Anabaptism: Non-Violent Resistance

Recently Christian apologist Wintery Knight deleted my comments, banned me, and then passively accused me of some combination of supporting anti-war, pacifism, appeasement, and/or isolationism as well as being historically ignorant and governed by feelings. I wrote about this experience at “Is Wintery Knight a Snowflake?” and also specifically addressed the question “Is Iran A Threat To Christians?

Now, these claims, when applied to me, are strawmen. Nevertheless, it is worth rationally examining these claims to see how far Christianity has fallen from Jesus’ teachings and examples.

Anabaptists are not pacifists. We reject violence[1] in favor of non-violent resistance. We follow in the footsteps of Jesus in rejecting violence, but actively, even aggressively, resisting that which is not of God. If we reject violence, does this mean that we are anti-war? Yes and no. We recognize that God gave government the sword to enact justice. Yet, Christians responding to evil with violence directly contradicts what we have been commanded:

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

Since we are forbidden to take the sword ourselves, this means that we can take no part in governing—at minimum those parts that use violence.[2] If governments decide to go to war, they answer to God, not Anabaptists. Governments can and will go to war, but we will not and can not participate or lend it our personal support.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

We serve God only, even if it means death. This is why some drafted Anabaptists were imprisoned and died rather than fight.

It can clearly be seen that we do not approve of appeasement. We resist evil wherever we find it, at home or abroad. Since we give our sole allegiance to God, we cannot be patriots, but we do support our leaders through prayer and try to live so they will find no fault in us. Historically, Anabaptists preferred to reject citizenship. As this is no longer feasible, some groups, like the Amish, have utilized legal religious exemptions instead.

As for isolationism versus deterrence, it is not the role of the body of Christ to decide foreign policy. This is the sole responsibility of the ruling government, which ultimately answers directly to God. Anabaptists can give no support to any policy that promotes violence at the hands of Christians.

Neither feelings nor history have any implication on these views. We do as Jesus did even when it feels difficult. We do as Jesus did though we have been murdered throughout history.

Consider the example of the anti-abortion protester in front of an abortion mill. Despite the wanton murder that takes place there, they do not and must not resort to violence. Similarly, we Anabaptists live our lives by opposing murder peacefully and by living our lives with clean hands, even when this means personal risk. We do this without the violent hand of government. Indeed, if the government one day recognizes abortion for the murder that it is, it will likely act with the firm hand of justice. It will not be gentle. This, I think, is why the Bible warns:

“But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

Wrath is highly effective, but better by far is to save lives by argument, persuasion, and love. That is the way of the Anabaptist.


[1] Not all sects are unified on whether personal self-defense is acceptable.

[2] This includes law enforcement, the military, the presidency and vice-presidency (which enforces the law with a violence threat-point), the legislative branch (which passes laws that use violence as a threat-point), the judicial branch (which upholds the law’s threat-point). It is equally wrong to vote for those who use violence. Since the various regulatory agencies are backed by the threat of violence, working for them is still arguably questionable. One valid role is being the President’s spiritual adviser.

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  1. Pingback: Anabaptism and Passivism - Derek L. Ramsey

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