KOH2RVA: Day 113

Amish BuggyThis is how it happens sometimes:

  1. A shooting takes place at an elementary school in Connecticut.
  2. You feel the pain the whole nation is feeling, but don’t know what to say.  On one side are all your liberal friends, screaming for gun control.  On the other side are all your conservative friends, pleading the Second Amendment.  All you know is that you don’t want one more child to die.
  3. Over the Christmas holiday you take your family to visit your parents at a nursing home in Franklin, West Virginia.
  4. On the way your daughter spots an Amish buggy whizzing down the road, and wants to know more about these fascinating people.
  5. You do a Google search when you get home and find a whole website about the Amish and the Mennonites.
  6. You find this section that seems eerily relevant to Number 1 above:

Q: I understand your belief in nonresistance and pacifism. Does this principle extend to personal situations where you are confronted with imminent evil, say a known murderer confronting you and your family in your home? Can you use force to preserve your life in this situation? To what extent? What is the Biblical basis for your position?

A: Both Amish and Mennonites are committed to a lifestyle of peace and non-violence. Yes, this pervades every aspect of life. However, no one can predict with certainty how anyone would really react to an absolutely unprecedented crisis such as described above. Emotions as well as thoughts are involved and the situation is personalized. Having said this, we would hope that as people who have practiced a lifestyle of peace, we would not resort to force and violence in a crisis situation such as the one described.

We must briefly make several points:

  1. There is no assurance that use of force would save my life or the life of my family if confronted by an attacker.
  2. We could recall many accounts of unhoped for deliverances, whether by mediation, nature, or divine Providence, when Christians refused to use force when confronted by an attacker.
  3. If the result is death at the hands of the attacker, so be it; death is not threatening to us as Christians. Hopefully the attacker will have at least had a glimpse of the love of Christ in our nonviolent response.
  4. The Christian does not choose a nonviolent approach to conflict because of assurance it will always work; rather the Christian chooses this approach because of his/her commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.

Some of the Biblical references for peace and non-resistance are: Matthew 5:38-48; John 18:36; Romans 12:18-21; and I Corinthians 6:18.

I still don’t know what to say about the shooting in Connecticut, or what our response as a nation should be, but I’m impressed by the way the Amish and the Mennonites approach the subject.  I love their line, “If the result is death…so be it; death is not threatening to us as Christians.”  That sounds gutsy, and a whole lot like something Jesus might say.

As we work to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, this year, maybe we can remind people of that—that faith in Christ can set you free,

Even from the fear of death.

2 thoughts on “KOH2RVA: Day 113

  1. Dr. Somerville,

    This is in reference to your sermon on Dec. 30 that my wife and I happened to see.

    Your comments jibe with mine in that after moving to Glen Allen over three years back, I happened one day to hit 88.1 on my car radio, a Christian radio station of the American Family Association. My observations are similar to yours: if this a truly Christian radio station, the station and its commentators have a distorted view of the message of Jesus. From morning to night it is nothing but ideology sometimes wrapped in Christianity, but usually not, that is far, far to the right. I have on occasion contacted one or more of the talk show hosts, but alas they seem to be immune to critiques of what they are saying or implying. As a Christian, I welcome alternate views but I cannot subscribe to those who see only one side, often distorted or even false, of an issue.

    I worked for 47 years in intelligence in Washington, know people who have served from a cabinet secretary in the GWBush administration, to retired ambassadors. I run a twice-montyly current events group, teach at the Shepherd’s Center, and at the U. of Richmond Lifelong Long Learning Institute. This gives me some insight into many current issues.

    So, an amen to your well-received sermon this morning. My wife and I retain membership in a Presbyterian church and attend one here in Glen Allen–though because my wife has heart and lung conditions and is oxygen, we are not always up and running in the morning hours.

    God bless you and your ministry at First Baptist…

    Phil True

    BTW, I grew up in southern Michigan in a farming area; there were Somervilles on neighboring farms…

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