From Greg Boyd’s blog:
I am passionately convinced that if Mennonites will hold fast to (and in some cases, return to) their historic vision of a non-violent, self-sacrificial, counter-cultural Kingdom that transcends nationalism and politics, and if they are willing to become very flexible with their distinctive cultural traditions, Mennonites are positioned to provide a home for the increasing number of people such as myself who are discovering this vision of a beautiful Kingdom and who therefore are repudiating “Christendom” (the traditional “church militant and triumphant”). Many of us want to be rooted in a historic tradition and fellowship that espouses this vision, and this makes becoming a Mennonite very appealing.
I only know one Mennonite–a local pastor in town who was raised in a different denomination (Baptist, I think) and wanted to be part of a church that would understand and support his vocal pacifism. He found that among the Mennonites. We had lunch a while back and I was telling him about the peace tradition in Churches of Christ, folks like James Harding and David Lipscomb in the 1800’s who believed that human government was inherently corrupt, and worse, idolatrous. They knew that the tendency of government–any government–was to exalt itself to rival God, and demand blood sacrifice. Governments would send their young men to die and to kill others.
Lipscomb wrote things like this:
The children of God are so mixed and mingled with the kingdoms of the world, that God cannot destroy the wicked kingdoms, without destroying his own children. Hence the call of God is:
“Come out of her my people that ye be not partakers of
her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev.
This is spoken of the Babylon of human government. We cannot find one word of ground, in all the New Testament, for the children of God participating in the kingdoms of the evil one. The practice weakens the church of God; deprives it of the service, the talent, time and devotion of its children, gives its strength to the building up of what God proposes to destroy. It brings the spirit of the world kingdoms into the church of God, corrupts the church, drives out the spirit of God, destroys the sense of dependence upon God, causes the children of God to depend upon their own wisdom and devices, and the arm of violence, and the institutions of earth rather than upon God and his appointments; weans them from trust and faith in God, and from service in his kingdom, diverts their minds, means and service from the church to the kingdoms of the world, and so defiles and corrupts the church that God cannot bless that church.
I know about this, and at one point, a bunch of people did. And they respected it. There’s a university named for Lipscomb in Tennessee, and one named for Harding in Arkansas. These guys weren’t outliers, they were in the mainstream of our movement.
I’m not enough of a historian to know when those views lost currency. When I was growing up, I never even heard of non-government involvement and pacifism as faithful options. Good Christians were supposed to vote Republican and support the troops. I suspect it was World War II that sounded the death knell for the radical kingdom of God versus kingdom of the world theology in Churches of Christ. I’ve aligned myself with that strain of our tradition, but as a movement we’re so far away from our pacifist roots that it’s like I’m speaking a foreign language when I try to talk about this stuff.
Which is a real shame. I would like for Churches of Christ to be appealing for a guy like Greg Boyd, but most people aren’t going to think of Churches of Christ the same way they think of Mennonites. Because that’s just not us anymore. Maybe we’ll recapture the pacifist tradition. I know some younger people who are attracted to that posture. But most of them are on their way to a different denomination. I don’t know if they’ll stay among us long enough to help us change.
Which is fine. We’re far from the only outpost of the kingdom. Peace be unto them.
A side note: a couple of weeks ago the associate minister at our church asked for suggestions for what message to put on the church marquee. I recommended “Praying for the Peace of Iran.” He thought that would be controversial. Which is right. But that’s wrong.
How many times did Jesus tell us to pray for our enemies? How often do we?
How many times did Jesus tell us to pray for our troops?