategy. One store hung an ad in their window that said, “God bless America–$1 burgers.”
Patriotism was everywhere, including in our altars and church buildings. In the aftermath of September 11th, most Christian bookstores had a section with books on the event, calendars, devotionals, buttons, all decorated in the colors of America, draped in stars and stripes, and sprinkled with golden eagles.
This burst of nationalism reveals the deep longing we all have for community, a natural thirst for intimacy that liberals and progressive Christians would have done much better to acknowledge. September 11th shattered the self-sufficient, autonomous individual, and we saw a country of broken fragile people who longed for community–for people to cry with, be angry with, to suffer with. People did not want to be alone in their sorrow, rage, and fear.
But what happened after September 11th broke my heart. Conservative Christians rallied around the drums of war. Liberal Christians took to the streets … Many Christians missed the opportunity to validate both the horror of September 11th and outrage at war as a response to September 11th.
In the aftermath of September 11th, many congregations missed the chance to bear witness of God’s concern for the victims of the attack and God’s concern for the victims of the imminent war. Many of us hunkered down into familiar camps rather than finding a more creative way of standing with all who suffer. Many of the antiwar activists would do well to visit the memorial in NYC. And many of the war hawks would do well to visit the Ameriyah shelter in West Baghdad. Every life lost is reason for grief and outrage.
The cross was smothered by the flag and trampled under the feet of angry protesters. The church community was lost, so the many hungry seekers found community in the civic religion of American patriotism. People were hurting and crying out for healing, for salvation in the best sense of the word, as in the salve with which you dress a wound.
A people longing for a savior placed their faith in the fragile hands of human logic and military strength, which have always let us down. They have always fallen short of the glory of God.
His name is Eric Rossoni and I got to speak with him a couple of months ago. He actually used to support Donald Trump and was convinced in 2016 that God was using him. But when the Stormy Daniels scandal blew up and almost no Christian leader condemned the president for sleeping with a porn star and paying hush money to hide his sin, Eric realized that something was terribly wrong with the Christian Trump movement.
In 2020, he received a prophetic word that Trump would lose, something he also wrote about on Twitter (several hours before the election results were announced):
Eric seems to be the only American prophet who got the election prediction right, but he’s not the only one worldwide. Nigerian pastor and self-proclaimed apostle Johnson Suleman also prophesied that Trump would lose back in March 2020. However, he viewed it as a tragedy, while Eric Rossoni is thankful that Trump isn’t president anymore.
Eric is convinced that Trump has revealed the hearts of many Christians, and it’s not pretty. He hopes that Christians should abstain from strongly aligning with political parties and leaders even as we try to make the world a better place.
In order to remain politically and prophetically sharp, the church must avoid Trumpism at all costs.
I feel compelled to write something that I wish nobody should have to write, something that should be obvious to everyone but which for some ill-conceived reason can be controversial to state in certain contexts:
War is awful.
Hamas firing on and killing the Israeli civilian population is awful.
The counterattacks by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) killing Palestinian civilians are awful.
War has no winners, there is no one to “cheer” on as if it were a sports event, there is no victory in war that does not come at the price of hating, tormenting and killing your fellow human beings.
Take a look at these pictures.
The upper image shows an apartment in Israel that was hit by one of Hamas’ rockets a few weeks ago. Five-year-old Ido Avigal, pictured to the right, lived in that apartment. He died immediately.
The picture below shows a girl being rescued by medical personnel after an Israeli attack in Gaza. The attack destroyed nine buildings and killed 43 people, including eight children.
In total, 68 children have been killed in the Holy Land these last couple of weeks. 66 of them were Palestinian.
All of this is awful. It’s sickening.
I honestly can’t understand those who are either trying to portray Hamas’ rocket attacks as a legitimate “freedom struggle” or the Israeli excessive violence as a legitimate “self-defense.” It’s madness on both sides.
They all kill children. I repeat: THEY KILL CHILDREN.
Of course, some will say: “Yes, but the children that my favorite team kills are really the other team’s fault because they use all the children who happen to die as human shields”.
They had nothing to do with Hamas or the war. They were just children living in Gaza and now they are dead because war is awful.
Thankfully, the violence has currently ended in a ceasefire, but it’s a fragile one. Please pray that peace negotiations are reactivated and that both sides lay down their weapons for good.
We know for a fact that more rockets from Hamas won’t end the occupation, because it has never worked so far. We also know for a fact that IDF bombing Gaza doesn’t end the Hamas’ rocket attacks, because it has never worked so far.
We don’t need people cheering on either side of the conflict as if the killing were some kind of a football game. We need peace. Even those who do not follow Jesus need to realize the wisdom and power of loving their enemies. And that love means that we cannot rejoice in anyone’s death.
God lets the sun shine on the righteous and the unrighteous, he wants us not only to love those who love us but to break the spiral of violence by reaching out to those who hate us. That’s the only way forward.
You might not have heard about Chris Yoon, but he has actually become one of the most influential Christian voices on YouTube during the last couple of months. After repeatedly prophesying that Trump would be reelected and organize a mass execution upon Democrats, Yoon gained hundreds of thousands of subscribers and views.
Unlike some other Trump prophets, Yoon wasn’t vague in his predictions. Over and over again he emphasized that on the exact date of January 20th 2021, Trump would be reinstalled as president while the military would bring “swift justice” upon his political enemies.
These “prophecies” were influenced by the insane QAnon conspiracy theory, which had labeled January 20th as the day of “The Storm” in which hundreds of heads would roll as Trump defeated the Democrat party once and for all. Yoon was so convicted that this would happen that he told his followers to reserve “throwing your stones at me” until January 20th.
And then January 20th came.
And Chris Yoon had to awkwardly explain to his YouTube audience that unlike Biblical prophets, his prophetic words don’t need to be accurate.
After Trump lost the election, Johnson quickly jumped on the conspiracy theorist bandwaggon claiming that the election was “stolen” from Trump. In fact, he put his prophetic integrity on the line, along with all other “prophetic voices” who had claimed that Trump would be reelected:
Yeah, back in November Johnson argued that the only alternative to the #stopthesteal conspiracy theory was that numerous prophets were possessed by demons… something he clearly didn’t believe.
But after the 1/6 terror attack against the Capitol and the certification of Biden’s win by Congress, something happened with Johnson.
“When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD and the message does not come to pass or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” – Deut. 18:22
No matter if you like it or not, Joe Biden won the US presidential election. This is very awkward for all the pastors and televangelists who claimed that God had told them that Trump would be reelected. Some of them even claimed that he would do so “by a landslide”.
This video includes false Trump prophecies by Pat Robertson, Paula White-Cain, Kris Vallotton, Mark Taylor, Kat Kerr, Marcus Rogers, Kevin Zadai, Greg Locke, Taribo West, Denise Goulet, Curt Landry, Jeremiah Johnson.
As of this writing, only Vallotton has apologized for his mistake – and even he took his apology down after many of his followers protested.
Below is a list of the five most embarrassing reactions among evangelical leaders to the election results. As Trump himself has claimed that millions of votes were illegal, just like he did in 2016 and 2018 without any evidence whatsoever, many of his Christian supporters are trying to convince themselves and others that somehow he will win against all odds. Still, there are clear signs of panic and fear in these responses – a tragic consequence of them equating the Kingdom of God to the populism of Trump.
People often ask me: “Why do so many evangelical Christians support Trump?” . It’s a good question. What is with having a high view of Scripture that leads people to celebrate someone who in so many ways doesn’t sound and act like Jesus?
The allegations concerning the bizarre sex games are disputed, but the photo alone gave Liberty University enough reason to question Falwell’s leadership, as the evangelical university has some very strict guidelines concerning sexuality, dress code and alcohol consumption (Falwell is holding a drink in the photo, writing in the caption “I promise it’s just black water in my glass”).
There’s one word that people keeps coming back to when describing this situation: hypocrisy. The very thing that Jesus warned his disciples against over and over again. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”, the Lord said. “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:1-2).
Sadly, 62 percent of millennials think that hypocrisy is one of the main characteristics of the church. Why? Some evangelicals would push back, claiming that these kids have a lot of prejudice and are hypocrites themselves. But hold on a second. What if there are objective, factual reasons for non-Christians to perceive evangelicals as hypocrites?
Jerry Falwell Jr. was one of the earliest Christian leaders to endorse Donald Trump. It may be hard to remember nowadays, but Trump was hardly any evangelical’s first choice. Republican candidates like Ted Cruz were far more popular. It’s common today to hear evangelicals say that they simply don’t care about Trump’s curses, rhetoric and playboy lifestyle, as long as he nails conservative policies.
Falwell Jr. helped pioneer this line of thinking. It used to be the opposite of what evangelicals valued in a president.
These statistics show beyond any reasonable doubt that the white evangelical endorsement of Trump has radically changed their values. In 2011, over 60 percent of them said that an elected official who commits an immoral act in their private life cannot behave ethically in their public life. In the Trump era, this conviction remains among less than 20 percent. Falwell Jr. and other evangelical leaders have convinced millions of Christians that a good character simply isn’t relevant when it comes to leadership, despite there being hundreds of verses in the Scriptures that suggest otherwise.
It must have been a comfortable message for Falwell Jr. – he clearly thinks that this applies to himself as well. Other evangelical leaders have at least maintained that pastors need a good moral character, emphasizing that “we didn’t elect a pastor but a president” (which is a ridiculous logic in and of itself – American presidents have access to nuclear weapons!). Falwell Jr. on the other hand compared Trump to Jesus.
Furthermore, I wish we lived in an age where it was obvious to everyone that Trump is a hypocrite. He said that he would “drain the swamp” in Washington making it less corrupt, but has taken no action to do so and instead filled his administration with relatives, people currently under investigation and career politicians. Trump frequently accuses the media for lying, calling it “fake news”, when even his supporters clearly can see that he frequently lies himself. Just watch him deny that he has said things he actually said:
But here’s the really catastrophic part. In the gallup I referenced above, which shows that most white evangelicals don’t care about moral character in their public officials anymore, there was some stunning evidence of evangelical hypocrisy:
Do you see that? The number rises dramatically if the question is asked after Bill Clinton is mentioned, but plummets when it is Trump’s name instead. This clearly proves that at least a quarter of white evangelicals in the US are hypocrites. They disregard God’s teaching: “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” (James 2:1). They don’t shape their opinion on this matter based on God’s Word, but on the priorities of the Republican party.
The Constantinian relationship many white evangelical leaders have to whatever candidate the Republicans choose to nominate is having a disastrous effect on their discipleship and obedience to the Word. It is a problem far greater than one single former president at an evangelical school.
“So let’s run the race marked out for us. Let’s fix our eyes on Old Glory and all she represents. Let’s fix our eyes on this land of heroes and let their courage inspire.”
Just one year ago, President Trump called himself “The Chosen One”, and thanked someone for ”the very nice words” of calling him the “king of Israel” and like ”the second coming of God”.
If this isn’t blasphemy… what is it?
I’m reminded of Shane Claiborne writing in his excellent book ”The Irresistible Revolution” about when some kids insisted that he should play Jesus in a church play when he did missionary work in a Latin American country.
”Why don’t any of you play Jesus?” he asked.
”You must do it!” the children said, ”because you’re white and come from America!”
Claiborne goes on to write:
“Jesus had a new definition of family, rooted in the idea that we are adopted as orphans into the family of God and that this rebirth creates a new kinship that runs deeper than biology or geography or nationality. Rebirth is about being adopted into a new family – without borders.” (p. 188).
The Holy Spirit is not an American spirit. We should fix our eyes on Jesus, not a flag. There is no god besides God Almighty.
This is true regardless of how many politicians wish that they were the center of the universe.
We are called by Jesus to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), resolving conflicts as we go forth to spread the Gospel about his love. Peace is always dependent on at least two parties, which is why we might experience conflict even when our intention is peace.
This is why Paul writes “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12:18). We try our best on our part, and pray that the other respond constructively.
What does this look like in practice? God seems to be very concerned with us asking that question, since the Bible provides us with several practical tools for conflict resolution and peacemaking.
1. Breaking the cycle of hostility
The first tool is given to us by Paul right after he says that we should seek to live at peace with everyone. He continues: (more…)