Either we serve the Unconditional or some Hitlerian monster will supply an iron convention to do evil by

W. H. Auden , "Christmas, 1940"

World history is filled with atrocities committed in the name of Jesus - the Crusades, the pogroms against the Jews, the current strife in Northern Ireland. Yet, we must ask: Is this what was taught by the teacher of divine love? Was Jesus an advocate of bloodshed? In the savage Wars of Religion that followed the Reformation, Christian thinkers were confronted with a profound existential crisis. The wars were raging, and neither side seemed prepared to concede. Those who understood themselves as Christians were killing other Christians. Did Jesus come to bring a message of love or had he come to bring a sword? As we struggle to understand the atrocities committed because of ethnic and religious differences in Kosovo, we ask again: Is this what was taught by the best of Teachers?
Either we serve the Unconditional or some Hitlerian monster will supply an iron convention to do evil by

W. H. Auden , "Christmas, 1940"

World history is filled with atrocities committed in the name of Jesus - the Crusades, the pogroms against the Jews, the current strife in Northern Ireland. Yet, we must ask: Is this what was taught by the teacher of divine love? Was Jesus an advocate of bloodshed? In the savage Wars of Religion that followed the Reformation, Christian thinkers were confronted with a profound existential crisis. The wars were raging, and neither side seemed prepared to concede. Those who understood themselves as Christians were killing other Christians. Did Jesus come to bring a message of love or had he come to bring a sword? As we struggle to understand the atrocities committed because of ethnic and religious differences in Kosovo, we ask again: Is this what was taught by the best of Teachers?

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Fallen Statue of Christ

This is one in a Stations of the Cross series which creates a mythic association between the sufferings of Jesus and the suffering of the Polish people.

Medrek Czeslaw
c. 1992
Ceramic relief
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


Father Kolbe

While imprisoned in a German concentration camp, the Franciscan friar Maksymilian Kolbe offered to sacrifice his life for that of another prisoner condemned to die. The Nazis accepted and Fr. Kolbe was starved to death. The man he saved is still alive.

Czeslaw Medrek
c. 1993
Ceramic relief
PMA:J99.1999.
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


What a city we have given over to plunder and destruction!

Sultan Muhammed II

In 1453, after years of vicious conflict between Muslims and Christians, Sultan Mohammed II successfully attacked one of the most sacred cities in Christendom - Constantinople. As his armies broke through the city’s walls, a whole set of Christian beliefs concerning war had also begun to shatter and disintegrate. It took almost a century, but at the Augsburg Confession of 1530, Christian thinkers formulated an understanding of war fundamentally different from that which obtained during the Crusades. The Christian Crusades had glorified the idea of warring for the sake of Christ; but at the Augsburg Confession, Christians followed Luther in asserting that the responsibilities of Christian and citizen, of Church and State, should be separate. Christians could still fight, but they could no longer justify fighting in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
What a city we have given over to plunder and destruction!

Sultan Muhammed II

In 1453, after years of vicious conflict between Muslims and Christians, Sultan Mohammed II successfully attacked one of the most sacred cities in Christendom - Constantinople. As his armies broke through the city’s walls, a whole set of Christian beliefs concerning war had also begun to shatter and disintegrate. It took almost a century, but at the Augsburg Confession of 1530, Christian thinkers formulated an understanding of war fundamentally different from that which obtained during the Crusades. The Christian Crusades had glorified the idea of warring for the sake of Christ; but at the Augsburg Confession, Christians followed Luther in asserting that the responsibilities of Christian and citizen, of Church and State, should be separate. Christians could still fight, but they could no longer justify fighting in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Muhammed II at the Walls of Constantinople in 1453

The frenetic drama of Doré's image - the rearing horse, the thunderous breaking of the waves, the besieged ships - expresses the profound spiritual and historical import of Muhammed's conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Gustave Doré
19th Century
Engraving
PMA:J99.1897
© Die Kreuzzüge und die Kultur ihrer Zeit


… I say unto you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also…

Matthew 5: 39-40.

Of all the Christian groups of the so-called Radical Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Anabaptists were perhaps the most radical. Anabaptists asserted that proper Christian discipleship demanded an absolute obedience to God, a total "yieldedness" to the message and will of Christ. The Anabaptists believed that living in the perfection of Christ necessarily implied a rejection of all forms of violence. It also meant that one’s life should imitate Jesus’ in every possible particular - including his terrible suffering and death. Beginning in 1525, Anabaptists across Europe began to be martyred for their religious views. The irony is morbid: the sixteenth-century groups who believed most ardently in peace were often the most brutally persecuted.
… I say unto you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also…

Matthew 5: 39-40.

Of all the Christian groups of the so-called Radical Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Anabaptists were perhaps the most radical. Anabaptists asserted that proper Christian discipleship demanded an absolute obedience to God, a total "yieldedness" to the message and will of Christ. The Anabaptists believed that living in the perfection of Christ necessarily implied a rejection of all forms of violence. It also meant that one’s life should imitate Jesus’ in every possible particular - including his terrible suffering and death. Beginning in 1525, Anabaptists across Europe began to be martyred for their religious views. The irony is morbid: the sixteenth-century groups who believed most ardently in peace were often the most brutally persecuted.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Mennonite Baptism

Baptism into the Mennonite faith was an initiation into a radical Christian discipleship, a turning of one's back on the world's values and a "yieldedness" to the will of God in all things.

Bernard Picard
c. 1723
Engraving
© Collection The Provincial Museum of Alberta


…so it is strange that men, made after the image of God, should have so much degenerated, that they rather bear the image and nature of roaring lions … and raging boars, than of rational creatures imbued with reason.

Robert Barclay, Apology

Born in the crucible of rapid change and social upheaval that characterized seventeenth-century England, the Quakers arose in a world of fiercely polemical politics and violence. Within this charged political and social atmosphere, George Fox (1624-1691), the founder and charismatic leader of the Quakers, boldly asserted that members of the Society of Friends (another name for the Quakers) would no longer participate in warfare. Fox believed that war was the product of lust and that the adoption of carnal weapons in the pursuit of earthly desires was an act outside the perfection that Christ demanded of his followers. The Quaker's spirit of pacifism and friendship - which continues to this day - was carried to America where it was manifested in equitable relations with the native peoples.
…so it is strange that men, made after the image of God, should have so much degenerated, that they rather bear the image and nature of roaring lions … and raging boars, than of rational creatures imbued with reason.

Robert Barclay, Apology

Born in the crucible of rapid change and social upheaval that characterized seventeenth-century England, the Quakers arose in a world of fiercely polemical politics and violence. Within this charged political and social atmosphere, George Fox (1624-1691), the founder and charismatic leader of the Quakers, boldly asserted that members of the Society of Friends (another name for the Quakers) would no longer participate in warfare. Fox believed that war was the product of lust and that the adoption of carnal weapons in the pursuit of earthly desires was an act outside the perfection that Christ demanded of his followers. The Quaker's spirit of pacifism and friendship - which continues to this day - was carried to America where it was manifested in equitable relations with the native peoples.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Friends' Meeting in London Circa 1770

The Society of Friends met in order to articulate the meaning of living in the "Perfection of Christ," of following Jesus on the paths of pacifism.

The Provincial Museum of Alberta
c. 1770
Oil
PMA:J99.1845
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


Quaker Meeting in London: A Woman Speaks

Quaker prayer meetings were renowned for a gender egalitarianism rarely found in eighteenth-century churches.

Bernard Picard
c. 1723
Engraving
PMA:J99.1988
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe the Christian attitude toward war in the name of Christ, before and after the Crusades
  • Explain the theology of Anabaptists and Quakers in relation to war and violence

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