“If violence is unleashed anywhere at all, Christians are always to blame. This is the criterion, as it were, for our confession of sin. Always it is because Christians have not been concerned for the poor, have not defended the cause of the poor before the powerful, have not unswervingly fought the fight for justice, that violence breaks out.”
Christians don’t typically self-reflect in this direction when we see such violence, revolt, or protest. We typically point to and offer our (mostly political in the guise of Bible) critique of the cultural culprits and, of course, the political culprits (usually from the party we dislike)—all which are indeed culpable for sure, especially those that leverage and use such violence for political gain (all the while never truly ameliorating the causes of violence, for such would work against their political status and power–but that for another blog). What we rarely recognize, however, is our role as Christians, really as church, in the resulting violence from the oppressed, marginalized, and poor.
Ellul’s critique is spot on and needed.
While this is an important point of repentance, it was the sentences left unposted that grabbed my attention:
“Once violence is there, it is too late. And then Christians cannot try to redeem themselves and soothe their conscience by participating in violence.”
I am amazed (and saddened) at the stream of social media tweets and posts and blogs from Christians (woke privileged Christians especially) to take up arms, meet oppression with violence, to take on aggressive systems of injustice with aggression. (I have read exactly these calls of action.) While this resulting attitude and action is, given the human desire for survival (and power, I might add), inventible, such is not Gospel, nor the activity of the church (based on what is in the New Testament). We don't see such a call for violence and aggression from Jesus, nor do we see such in the church of Acts, nor taught by the New Testament–or seen in the early church of the first 350+ years.
The proper repentance is not to participate in the violence or call for such, but in occupying a humble space among the poor and marginalized as church.