pacifist sermons

I heard a beautiful, at times deeply moving sermon today at church.  The reading (for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels) was Revelation 12:7-12.  Particularly the priest focused on this line:

The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world– he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

The Revelation passage covers the so-called war in heaven between Michael and the heavenly hosts versus the Devil and his angels.

She asked how did the angels throw did Satan?  By the blood of the Sacrificed Lamb (v.10).  She interpreted that to mean through non-violence.  The ways of violence were overthrown.  She specifically stated that violence was not redemptive–a shot at traditional devotions to the bloody body of Jesus on the Cross.

I had a very interesting reaction in that it was profoundly moving and exquisitely delivered, but I actually thought it was in many ways quite wrong.

If violence is thrown done from heaven, if there is no redemption of violence, in violence even one might say, then this entire side of our humanity is unredeemed.

I’m not advocating violence mind you.  But an evolutionary picture for one, would tell a different story. War has been the greater force to bring together beings beyond tribal identities.  Only after fighting each other for so long did they cease and move into trans-tribal alliances.

The very moment to moment existence of the universe is steeped in violence, in chaos, in destruction.  Death in every moment.

A Christianity that can not accept this is one where we have to thrown down from our conception of heaven, violence, destruction.  Where God becomes a God of peace-only.  Where the great nondual Protestant realizer Jakob Boheme’s vision of God Janus-faced, one loving, the other terrifying and frightening is never realized.

I have said before, only half-jokingly, that Christianity suffers from a lack of a destructive force within the Trinity.  I’ve said we should have a devotion to a black-winged bat Holy Spirit, prayers to the Mother of Destruction.  A la Kali.  A recognition of the profound energy of destruction in this world.  (Often called Dark Feminine energy, Black Madonna).

Minus that our salvation, our freedom is held up waiting for a conditional change.  For the end of violence in the world.  i.e. Waiting forever and beyond.  A smug (unintentionally so) satisfaction of ourselves as the peacemakers in this world.

Why not instead burn our flesh black like Kali in the “kiln” of moment to moment existence?

Plenty of places on earth, plenty of people need peace.  Others perhaps need to align with the simultaneous Creation/Destruction that is every moment.

In Tantra everything that arises is self-liberated and therefore contains a seed of enlightened wisdom that can be transmuted, released from its seemingly negative outer shell.  The seed of violence is Passion, Vitality, actually being in the moment.  On the edge, heightened sensitivity, as soldiers often describe how hard it is to come back to mundane existence because when they faced death in every moment they were alive dammit.

Again I’m not glorifying violence, war or romanticizing it all.  War is hell.  It’s worse than hell.  Bodies and minds are flung about like leaves in the wind, detached from the branches.  Snuffed out like a mosquito on your wrist.

I don’t want to pick too much on this particular reflection.  There is a time and place for much of what was said in it.  But it locks realization and liberation into a set of conditions.  Conditions that predicate our happiness and therefore subtly enslave.  Conditions that will arise, come to pass (eventually?  ever in this case?), and then pass?  What if Origen was right and the universe is counted in world cycles (eons)?  Each round counted from the time all beings fall and return to God, only to have the chance to fall again.  What then of pacifism?

This notion of 100% non-violence is a green meme construct.  The theologians cited in this sermon were all of this ilk.  Not wrong, it’s a space in the Kosmic fabric.  I used to resonate with it years ago.  Not any longer however.

Violence sadly sometimes is necessary to prevent worse violence.

Published in: on September 30, 2007 at 10:12 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. ok so i don’t know you but i’ve been trying to find the hebrew for “to worship” and i searched on google and somehow your blog came up and anyway i was wondering if you could tell me the letters

    i saw it once on an “Ever Stays Red” tee and two of the letters were shin but i can’t remember the last one anyway if you could help me that would be so amazing thanks
    my e-mail is

  2. the root for ‘worship’ is ayin-bet-dalet

    You know where I weigh-in on the necessity of having healthy notions of a destructive force within our Christian theologies – I’m all for it. I think that many liberal Christians have toned-down our notions of God far too much.

    However, when it comes to talking about redemptive violence, I have to bring up a point that is somewhat awkward to put forward but necessary, I think. Too often people have thought they have the authority to label certain violence as redemptive or not. I am thinking specifically of domestic violence: women who are told that they should continue suffering in abusive relationships because their suffering is redemptive, like the suffering of Christ. Now, I’m not saying that you are endorsing domestic violence, because I know that’s not the point here, and you would never endorse that.

    I think for me, the key part of interpreting the slain lamb imagery is the aspect of allowing for sacrifice to be made, submission to violence. So, in that way I think that the nonviolent interpretation is on the right track, but for me, what is more important, is how an act of submission can, paradoxically, be triumphant, even redemptive.

    And that is scary.

    I think the sticky point for me is this: who enacts the violence? How does the violence get redeemed? Who does the redeeming? Who gets to say that the violence has been redemptive?

    If submission is the key piece – which is what I think is perhaps most important, at least if we’re talking book of Revelation theology here, and maybe more than that too – then for me there are also ethical questions around forced submission (i.e. women to their husbands) or even the theologizing or legitimizing that follows an act of submission, whether that submission is willful or not.

    Now I’m more confused than when I started… oh well.

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