"Christian Nonviolence," A Response to Just War

April 20th, 2007 / 2 Comments

Christian nonviolence has been a current in the protestant church since at least the Quakers, and is often understood by its adherents as a renewal of the Christianity practiced by the pre-Constantinian (or apostolic) church.

A common misunderstanding of Christian pacifism is that its goal is to provide an alternative solution to physical violence. Stanley Hauerwas, following the tradition of Mennonite John Howard Yoder and Reformed theologian Karl Barth, believes Christian pacifism is not to be understood as a ’solution,’ but as the only response appropriate for those attempting to follow the life of Christ. Consider this quote from his interview with Sojourners:

The sacrifice to end sacrifices was made by God through the sacrifice of his son, and the ending of sacrifice means that we don’t continue to sacrifice other people to make the world come out all right. Justice has been done. We’ve been given all the time in the world to announce that God would not have God’s kingdom wrought through violence. That’s good news. It’s hard news, but it’s good news.Interview with Stanley Hauerwas

In this article Hauerwas responds to the events of 9/11 with a criticism of the contemporary Church’s tolerance of war, fear of death, and adoption of nationalism.

Article: "September 11: A Pacifist Response"


  1. What is your personal familiarity with "Christian Nonviolence?"
  2. Do you agree with the distinction between Christian nonviolence and secular pacifism?
  3. Having recently studied "Just War," how does it relate to Christ’s death and resurrection?
  4. Do you believe Christian nonviolence is an appropriate response to situations of violence in the world?

Also of Interest

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an organization committed to practicing Christian nonviolent peacemaking. You might remember hearing about Tom Fox, a CPT member who was killed practicing nonviolent Christian witness in Iraq.

Comments (2)

  1. Nick W / February 22, 2008

    Scott, I am an loyal reader of Hauerwas and Yoder. I think that Hauerwas makes a true and profound statement that it is not the church’s responsiblity to make sure the world turns out okay. Thank you for your post.

  2. Sue / April 27, 2009

    By its very nature institutional Christianity produces violence on a massive scale.

    This was inevitably so when the “church” was co-opted by the Imperial Roman State and thus became an integral part of the Western drive to total power and control.

    This stark image summarizes the reality of the process of conquest—which is still happening in 2009 (even more so!)


    Plus this reference also describes what really happened and why.


    Another reason that Christianity has, and always will be, a source of violence in the world is its (bogus) claim to possess the one “true” revelation/faith/way,and its thus intention to convert everyone else to this one “true” way.

    Such a statement, and acted upon belief, is essentially a statement of war against ALL non-Christians.

    Islam specializes in this conceit and tactic too.

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