I was sitting at N’s house this morning, where a group of us had gathered to do what followers of Jesus often do, church. Since some time now we have not met in the large building where we used to meet, as it poses too great a security risk. Now, we vary times and locations, meeting in small groups across the city.
I sat on the toshak and look across at the person next to me. She had a German bible. She also had a sidearm. I guessed she was military. Not a particularly brilliant piece of logic: while there are a lot of international civilians here who have weapons, they are pretty discreet about them. I watched as she read her bible and followed the message, which this morning was given by a visiting Irishman.
Guns and bibles. Guns in church. Guns and Jesus.
Not sure what to make of that. I have never knowingly sat next to an armed person in church before. And I happen to be committed to non-violence. Not the kind of non-violence often wrongly construed as standing by while your children are hurt, but an assertive, intervening pacifism. I believe that war represents a failure of imagination and an abandoning of creativity, and that violence must be met with an equally determined, committed and powerful force. But many, maybe most Christians don’t think like that. Most, if you press them, allow for justifiable self defence, aggressive self defence, just war (whatever that is) and so on.
I went away wondering about it all. What could I say to her? Should I say anything? Should followers of Christ be police (for this is what she was; part of the German police training force here). Should Christians ever take up a weapon? Christ, as I read him, as I see him, abdicated the use of violence. He saw that the way to win, was to allow your enemy to show, through their use of violence, their weakness and brokenness. Such brokenness, made public, shames the enemy and forces him to negotiate, to examine himself, to change (I guess this wouldn’t work with the profoundly psychotic and disturbed… restraint might be the only option there?). I have tried to follow this pattern, imperfectly, since I decided to follow Christ some 18 years ago. It has seen me injured a number of times. One person tried to strangle me. Another struck me to the ground. I have stood between men with knives in their hands and I have gone and had tea with the drug dealer in our street, in an attempt to win him. It is a lot harder to do this than to use force. Force is quick, blunt and effective in the short term. But it never succeeds ultimately: every war, every occupation, the life of every person who once used violence shows that.
I didn’t feel very warmly towards my gun-carrying sister. I made some joke about her later, which neither she, nor the others present found funny. We need police, I know that. And to say that followers of Christ cannot be police is ridiculous. Have to think some more about this.