Coffee and ISIS: A response to violence and nonviolence in the wake of Paris

This morning I'm sitting her drinking coffee and watching my children laugh and play while I'm grieving for Paris and those impacted by the Islamic State. Many who have followed my thinking and work over the past few years know that I am a vocal supporter of the nonviolent way of Jesus. Violence begets violence. The war to end all wars only sparked more wars.


The power of the cross, on the other hand, is found in the self-emptying love of Jesus who gave himself in death to unjust government for all people. This example was followed by his closest associates who all met a similar fate by the same unjust government. Christianity became the dominant religion in Rome through nonviolence, nongovernment participation (meaning they did not work as government officials), and proactive service to the least. Many were willing to die for their simple faith. Tertullian said that the blood of the martyrs (those who died for their faith) was the seed of the Church.


Many assume that because I support the nonviolent way of Jesus that I am a nonviolent person. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Left to myself, I am a very violent person. Do my family wrong and my first urge is to show up at your doorstep. Call my friend a name and my blood starts flowing. The truth is that I am a violent person. I am comfortable with violence. Violence is simple. The strongest, toughest, and most powerful sits at the top and everyone else has to deal with it or be on the receiving end of more violence.

Fortunately, Jesus has not left me to myself. He has given me the Spirit that works love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control within me. As the years pass, I am becoming less violent, more compassionate, and amazingly a little more patient. I do not choose nonviolence because it is natural.

I choose nonviolence because it is God's desire for his creation. I choose nonviolence because Jesus, my Lord and Savior, is the Prince of Peace. He has shown me a way through death and into eternal life. Death has been defeat. Death has lost its sting. Death no longer holds anything over me.

Revelation 12:11 say's, "They gained the victory over [the enemy] on account of the blood of the Lamb and the word of their witness. Love for their own lives didn’t make them afraid to die." I love my life but I am not afraid to die. Because death is only a mirage. In Christ, I live forever. This may sound really dumb or really cool. I go back and forth, honestly. Sometimes it gives me courage and other times I'm afraid I've lost my mind. But if I have, I am in the company of Paul and so many others.

Whenever someone asks me what I would do if I were given the opportunity to deal with the Islamic State, I typically respond by saying I would invite them to dinner, I would introduce them to my wife and children, and hope to get to know theirs. My hope would be to see one another of people. Books like

Tea with Hezbollah

give me hope that this practice of Jesus would work. Unfortunately,

the story of the Vicar of Baghdad

diminishes this hope. Sometimes real, hardcore, evil exists in the world.

So what do we do?

I don't know. Yes, real, hardcore, evil exists in the world. And maybe the Islamic State is a manifestation of this reality. But I remain faithful to the ultimate authority in Heaven and on earth. I understand that some will resort to violence for the sake of those in harms way. These persons will be praised, and their courage justifies this praise. Others will continue to give witness to the nonviolence of Jesus. These persons may be scorned, but their faith in eternity justifies them. Remember, for those who stand in the nonviolent way of Jesus believe that death has lost its sting. Those who die at the hands of evil will be with Jesus in eternity.

I cannot say what I would really do. IS is not at my doorstep yet. They have not threatened my family or my friends but they have killed others family members and friends. To sit on the other side of the world shouting nonviolence while judging violent resistance is kinda of dumb. Regardless of your position, and I am still a voice for nonviolence, I believe the path to violent resistance should resemble that of Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad. We should never march to war with joy and enthusiasm. We should grieve and lament the decision. If we come to the point of sending soldiers to the battlefield, we should do so with tears in our eyes because the real likelihood is that those men and women will never come back the same. They will carry the wounds and scars of violence the rest of their life. Their family will to.

There is a real tension in how to deal the Islamic State. I've read too many one liner's from nonviolent advocates to want to throw up this morning. And I've read too many status' ready to march to war over the recent months that make me sick to my stomach as well. I will not insult the complexity and heart wrenching reality of this situation with silly one liners, and I will not joyfully watch anyone go take down the enemy. This morning I sit grieving the evil and sin present in the world while watching my children dance and play keep away with a balloon, completely oblivious to such evil and sin. My morning coffee is finished but the tension of the day is far from over. I pray that we all feel the tension, pray for wisdom as well as peace, and learn to love one another in the midst of this violence.