I have just finished the 2nd chapter of this book Subverting Global Myths by Vinoth Ramachandra. This one was on the “Myths of Religious Violence.” A statement which more or less summarizes his point in the chapter comes near the end where he says, “the view of the modern secular state as the benign peacemaker between inherently violent religious factions is part of the mythology of European modernity” (p.89). The whole chapter is very enlightening. There is so much here to chew on.
Many of the GCEs (God and country evangelicals) I know would probably read a paragraph or two of this book and immediately write Ramachandra off as a lib—which is sad and unfortunate (I suppose this assumption makes me just as guilty of prejudging them).
Ramachandra, however, is full of surprises. For one thing, he is not a traditional pacifist. He is rather a very strict just war view. I hope to write more about this in the future, but for now, I just want to give an extended excerpt from this second chapter. It’s very good stuff!
In a section where he is explaining the way true religious violence works, Ramachandra writes:
Christians, of all people, should be least surprised by the phenomenon of religious violence. At the heart of Christian faith stands a cross, an instrument of torture, degradation and mass execution. Orthodox Christian theology has always insisted that the one who was crucified at the instigation of the religious leaders of his society was no less than the incarnate Son of God. a God who has chosen to be vulnerable to suffering and death cuts away the ground from under an atheism of protest, because protest atheism envisages God as a cruel tyrant who manipulates people and moves them around like pieces on a chessboard. It also cuts away the ground from beneath every form of religious theism that seeks to co-opt God in the service of political ideology…. God denotes a form of uncreated life, lived in three eternally self-giving and self-responsive movements, in which all things participate and in which all things find their true value. If this God suffers in solidarity with the victims of crucifixion, then God cannot be on the side of the torturers, oppressors and the advocates of violence….
That the church has so often betrayed the basic evangelical truth that the reign of God is spread through self-giving, suffering love, and allowed itself to be seduced by geopolitical ambitions, is perhaps the chief cause of its loss of credibility in our (post)modern world.
The inability to think outside of nationalism leads to idolatry. When Christians identify the kingdom of God with the kingdom of America, for example, believing that America’s wealth and prominence on the world stage is the reward of a divine providence for its exceptional virtue, they have already been co-opted into the war machine….
At root, violence derives from the attempt to replace God with ourselves, as individuals and as nations, and to force others and the world to conform to our desires. What are called religions are frequently and idolatrous sanction for that rebellion. In the New Testament the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews reminds his readers that Jesus “suffered outside the city gate” on the municipal rubbish site where the carcasses of the animal sacrifice of the Jerusalem temple were burned. The religious system and the religious leaders discarded him. The writer warns his readers, who are themselves facing religious persecution because of their obedience to this Jesus, that religious violence is what they must expect because “here we have no lasting, but we are looking for the city is to come” (Hebrews 13:11-14).